Why you should buy Amazon’s Echo home hub

The Amazon Echo.
The Amazon Echo.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Amazon’s Echo — an odd voice-activated domestic hub — just went on sale to the general public. If you’ve got $200 to burn, I recommend it. It’s oddly great — and it gives you a glimpse of the future.

If Apple’s Siri-controlled HomeKit comes close, controlling your home by voice is going to be a lot of fun.

Why WWDC is totally terrifying for indie developers

Apple's product events always make Josh Michaels nervous. He's never sure if he'll still be in business at the end.
Apple's product events always make Josh Michaels nervous. He's never sure if he'll still be in business at the end.
Photo: Leander Kahney

SAN FRANCISCO — If you watched the Worldwide Developers Conference keynote earlier this week, you’d think it was a big love fest. But there’s a section of the audience sitting there in a cold, cold sweat.

Attendees are mostly software developers, and some of them are very nervous that Apple will announce something that will ruin their business overnight.

“The WWDC keynote is terrifying for developers,” said Josh Michaels, an independent software developer from Portland, Oregon, who runs Jetson Creative. “The uncertainty is the worst part.”

Take ReplayKit in iOS 9, a new feature that records games and app videos without the need for any external cameras or hardware.

Sounds great, unless you are Everyplay or Kamkord, a pair of young companies that raised millions of dollars to record games and app videos in iOS.

“They’re f**ked!” said a game developer at WWDC who asked not to be named.

#ProTip: The best book on marketing for app developers

AltConf profile
Matt Ronge and Giovanni Donelli, the indie devs behind Astropad, a hit app that turns an iPad into a graphics tablet.
Photo:

We’re down here at WWDC, fishing for ProTips. It’s rich hunting ground. WWDC is the world’s biggest gathering of Apple developers, the alpha geeks, experts par excellence. What’s a ProTip? A ProTip is a nugget of knowledge, a little bit of expertise from someone in the know — a pro.

Astro HQ is a two-person indie software company that launched its first app in February.

Run by two ex-Apple engineers — Matt Ronge and Giovanni Donelli — their app was successful. They’re now making their livelihoods from their software. They’re living the dream! Independent app developers!

They’re as rare as unicorns.

Only 0.01 percent of app developers are financially successful, according to a depressing survey by Gartner.

Ronge and Donelli did a lot of things right, including their own app marketing, which they say was key to their successful launch.

They did the app marketing themselves, with no prior experience, and a lot of what they learned was thanks to one book.

At WWDC, clues that Apple is adding a stylus to the iPad abound

Apple's WWDC 2015 is revving up in San Francisco.
Apple's WWDC 2015 dropped a couple of big clues about Apple's iPad Pro plans.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

UPDATE: I added a short statement from stylus-maker Adonit below.

SAN FRANCISCO — Tim Ritchey is an expert in iPad styluses — the pressure-sensitive digital pens that draw with pinpoint accuracy on an iPad.

Ritchey works for Adonit, a company that makes a line of Bluetooth styli for the iPad. His job title is “OS architect.” He knows his stuff.

In the middle of a session at this week’s Worldwide Developers Conference, he heard something that prompted him to send a panicky note to his colleagues in Slack, the popular messaging system.

“Oh shit!” he said.

Steve Jobs famously pledged that Apple would never ship an iOS device with a stylus, but there’s mounting evidence that the company is working on a new and bigger work-oriented iPad that will come with a stylus.

A couple of big clues dropped this week at WWDC.

#ProTip: How to get users in the habit of using your app

Sally Shepard was speaking at AltConf about how to get users to actually use your app.
Sally Shepard was speaking at AltConf about how to get users to actually use your app.
Photo: Jim Merithew/Cult of Mac

Cult of Mac is at WWDC and AltConf fishing for ProTips. It’s a rich hunting ground — it’s the world’s biggest gathering of Apple developers, the alpha geeks, experts par excellence. What’s a ProTip? A ProTip is a nugget of knowledge, a little bit of expertise from someone in the know — a pro.

It sounds counterintuitive, but for many iOS developers, the easy part is getting people to download their app from the App Store. The hard part is getting people to use the app. Ideally, developers want them to use the app regularly. They want them to get into the habit of using it.

How do you do that? Sally Shepard, an app consultant who spent many years working with big publishers, has a great little tip.