I’ve been working steadily on an iPhone application called Tony’s Tips for iPhone Users Manual. It is available now, for $2.99, in the App Store (online or through iTunes).
Tony’s Tips provides helpful tips for using your iPhone with iTunes and MobileMe. I have tried to make something that is better than a manual in your iPhone — a reference that is always up-to-date, easy to search, and organized for quick reading. For a detailed critical overview, see “Does the iPhone Need Help?” by David Needle in InternetNews.
Robert Chin and I designed Tony’s Tips using wiki software on my server and the iPhone engine inside Wikipanion. It works essentially like a one-way wiki, presenting highly categorized content on the iPhone. The wiki content can be updated at any time without affecting the iPhone client. As a result, I can keep the content fresh and up-to-date without having to update the app itself.
Tony’s Tips is an important first step to establishing a new tips format for handheld devices. Authors can create and host the content, sell the clients directly to readers, establish direct feedback loops with their readers, and continually update the products easily so that the content is never out-of-date.
The price ($2.99) is also significant, less than a typical e-book. Author/publishers can charge a low price for the iPhone client and still make a decent profit — possibly more than royalties from a book. Author/publishers can invest in marketing and promotion rather than spending on paper publishing, distribution, and stocking, and having to re-spend again every time the book needs to be updated.
Developing an iPhone app is a painful process, but I applaud Apple’s strict adherence to guidelines to reinforce quality in the iPhone experience. Look what can happen without strict quality assurance!
Nevertheless, Apple must have different people reviewing the app every time we submit it or update it, as they find different things that do not strictly adhere to the guidelines. We cheerfully fix them, only to find something else. Two steps forward, one step back, but we have made significant progress. We expect this update to stick (version 1.1). If you have already purchased version 1.0 in the App Store, no worries; your free update will pop up automatically in the Updates section of the store.
The bugs we fixed to make version 1.1 are:
- External links to Safari were not working, but are now fixed.
- The Bookmark Section feature was not working, but is now fixed.
- Apple wanted us to add a dialog warning you if you are not connected to the Internet. This applies only to certain functions that take you online — you can still read the pages you saved on your iPhone whether you are connected or not.