Sploot the Corgi Stickers!

I made a sticker pack!

It features a corgi named Sploot (a “sploot” is a common corgi position where both hind legs are splayed out, as illustrated by this helpful Buzzfeed article). There are currently a dozen stickers in the pack and I plan to add more throughout the year.

Sploot the Corgi

I want to talk a little bit about Sploot’s launch.

At some point last Monday night, the iMessage App Store unexpectedly went live and sticker packs became available for purchase for anyone running the iOS 10 beta. I rushed to the store and checked all the featured lists and…nada. Apparently Sploot, like many other apps, was still “Pending an Apple Release.” I admit, I was bummed not to be featured (doesn’t everyone love corgis?!). Looking through those lists, it seems I would have had better luck creating something that was purposefully bad (see: failmoji) than attempting to create something good and falling short of the mark.

Anyway, when my stickers were finally ready for sale the next day, I sent out a couple tweets about them. Meanwhile, other sticker packs were getting featured in round-ups on all my favorite Apple sites. My mistake? Not inviting bloggers to beta-test my sticker pack. Sure, they might not have listed it anyway, but it would have been worth a try! I’ve often talked about how important promotion is; apparently, I can’t take my own advice.

My next mistake became obvious to me as I was spamming my husband and best friend with stickers: my stickers were too big. I mistakenly thought that everyone would use the maximum sticker size of 206×206 points. However, it looks like most stickers are around 130×130 points. So, I resized mine and submitted an update (which was approved yesterday). I also changed the name of the pack from “Sploot” to “Sploot the Corgi” and switched it from the “Emoji & Expressions” category to “Animals and Nature.” I’m hoping these changes will make it easier to find.

In the last week I sold about 80 sticker packs—which is fine, but I was definitely hoping for better!

I think the best thing I can do now is to get working on an update with some seasonal stickers and continue hoping for a feature. And hey, if you’re in need of some cute corgi stickers, you can download Sploot the Corgi from the App Store!

Submitting Stickers Through iTunes Connect

As I sat down to submit my corgi-themed sticker pack last night, I realized I actually had no clue what to do. Apple’s instructions for submitting standalone sticker packs are actually spread across two separate guides (iMessage App Submissions | Sticker Submissions) which added to my confusion.

So, in case you’re as confused as I was, here’s some answers to questions you may have.

What size screenshots do I need to prepare?

You need to prepare two sizes: iPhone 6s Plus (or any of the 5.5″ devices) and 12.9″ iPad Pro.

Where do I upload the screenshots?

You need to add them in two places: at the top of the iTunes Connect record under “App Preview and Screenshots” and farther down under “iMessage App.”

Do I need to add a 1024×1024 square app icon even though Apple doesn’t list it in its Human Interface Guidelines or icon template?

Apparently. There’s a paragraph at the bottom of the iMessage App Submission guide that makes me think it might be possible to view sticker apps on the iOS App Store if you’re not running iOS 10:

if users are on an operating system lower than iOS 10, the link will open the product page on the App Store for iPhone and iPad, and users can download your app from there.

Of course, that might just apply to full iOS apps that include sticker extensions. Who knows? If you’re using the Photoshop template provided by Apple, double click on the “icon” layer under the 58×58 size. It will open as a 1536×1536  square version…you can size that down to 1024×1024 and hit “Save As” (so you won’t mess with the template) to easily fulfill this requirement.

What should I include in the screenshots?

I was a little unsure about this, but decided to go with one shot of my sticker pack in expanded view, and one shot of a sample conversation using my stickers. I took all of my screenshots in the Simulator because I don’t have test devices. I used Photoshop to add profile pictures for my message participants using royalty-free stock photos from Pexels.

What category should I put my sticker pack in?

Why, the Stickers category, of course! From there, you can choose a subcategory or two.

Can I use “stickers” and “iMessage” in my keywords?

Yep! There are some caveats though, as described in the iMessage App Submission guide.

Removing the Headphone Jack: Pros & Cons

I know, I know. This topic has been done to death. However, as we’re two days out from Apple’s “See you on the 7th” event, I thought it’d be fun to list my personal pros and cons of eliminating the headphone jack. 

Cons

  • Without a cable, baby will have one less thing to yank on while nursing. How will he occupy his hands? What will he coat with his drool?!
  • I won’t be able to practice identifying nautical knots several times a day after retrieving my earbuds from my pocket.
  • After I drop my phone in water for the 19th time, I won’t experience the simple joy of digging a single grain of rice out of the headphone jack.

Pros

  • I love remembering to charge things!
  • I’ll no longer be spoiling my ears with high quality audio. Take that, you pompous flaps of cartilage.
  • My phone will finally be thin enough to mince garlic on the go.
  • I love having to triple-check whether my headphones are paired so that sudden noise doesn’t wake Charlie. Aw, who am I kidding? I love it when he wakes up from his naps early!
  • Don’t tell anyone, but I dream of buying dongles. Especially when they’re $29.99. Especially when I’ll probably lose them.
  • Wireless stuff is so so so reliable always. And easy to use in old cars too.

Wow. After reviewing my pro and cons list, I’ve determined that I actually don’t care what happens to the headphone jack. If Apple thinks this will propel us into a perfect future filled with pure, unadulterated Slabs of Glass, then who are we to stand in the way? 😉

On Stickers

As I seek to understand more about the popularity of stickers in messaging apps (hint: they’re more than just big emoji!), I thought I’d share some of the interesting articles I’ve come across.

Sticker Culture

  • Stickers: From Japanese craze to global mobile messaging phenomenon by Jon Russell (TNW)

    Despite success in Asia, it appears likely that the appeal of stickers is different in Western markets, where Romanic alphabets are better supported on smartphones and there is less of an emoji/cartoon culture.

  • Why is every messaging app under the sun trying to sell stickers to you? by Jon Russell (TNW)

    Stickers are a frictionless way to monetize a service. By that I mean that they do not immediately disrupt the user experience by serving adverts, forcing video plays or using other forced ‘interactions’ that might serve to draw revenue from sponsors. Stickers are not intrusive and can keep an app priced free.

  • The Elements of Stickers by Connie Chan (Andreessen Horowitz)

    The “trading” element, however, is less about statically collecting and more about dynamically custom-curating one’s personal collection of stickers. These collections also signal one’s “sticker street cred” in Asian messaging apps — you can always tell a newbie or non-tech savvy user by their use of the stock stickers only.

For Developers

For Users

Key Takeaways

  • Designers only need to submit @3x versions of stickers (max size: 618 x 618px, 500KB)
  • PNG files are preferred (even for animated stickers)
  • Pay attention to transparency because your stickers can overlap message bubbles and images in conversations 
  • If you are making stickers that feature a single character, name the sticker pack after the character (or “CharacterName & Friends”)
  • If you want to appeal to Asian users, a quick Google image search of the word “kawaii” wouldn’t hurt
  • Most sticker packs seem to have at least a dozen stickers

Even though I’m not the greatest artist, I’m hoping to have a sticker pack ready for September!

Voicemail Transcription in iOS 10 Beta

I don’t answer my phone much these days. It seems I’m always either holding my sleeping baby, dealing with some sort of unfortunate situation involving his clothes, or creeping around the house in ninja-like silence while he snoozes in his bassinet. There’s no room for noise in my life right now—not when my chances of getting a decent night’s sleep are on the line!

As such, one iOS 10 feature that I haven’t heard much about but that I’ve found very useful is voicemail transcription. For instance, I missed two calls from a friend today. Thanks to voicemail transcription, I found out that the first call was urgent: something had gone wrong in the online class that I helped him set up and he needed me to take a look at it.

The second call came just as Charlie was settling down for his all-important afternoon nap in my arms. This time, I saw that my friend just wanted to tell me a story and that I could call him back when I got a chance.

In both cases, glancing at the transcription was way more convenient than holding the phone to my ear and potentially waking Charlie, who I’m convinced could hear a butterfly flap its wings in Africa.

Another great thing about this feature is that it gives you the ability to provide quick and easy feedback on the quality of the transcription. Below the transcribed paragraph it says something like “How useful was this?” and you can select either “Useful” or “Not useful.” Dead simple, right? I’m sure that prompt will go away when the final version is released but for now I’m grateful for its existence.

It made me wish that Apple would add that same kind of feedback mechanism to all of its AI “suggestions,” even if only in the beta releases. Whether it be suggested apps, contacts, calendar items or locations, I should be given the opportunity to report on their usefulness/relevance. Otherwise, how does Apple get better at this? How do they know where they need to improve? Heck, how do they even know what they’re doing well?

Quick unobtrusive feedback prompts are a great “opt in” way of figuring out the answers to those questions.