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What you missed at Voices That Matter: iPhone Developers Conference

Last weekend was the Voices That Matter: iPhone Developers Conference in Seattle, put on by Pearson, who’s publishing our Core Audio book. However, co-author Kevin Avila handled the Core Audio talk for this conference, so I took on two topics that I had fairly deep knowledge of, thanks to my work on Road Tip.

Core Location and Map Kit: Bringing Your Own Maps

This talk starts with a basic tour of Core Location’s more or less straightforward means of getting information about your current location, getting updates as the data gets better (i.e., GPS kicks in) or you move. Then we got into Map Kit and how to get map images of any given location. The sample app for this takes a list of Apple Store locations, which I converted from CSV to a plist and stuck in the app bundle, and shows you the nearest store to a given start location. Each time you hit a + button in the nav bar, it drops the next closest store as a pin on the map and re-scales the map so that all pins are visible.

This is where it gets good. Starting from a canned location at my house, the closest Apple Store is here in Grand Rapids. The next two that come up are outside Detroit (Ann Arbor and Novi). The fourth closest store is in Milwaukee. The comedy is when you see this on the map — Milwaukee is close only if you ignore the fact that going there would involve driving 100 miles straight across Lake Michigan. Since ferries across the lake are slow and expensive, and run only in Summer, you would probably drive through or around Chicago to get to Milwaukee… and go right past 7 Apple Stores in the process.

Calculating as-the-crow-flies Apple Store distances from GRR

This is a common mistake to make — I forgot to show in my slides that the apple.com retail store finder does the same thing. Still, as-the-crow-flies distance calculations, paired with map images, can be a problem. Map Kit doesn’t know anything about roads, bodies of water, geographic features, political borders, etc… all it does is serve up images, and provide a touch UI to interact with them.

The last third of the talk is about “bringing your own maps”, meaning integration with third party map data providers to get some navigational intelligence into your app. The final code sample uses the MapQuest directions web service to get actual driving distances to the first few hits, and to keep the list of locations sorted in order by driving distance. This not only keeps me from going to Milwaukee, it even smartens up the earlier results: being right on I-96, the Novi store is now my second closest result, and as it turns out, even Indianapolis is a shorter drive than going around the lake to Milwaukee.

Calculating drivable Apple Store distances from GRR

In-App Purchase: Best/Worst Thing Ever

My second talk was on In-App Purchase. In many ways, it covered the same hard-earned experience that I covered in An In-App Purchase Brain Dump. I spent a little time on both the iPhone Provisioning Portal (to set up an AppID, authorize it for I-AP, and provide enough of an app submission to create purchase objects, without actually going into the review queue), and on iTunes Connect (creating purchase products). The sample app simulated an online social game, minus the game, in which users might be able to purchase digital goods like virtual clothes for their avatar. The example offered a tabbed UI with a blank view for the game, a table of purchased objects, and a table for the store. When you tap “store”, the app collects the available products with a call to Store Kit, and tapping one of them kicks off the purchase. If the purchase goes through, the item is added to the inventory page.

Purchasing an item with I-AP

Of course, this is easier and demos better because it uses non-consumable products, which have always been the best-understood and best-supported class of I-AP products. I did weigh in against the still-broken subscriptions, and how they have to be restored to a user’s many devices, even though restoreCompletedTransactions doesn’t support subscriptions, and nothing in Store Kit gives you a key you can associate with the user to save the purchase on your own server.

Erica Sadun talked with me before this session and mentioned an interesting workaround. Get your user to purchase a non-consumable item, and persist its transactionId. When they purchase subscriptions, log the purchase and this other transactionId on your server. Then, when they restore on another device, they’ll get this non-consumable back and its transactionId, which you can then use to query your server for subscription purchases. Depending on the nature of your app, and how well you hide the clunkiness from the user, this could be a very viable workaround.

That said, I still think I-AP subscriptions suck and hope that Apple deprecates them soon.

The last part of the talk covers of doing commerce without I-AP, which is more viable than you might think. If you’re already selling digital goods from a web store, you can continue to do so, and make your iPhone app a rich client to your web-vended content. In this case, you’re already doing everything that I-AP offers, so there’s no reason to give Apple a 30% cut. For example, the various e-bookstores within Stanza don’t use I-AP — they go out to websites for O’Reilly, All Romance Books, etc., to complete the purchase. This might not be allowed for an iPhone-only app, but where the goods are available in multiple forms, it only makes sense for Apple to allow an iPhone app to be a rich client to such a store’s goods.

My final example is streaming anime: Crunchyroll sells premium content subscriptions on their website, and their free iPhone app lets you use the same login to get the same content. By contrast, The Anime Network has premium subscriptions on their website and via I-AP in their paid iPhone app, and credentials aren’t shared between the two. Worse, the iPhone app offers fewer videos for the same price. Their use of I-AP is bad for them (they’re paying Apple to process payments they’re already capable of handling), and bad for their users. WTF?

Coming next: my 360iDev slides, and the much-anticipated cleaned-up Core Audio sample code

Comments (5)

  1. […] Adamson has posted a great summary of his presentation from the Voices That Matter: iPhone Developers Conference where he dives into […]

  2. Blackmarket

    In the MQAppleStorePOIMapper Example, there is no xcodeproj file

  3. Blackmarket: Oops, sorry about that. Try again now… I just re-zipped and uploaded the project folder (after sanity-checking that it still works), though you’ll have to update the project’s Base SDK if you’ve installed the iOS 4 SDK).

  4. […] can be a pretty raw deal for developers. Slide 50 from my Voices That Matter (Seattle 2010) talk, In-App Purchase: Best/Worst Thing Ever puts this in […]

  5. […] Adamson has posted a great summary of his presentation from the Voices That Matter: iPhone Developers Conference where he dives into […]

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