If you’re an iPad owner and a Nutracheck user, this post is for you.
We are pleased to announce that today sees the release of a major update to Calorie Counter +, the official Nutracheck App, with the introduction of native iPad support. We’ve taken the best bits from our existing iPhone app, added some new features, and re-imagined them specifically for the iPad.
There is no doubt that the iPad, now in it’s umpteenth iteration with the recent release of the iPad Air & retinal iPad Mini, has been a runaway success for Apple. In fact, recent figures suggest as many as 15 million units were sold in the third quarter of 2013 alone! And with Christmas just around the corner, many of us in the UK will undoubtedly be tablet owners in the not too distant future, if not already.
More than three years on from it’s initial release, the iPad, and tablet computers in general, have become major players in the mobile device market and here at Nutracheck, we have seen a consistent increase in iPad usage from our existing iOS app, Calorie Counter +.
If you are a regular user of our iPhone app, you’ll know that it does already run on the iPad. This is true of nearly all iPhone Apps – most can be run in a special “iPhone” mode on Apple tablets. However, this is far from optimal. By default, Apps running in this mode are presented in actual [smaller] size, meaning 320×480 pixels for most, which is certainly better for users than no support at all. There is the option to scale up an App by “2x”, but in these modes, Apps designed specifically for the iPhone (as most were when we launched Calorie Counter + back in 2011) can quickly become clunky and blurred, with phone based user interfaces making less sense on larger tablet screens.
We began thinking about how to optimise our app for iPad owners back in the summer of 2013, the main aim being to create the best user experience possible on a tablet device, making full use of everything the platform has to offer.
The first decision we had to make turned out to be the most important; is it better to produce a standalone iPad App, or does it make more sense to support both the phone & tablet in a single, universal download? Arguments could be made in support of either answer. Starting a brand new project would separate us from our more than two year history on the App Store. In the end we chose the latter option, which proved to be, in our opinion, the correct one. But, of course, only time will tell.
The process of developing an iPad app turns out to be essentially the same as it is for iPhone. Large parts of the code we had already written were perfectly reusable for our latest endeavour and those that were not were fairly straightforward to re implement. The hardest challenge we faced was how best to make use of all that lovely screen space we now had available.
At first, the sheer amount of pixilated real estate one has to play with on an iPad is a blessing. Graphical elements have more room to flow naturally and tend to overlap much less often than they would on the more constrained iPhone platform. Even on an iPhone5, with its extended display, it can be difficult to make room for everything which, more often than not, leads to features being left out of a final product.
After a while though, the excess space can prove to be daunting. It quickly becomes apparent exactly where your App is lacking in features and content. It is easy to end up with large blocks of empty space where you thought there would be none, and it soon becomes tempting to add more and more, to fill the screen. This can result in a watering down of content and features and can leave the user with a headache when trying to complete a simple task. It took us some time to come up with a consistent, easy to navigate interface that strikes the right balance between utility & simplicity.
Of course, we have not forgotten about our iPhone users either. The new version (3.1.0 for those of you keeping count) contains a bunch of improvements and bug fixes and we will be bringing much of what we have learned through iPad development back to the iPhone, so stay tuned for lots of new features and optimisations in the New Year and beyond.
Finally, for our Android users, we have not forgotten about you and a new release is on its way.
Merry Christmas and a ‘Appy New Year from the Nutracheck Development Team.