When the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus arrived this fall, we had to make a choice. A choice about how we are going to support these phones with the Mark II Artist’s Viewfinder. We had two paths in front of us. An easy one, where we just measure the new phones, add them to the app’s database, but leave the app built with the iOS 7 SDK not caring about how it looks like on the bigger screens – this is the path some of our competitors took. Or a harder one, with adding full support for the larger screens as well as first-class iOS 8 support. We are not fans of half-baked ugly solutions, so of course we took the harder path.
Well, this proved to be a rather challenging one… Due to the ill-fated launch of iOS 8 (and 8.0.1 and 8.0.2), we also decided to fully support iOS 7.1 along the new OS. To work with larger iPhone screens, Apple completely revamped screen layout for iOS 8. Working with the sometimes contradicting requirements of the two OS generations was a time consuming puzzle to solve. We had to employ some pretty neat techniques, such as self-modifying code, and do tons of trial and error testing. After a couple of weeks of hard work, finally we had modified our internal frameworks to work smoothly with both OS version. But then, another monster reared his ugly head.
Previously we relied on the iPhone simulation on iPads. It’s completely broken on iOS 8, however. From erratically rotating status bars to half of keyboards laid out in the middle of the screen. At this point, we had to revisit our previous decision. But we strongly think that the easy path is not a real option, and this left only one possible solution. Escaping forward, and adding first-class iPad support.
We had to evaluate iPad user interface alternatives and design in general, as well as modifications of our frameworks to cope with even larger screens (some groundwork needed for this was already done because of iPhone 6). We spent another couple of weeks on this, but actually we had plenty of time as we were waiting for our iPhone 6 and 6 Plus to be delivered (operating in Hungary has a major drawback – new iPhones were only available from the beginning of November, plus add a week or two for shipping).
The result of these exercises is something I still find a great achievement: design and code that works equally well regardless of the screen size. We have even added support for non-Retina displays on the iPad 2 and original iPad mini. What this means to you? A single, universal app that supports both iPhones and iPads for $25. Some of our competitors sell two different iPad and iPhone apps, and you have to shell out $60 in total for those.
Below is a screen shot showing the iPad screen. I’m biased, but the app is a sheer joy to use on my iPad mini 3.
You may notice two things on the screen shot. First, we have full wide converter support now on iPads. My favorite here is the Schneider iPro Super Wide with its easy-to use but stable clip. Second is that frame lines are somewhat thicker than on the iPhone version.
Actually we have a new setting in the menu to control frame line thickness. You can choose from thin, medium and thick line widths. Thin is the thinnest line possible on Retina displays (and the default, or what you had in previous versions). On non-Retina iPads that we support thickness defaults to medium (and is not changeable).
These new features will be available in version 4.0 shortly. It’s already submitted for review to the App Store, and will be released as soon as Apple approves the update. The update will be free for existing Mark II Artist’s Viewfinder owners. For users of older Viewfinder Basic/Pro/Cine apps we are providing upgrades through upgrade bundles.