Every year, hundreds of Canadian app developers make the pilgrimage to the San Francisco Bay Area for Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).
iOS, macOS and tvOS software creators from both large and small studios, as well as independent lone wolf developers, all attend the conference for a wide variety owf reasons.
Some are looking to learn about the latest features coming to the new versions of Apple’s various operating systems, in order to integrate them into their apps. Others want to connect more closely with Apple regarding App Store placement and editorial features, especially given the fact that the tech giant revamped its digital retail platform last year.
Just like last year, I’ve sat down with three developers behind prominent Canadian-made iOS apps, in an effort to learn what they actually get out of making the trek to California and spending spending thousands of dollars to attend Apple’s annual developers confernece.
Flixel’s Cinemagraph Pro lets you create living photos
Toronto-based Flixel, which is best known for its Cinemagraph Pro app, was founded back in 2011 as a social networking app that created gifs. The company has since shifted to creating professional tools that it describes as easy to use, but still complement the workflows of storytellers across various disciplines.
I sat down with Flixel’s co-founder and CTO Mark Pavlidis to learn more about the unique Cinemagraph platform, as well as to gain an understanding of why he’s headed down to WWDC this year.
Cinemagraph Pro is available on iOS and macOS for free with a subscription that starts at $99 per year.
Q: Can you tell me a little bit about what Flixel is?
Mark Pavlidis: Flixel makes magical tools for visual storytelling. Our flagship app, Cinemagraph Pro for macOS and iOS, creates mesmerizing living photos that combines elements of motion and stillness that loops endlessly.
Q: Since winning an Apple Design Award back in 2014 at WWDC, what has Flixen’s growth been like?
Pavlidis: The Flixel team has tripled in size and the revenue has grown by an order of magnitude.
Q: As a Canadian app developer, what do you get from a large scale developer conference like Apple’s WWDC?
Pavlidis: On the formal curriculum side, the access in the labs to the engineers building the APIs that we use is invaluable. With Cinemagraph Pro, we push the boundaries of the processing power of the hardware and software. Getting questions answered about the best approach or what to avoid by the person that wrote it is invaluable. It has saved us countless days of development time.
On the informal side, the opportunity to meet and share stories with fellow developers from around the World working on similar challenges of making great apps and building sustainable businesses.
Q: Is there anything in particular you hope to learn more about at WWDC this year?
Pavlidis: I’m looking at integrating more machine learning and AR capabilities into our apps, so I am looking forward to seeing the advancements to those frameworks this year. Hearing about ARKit last year was huge and it’s been fun for our teams to experiment with it through today.
Q: Why did you adopt a monthly subscription model with Cinemagraph Pro, rather than a one-time payment like most other apps.
Pavlidis: We previously only offered a one-time payment for a license. Three years ago, we introduced a subscription model to unlock both Cinemagraph Pro for macOS and iOS apps with one purchase, alongside the license. Quickly the revenue from subscriptions hit 90 percent and we recently we removed the license option.
The subscription model benefits are two-fold. First, it allows for more consistent revenue and growth over a license payment and future upgrades. Second, it allows us not to hold back features for a major version update. Instead, we can release new features as soon as they are ready to immediately improve the product and experience for our customers.
Q: What’s next for Flixel? Are there any specific upcoming features you’re able to talk about?
Pavlidis: For Cinemagraph Pro, we are adding some much requested features from digital marketers — a growing customer segment — to simplify the workflow for creating compelling content and social ads. We are also building out family of apps for micro-video storytelling and hope to share more later this year.
Managing coupons and browsing flyers with Flipp
Next, I spoke to Michael Li, software engineer at Toronto-based Flipp, a shopping platform that’s partnered with the world’s largest retailers, including Walmart, Best Buy, Ikea and Costco.
When Flipp was founded back in 2007 by a team of former Microsoft engineers, the platform was known as Wishabi. Now the app, which aims to make the process of finding, managing and using flyers, coupons and deals easier, features a team of over 300 people.
Flipp is available on iOS (and Android) for free.
Q: As a Canadian app developer, what sort of opportunities does WWDC give the Flipp team? What do you get out of attending the developer conference?
Michael Li: Attending WWDC gives us a first look at all that’s new and upcoming in the world of iOS apps and development. It provides an opportunity to focus on sessions and learning, as well as knowledge sharing with other developers.
Q: Is it the sessions, keynote or making connections with other developers, that is the most appealing?
Li: Attending sessions and the keynote are very interesting, but the chance to share knowledge and discuss with developers from all over the world is something not available anywhere else.
Q: Is there anything in particular you’re looking to learn more about at WWDC this year? Beyond just knowing what’s coming down the pipeline in terms of new iOS features, is there anything else?
Li: I’m most interested in seeing the future of developer tools and services as well as what’s new from Apple in the way of continuous integration.
Q: What can Flipp users expect next from the platform? Are there any new features currently in-development that you’re able to speak about?
Li: While I can’t share any specifics at this time, I can tell you that at Flipp we are always iterating on our app to ensure we continue to deliver a best-in-class experience for users.
1Password helps you Manage your password security
Toronto-based AgileBits’ 1Password has quickly become synonymous with password management and security, whether on desktop, Android or iOS.
While there are competing password management tools out there like, Keeper, Password Boss and the most well-known of the bunch, LastPass, none of these services are able to compete with the versatility or feature set 1Password offers. Further, it’s worth pointing out that while much of AgileBits’ team is based in Toronto, the company also has an office in Syracuse, New York.
1Password is available in the iOS App Store, as well as the macOS. The platform is also available on Android and Windows and features a browser extension.
I spoke with Michael Fey, the 1Password Apple team lead at Agilebits to ask him about his experience at WWDC.
Q: As a Canadian-made platform, what do you hope to get out of WWDC?
Michael Fey: Well, technically I’m American, but since I am on the 1Password team I believe that gets me honorary Canadian status, right? WWDC is one of my favourite times of the year and it’s hard to pick a single thing that I love about it. From a personal perspective, it’s time to catch up with all my other friends in the Apple development community and make some new memories. On the technical side, there’s really nothing like being at WWDC.
You get to ‘drink from the firehose of knowledge’ for a week and fully immerse yourself in all the new stuff Apple has to offer. The ability to sit down with Apple engineers in the labs is probably the single greatest use of anyone’s time, though. If you’re running into a problem in your ‘UICollectionView’ implementation for example, being able to talk to the engineer that wrote ‘UICollectionView’ is an unparalleled experience.
Q: In past years, were there any particular announcements that shifted how 1Password operates for the average user?
Fey: One of things that we pride ourselves on with 1Password is how quickly we adopt the technologies that Apple introduces at WWDC. The best memory I have of this was with the introduction of the Touch ID API in iOS 8. Right after the keynote we downloaded the prerelease version of Xcode and started playing around.
By dinner time that night we had integrated Touch ID and by the next day we had already put together a demo video that we were showing off to some of our friends at Apple. It was a magical experience, and the update we shipped later that year alongside the release of iOS 8 was one of best.
Touch ID (and now Face ID) integration in 1Password is still one of our most loved features.
Q: Is there anything in particular you hope to learn more about at WWDC 2018?
Fey: Every year as we head into WWDC we wind down all of our Apple-based development efforts in anticipation of the announcements Apple makes during the week. We have had incredible success in the past by timing our releases to the OS updates that come out in the fall and it’s something we plan on continuing.
We’re hoping to see some wonderful new features announced that we can integrate into 1Password over the next couple months so we can make a big splash with our next major update.
Q: 1Password at this point has secured its position as the industry’s go-to password platform. Is there anything in particular you have planned to add to the service in the future that you’re able to speak about?
Fey:AgileBits does not comment on rumour or speculation. In all seriousness, though, we just wrapped up a huge development cycle that culminated in the release of 1Password 7 for Mac. It’s our first paid update in 5 years and we’re incredibly excited about it.
1Password 7 introduces some groundbreaking new features like our new Watchtower service that notifies you if any of your sensitive information has been involved in any website breaches or if any of your passwords show up in the enormous database of breached passwords at haveibeenpwned.com. I highly recommend you check out our What’s New page for the full list of features and improvements.