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Entries in iPad (6)


SecondConf: Sketching for Developers

SINGLE TRACK conferences seem to be all the rage. Limited attendee slots, focused topics and one track that everyone can enjoy together. SecondConf, like Madison Ruby, is one of the new crop of focused, single-track, small conferences with the right recipe.

On Sunday, I was honored to speak at SecondConf, on the importance of sketching in app development. I shared sketches I created for developer Chad Sellers, while designing Pear Note for Mac and iPad. I offered a variety of tips and ideas to encourage indie developers to start sketching too.

I've posted a PDF of my presentation deck (2.5MB), if you'd like to check it out.

Thanks Dave and Amy Kinney for the opportunity to be part of SecondConf!


Pear Note for iPad UI Design

Pear Note iPad 200

FOR SEVERAL MONTHS, Pear Note developer Chad Sellers and I worked through concept sketches, mockups and development builds of Pear Note for iPad, prepping it for app store approval.

Last night I was excited to hear Pear Note for iPad was approved and is $4.99 for a limited time. Check out Chad Sellers' Pear Note for iPad post and TWiT's iPad Today #62 Podcast at 13:00, for more details.

In this article I'd like to share a selection of sketches and screenshots of the application with a few notes for some reference on the development process.

Concept Sketches

As with other projects I work on, sketches are an important way to capture and explore ideas that can be shared with clients, like Chad.

From an initial phone call, I began exploring ideas about how the main UI might work, capturing the ideas and notes with ink on paper:

Pear Note: Early UI Concept Sketches
Pear Note: UI Concept Sketches

Later in the process, I sketched concepts for icons and formatting menus, exploring ideas of how these items might work and look:

Pear Note for iPad: Icon & Menu Sketch

These kinds of sketches are great for getting ideas out in the open, and worked well for Chad to review and comment on.

From these loose sketches, Chad was able to see several options quickly and I was able to take that feedback and my sketches to create Photoshop mockups.

Final Screens

Here are samples of final Pear Note screens, with elements in place.

Horizontal Recording - Pear Note in recording mode, capturing both audio and text entry via on-screen keyboard. Note the added keys along the top of the standard keyboard to provide quick access to common actions in Pear Note:


Horizontal Playback - Playing back the captured text and audio, which is synced. Had fun connecting the light blue color in the play button and playback scrubber handle on this one:


Vertical Notes Playback - This shows Pear Note for iPad playing back a Pear Note recorded with video, audio and slides on the Mac version:

Pear Note for iPad: Video Notes Playback

Vertical Rich Text - A sample of the rich text options in Pear Note:

Pear Note for iPad: Rich Text Features

Final Thoughts

I'm pleased with how the interface of Pear Note for iPad turned out. Chad and I were able to attain a clean, simple to use app and I think our working through ideas and communicating throughout the process made the difference.

Currently the app supports text and audio recording, with text/video/audio/slide playback in version 1.0, though Chad has goals to add features over time. This was a big project, and I applaud Chad for limiting scope to get the app out, rather than holding it back for every feature.

Buy Pear Note for iPad

For a limited time, Chad has priced Pear Note for iPad at $4.99 - a great deal for a tool that can record audio and sync it to your text notes. Pear Note works great with or without a bluetooth keyboard and can sync files via Dropbox. In testing I've found the app a great tool in meetings. Check it out.


Fruit Blog: Pear Note for iPad
TWiT: iPad Today #62 Podcast
App Store: Pear Note for iPad
Macworld: Pear Note for iPad
App Advice: Pear Note Arrives On Your iPad


iPad 2: Killer Live Presentation Tool


Recently, I've had a few opportunities to use my iPad 2 for presentations. It worked so well, I've captured my thoughts for anyone else thinking about presenting with an iPad 2.

Mirroring: The Killer Feature

One flaw in the original iPad were limitations when using the Apple VGA Adapter. The adapter only worked in certain apps, like Keynote and no others by default. Pretty useless for showing websites or iPad apps that didn't support video out.

The iPad 2 changes this by mirroring the entire iPad screen through an adapter to a TV screen or overhead projector. It doesn't matter which app you're in — mirroring works in any app you care to launch. It even shows the iPad desktop.

Live Sketching & Collaboration

Through mirroring, I can blend sketchnotes right into my presentations. Using Adobe Ideas, Penultimate or Sketchbook Pro to draw on the iPad screen, my audience can see those drawings as they happen on the big screen, in real time.

Images, like wireframes or design mockups can be imported into a drawing tool, and notes can be added right on top of the images. This could be ideal for design critique sessions, as feedback could be captured from a team, with one facilitator or even each team member making notes directly on the design for all to see.

iPad 2 screen mirroring also opens the door for other collaborative apps being used on the iPad - writing tools, task and project management tools and more.

Remote Sketching

In a visual thinking workshop this week with Stone Ward, we used Air Sketch, an iPad app to draw sketchnotes, which were displayed locally on my MacBook's web browser over WiFi from the little web server built into the app. The images posted after a very brief delay, which was so brief the remote watchers couldn't sense it.

Airsketch browser

A sketch sent from the Air Sketch web server in a local browser window.

This approach worked great. Images Air Sketch displayed live in the browser were shared with a remote audience over a GoToMeeting connection, who could see and respond to my live drawings almost immediately.

I'm excited to see what other drawing tools will develop in this space, with presentations to local and remote audiences in mind.

VGA vs. Digital AV Adapters

Apple offers 2 adapters for the iPad 2 that can display mirrored video:

1. The Apple VGA Adapter ($29) with a 30 pin adapter on one end and a VGA port on the other. The VGA adapter is probably better for all around use, as you're more likely to find a VGA cable on an overhead projector when presenting on the road.

2. Apple Digital AV Adapter ($39) with HDMI port and a 30-pin connector to charge the iPad. This adapter requires an HDMI cable and port on the overhead projector or HDTV monitor. Having the charger might also be handy, though a fully charged iPad 2 ought to run a good 8-10 hours on a charge.

If you have an iPad 2, try picking up one of the Apple video adapters so you can try it out in your next presentation. It might just become your go-to presentation device.


iPad 2: 3G vs. WiFi Observations

iPad 2

Last spring I purchased an original iPad and had a few observations about choosing a 3G iPad over a WiFi iPad.

I thought these observations after a year of use might be helpful for you, if you're looking at the new iPad 2 (launching today) and are weighing 3G vs. WiFi networking as part of your purchase.

So, below are some thoughts about why you might choose a 3G iPad 2 or a WiFi iPad 2—maybe a few things you hadn't considered about them on the surface.

iPad 2 w/ 3G - The Pros

• GPS Unit - (WiFi doesn't) so that maps and other location services work better, even if you decide to cancel the 3G plan after the first month.

• Easy Re-Activation - Even if you eventually turn off 3G, it's easy to activate it on the spot, right on the iPad if you need connectivity. I needed this once and it was very convenient to have immediate access as needed.

• Equal AT&T and Verizon Plans - After reading the Apple Insider article on 3G options, both Verizon and AT&T plans are pretty close and let you turn them on and off at will. The article was updated to show no Verizon $35 activation fee at startup, or later on.

• Activation Really is On-Demand - I believe (based on our 3G iPad 1) we had to at least activate the first month, then we were free to cancel or activate at will afterwards. It worked really well for us—we ran AT&T 3G for our summer vacation, then turned off 3G for a few months, re-activating it a few times as needed later in the year.

• 3G is Great on the Road - Having 3G on the road was nice for maps. My wife did hotel research one stormy day while I was driving us home—3G was well worth having.

• Free WiFi on AT&T - If you go AT&T you also get access to AT&T's WiFi hotspots, which might be handy at Starbucks ands other locations where those hotspots appear.

• 250MB 3G Plans are Paltry - The basic $15 plan for 250MB data is really paltry. It didn't take long to exceed this for very modest data use—might be good only if you do email and other text-based low-data things with the iPad 2. I'd suggest the 2GB plan.

iPad 2 w/ WiFi - The Pros

• Tethering or MiFi Might be Better - One reason to go WiFi is if you have tethering with your iPhone, a MiFi (3G to WiFi device) or just never use it outside of the home or work.

• Cost Benefits to WiFi - Also, for a bit over the cost of the 16GB 3G iPad 2 ($630) you could get a 32GB WiFi iPad ($599) and a regular Smart Cover ($39) for $640. Having that extra space might be more important to you than 3G.

Our iPad 3G Experience

For us, the 3G device was a great choice. We wanted data access specifically for road trips, for mapping, surfing, video and other data uses on the road. On our big family trip last summer, we made extensive use of the Google Map feature in the iPad, which is aided by the GPS unit only found in the 3G iPad.

Having 3G on the road was also very helpful for finding hotels on the road—my wife was able to check the web for hotels nearby, call and get availability and then route us to the hotel using the large iPad screen.

As a general road trip device, the iPad was fantastic. Long battery life, access to game apps and videos for our 8 year old son was perfect to keep his attention for our 10 hour trip east and back. Especially key was battery life—10 hours made it easy to let us run the iPad without any concern about the thing going dead on us.

I hope these observations are helpful if you're pondering an iPad 2 purchase.

If you have other observations to add, please leave a comment so this article can become a resource for others.


PlayMesh Fishies App Story: iTunes Password Caching

UPDATE July 10, 2010 3:00 PM

Fishies-App.pngMy article about issues the iPhone app Fishies has brought up some good discussion about in-app purchases and what turns out to be an opaque iTunes system that caches usernames and passwords when users may not realize it.

I've heard background info on the way iTunes deals with in-app purchases from other iOS developers and a personal note from Eric, a founder at PlayMesh and wanted to set the record straight about what happened.

First, I want to apologize to PlayMesh.

As a parent, I was angered yesterday at what seemed like an unauthorized purchase of virtual currency in their app, Fishies. This has turned out NOT to be the case. PlayMesh is no different than any other iOS app developer using in-app purchases.

Rather, this was all a result of iTunes storing my username and password from a prior purchase for in-app purchases in Fishies.

Now one might argue that $149.99 in virtual currency or objects of any kind are just nuts. I would agree with you, but that's is a separate subject from how items like this could be purchased as in-app add-ons.

This is an issue with any iOS app that uses an in-app purchasing model, because iTunes stores your username and password, which is subsequently available for in-app purchases, even if you don't know it.

A Reply from PlayMesh

Eric from PlayMesh contacted me today about my experience and had good reference to share from their perspective on the topic of in-app purchases.

Eric writes:

We built Fishies with the intention of making it a free to play game and we would sell a few virtual goods to help sustain it's own costs. We happily adopted Apple's in-app purchase system because we believed it to be the most friction-free experience for our users who do choose to support us financially by buying some virtual goods.

That being said we have indeed noticed that there are several users whose experience has mimicked yours. We have pinned it down to the fact that iTunes usually caches your iTunes account login for some amount of time after you are been prompted for it. So usually what will happen, is that a parent with download Fishies and give it to their kid to play with it right after they download.

Afterward, their kid will go get a few in-app purchases (usually including the $149 option) and never get prompted for a password. Unfortunately, this part of the system is almost entirely controlled by Apple, we're simply plugging into their API.

That's precisely my experience from yesterday and it appears to be a flaw/feature in the iTunes system. After helpful discussion and feedback from developers @NeoNacho @manton @NattyLux and @@felttipsoft that iTunes was storing my username and password for 15 minutes after my initial app purchase, which allowed purchases in Fishies without any login prompts.

It's not at all fair to iOS developers, as they are simply using the system Apple provides. When users have purchases made unknowingly, they blame the developers without realizing it's really the iTunes system of caching credentials that's at fault here.

Manton Reece on iTunes password caching

Manton Reece, a developer of Mac and iOS software today wrote the article iTunes password caching on his blog. Here's an except:

What must have happened to Mike is that he bought something, entered his password, and then handed the iPad over to his son. His son played the fish game and clicked a bunch of random stuff (likely got the Buy prompt), but because the whole concept of virtual currency is kind of confusing, and because it didn't ask for a password, the app happily let him make all the purchases.

I doubt the developer of this app did anything wrong. A reasonable argument could be made that iTunes should either not cache passwords at all, or keep a separate cache for app downloads vs. in-app purchases, or maybe always prompt for a password on in-app purchases. My kids and other kids I know have also used this backdoor trick to sneak a couple app downloads, but usually it's a few bucks, not $190. Consumable virtual items (that you can keep buying over and over) make this problem much worse.

Manton is right — though the Fishies app was downloaded free several weeks ago, which made it even harder to see the connection between buying a racing game at 10:30 AM and getting multiple large in-app purchases from Fishies at 10:45.

This is the real issue — users don't realize their credentials, with full purchasing power are floating around in iOS, available to apps for in-app purchasing.

In my view, any in-app purchase should at least require an initial re-entry of username and password to initiate a purchase in the app.

Cached credentials from prior purchases ought not be available within app, unless I specifically opt-into that feature by manually changing preferences.

Buried iOS Restrictions Prefs

This brings me to another aspect of the story that might have prevented problems all-together — the restrictions preferences in iOS under Settings > General > Restrictions on iPad/iPhone/iPod touch devices.

When activated, in-app purchases can be turned off, but this preference is not made very apparent for the average user and is very well buried in the Settings area.

Why not set in-app purchase preferences to OFF and let the user opt-in when purchasing in-app goods?

Still, even if this preference were activated, requiring apps to get a username/password entered for the initial in-app purchase — rather than using cached credentials — would have stopped our inadvertent purchases.

So it comes to this: iTunes caches my credentials once entered for frictionless convenience, but it's not apparent to me as a user that this is the case until I have a $190 bill I didn't want. This is a problem that Apple needs to deal with.

So, with all that said, you can now read my story below, with updates and changes to the text in light of what I now know now about iTunes, credentials, in-app purchases and PlayMesh:

Friday, June 9, 2010 10:00 PM

I'm angry.

I'm burning with a white hot passion to tell the story of iTunes enabling unintended charges of $190 worth of virtual currency in the iPhone app, Fishies from PlayMesh.

This is a cautionary tale about the dangers of iPad/iPhone apps and in-app purchasing.

This will be a long post, so hang on.

Today, iTunes enabled inadvertent in-app currency purchases via my 7 year old son, while he played the PlayMesh Fishies app on our iPad.

Read that again — from my 7 year old son.

It Started with a Free App

The story starts when we downloaded PlayMesh Fishies from the iTunes app store for Nathan to play with. It seemed innocent enough — a free iPhone app that let him create a virtual fish tank. Looked like fun.

When Nathan called me over, asking if he could buy some pearls for his new fish tank to get more items, I hesitated.

They were asking for our iTunes username and password. No way! I didn't want any part of their virtual pearls currency, thank you very much!

I asked Nathan if he could just sell some items to get other items, that's when he told me the app crashed every time he tried to do that. I tried to sell something, sure enough — crashes every time!

I looked at the iTunes reviews for Fishies and saw posts from users claiming to have bought things in-app and not getting them as promised.

I decided not to purchase any in-app items and thought there was nothing more to do.

Shocked by a $153.97 Purchase of Virtual Pearls

Fast forward to today — we purchased a racing app and while it downloaded to our iPad, Nathan fired up Fishies to pass the time.

"Hey dad! There are all sorts of pearls and items in Fishies today, isn't that cool? I wonder where they came from?"

I glanced over and saw the iPad screen and mentioned that the developers must have made an app upgrade to get the app working again.

Then I received an email from iTunes, opened it up and...


I immediately told Nathan to shut the app down and ask him if he had clicked any windows to purchase anything: he said no.

I wouldn't have mattered if he had though, as in-app purchases OUGHT to require a username and password — and Nathan doesn't know it either.

What the heck was going on?

I immediately went to iTunes and saw the damage - multiple chests of virtual pearls for the Fishies app, escalating in value: $0.99... $1.99... $149.99!

$153.97 in inadvertent purchases from PlayMesh Fishies!


Time to Complain

I emailed iTunes support with a complaint immediately, but I also noticed in the iTunes terms that all sales are final. No refunds.

I sent PlayMesh support an angry email, demanding a refund for these unauthorized purchases.

Then I called PayPal and they were very helpful, but as it turns out, all they can do is dispute all transactions from iTunes — they can't do it for past purchases on my PayPal debit and they can't dispute specific purchases from iTunes.


So I have another look at my iTunes account and guess what? The day we downloaded Fishies and Nathan played with it (that day he wanted to buy things in the app?) they charged us $37 for virtual pearls.

Greaaat. $190 for in-app purchases for Fishies I didn't even know were made.

Can you tell I'm livid?

I thought so.

And I'm not alone as it turns out:

The Sun: Alec McSalley charged £485 to play iPhone game

A FURIOUS dad told last night how £485 mysteriously vanished from his bank account after playing a simple game on his iPhone.

My iTunes Account Was Hacked for $375—By My Own Kids by Kevin Tofel on BusinessWeek:

As this past weekend included the Fourth of July holiday, I expected to see plenty of red, white, and blue. Unfortunately, all I experienced was red when, on Saturday, I noticed three unfamiliar iTunes transactions totaling more than $375.

Lock down your restrictions in the Settings of your iOS device and be aware that once your username and password are entered into the iTunes store for purchases, it hangs in cache for 15 minutes.

I've learned the hard way, hopefully you won't have to.

Update: Friday July 9th 12:40 AM

Wow! I mentioned this post on Twitter and it's been re-tweeted like crazy — first by Mac and iPhone developer Daniel Jalkut @danielpunkass and then a variety of other people. I think this story has touched a nerve. I hope it saves others from this hassle.

I've also learned through tweets and emails tonight, that Paul Thurrott's kids were also hit by a similar issue for in-app purchases for a whopping $880! He was able to call Apple and have the charges refunded, so Saturday I'm going to call Apple support for the iPad we had issues on to see what I can do.

Hear Paul and Leo LaPorte discuss the story on Windows Weekly 162 at about 1:02:15 into the podcast (MP3) Thanks Mike, Paolo and Michael! for the tips!

Update: Saturday July 10th 10:00 AM

I took Paul Thurrott's advice from the podcast above and called Apple via the iPad support line — worked great.

The Apple support agent was as surprised as I was about the situation. He thought it was odd that in-app purchases happened without an iTunes username and password.

Apple refunded the largest $153.97 purchase.

They would only refund one day's purchases in Fishies.

I asked the Apple rep if iTunes one-click caching works with in-app purchases. He said iTunes requires username/password entry for every in-app purchase.

As it turns out, iTunes and the caching of my username and password were indeed to blame for these inadvertent in-app purchases.

What about restrictions preferences on the iPad itself?

on Twitter asked if I had set the Settings > General > Restrictions in the iPad to turn off in-app purchases. I hadn't realized this needed attention and hadn't disabled in-app purchases.

Still, even with the restrictions left at default (on) for in-app purchases, it doesn't explain how Fishies could have enacted in-app purchases without entry of my username and password.

I replied:

@NeoNacho iPad restrictions weren't set - but @SnappyTouch says each in-app purchase requires a username & pw which my son doesn't know.

NeoNacho says:

@rohdesign The password is definitely cached for a while. If you typed it in for getting the app and didn't lock in between, that's why.

My reply:

@NeoNacho Interesting explanation. I would have thought there's a barrier to cached un/pw when moving inside of an app. That's scary if so.

And it's exactly what happened. My username and password were stored in iTunes and used by Nathan, without me realizing it, to inadvertently buy pearls inside the app Fishies.

This seems to me a very dangerous approach by Apple.

Related Links

FarmVille Fraud - Similar experiences with the FarmVille app for the iPhone.

How A "Free" iPhone Game Suckered Me Out Of $190* - SAI version of this article.