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PocketBible for iPhone Beta 2 (Finally)

Posted on: July 18th, 2009 by Craig Rairdin 26 Comments

It’s been a long six weeks since we released Beta 1 of our native version of PocketBible for iPhone. At the time I said we were expecting the beta period to be short. Needless to say I was wrong.

A Wrench in the Works

Two major things happened to really slow us down. First, we have been really struggling to get adequate performance out of our code to allow you to be able to smoothly scroll through the Bible like you would a Web page in Safari on the iPhone. Safari has the advantage of being able to render the entire page. Once that is done, scrolling around on it — even zooming in and out — is pretty easy with the features of the iPhone OS. In our case, however, we can’t render the entire Bible while you wait. We have to load it into memory in pieces. Unfortunately, computers can only do one thing at once and while it was busy loading the next chunk of text it needed to display, the scrolling would get clunky. It wouldn’t keep up with your finger motions.

We actually got to the point where it was working pretty well. We were loading text in a separate thread and drawing during otherwise idle times (say, while the graphics processor was busy animating the motion of the text). But then we installed the OS 3 SDK and things fell apart.

We couldn’t afford to take the time to figure out how and why the new version was causing us problems. Suffice to say that the particular functionality we were taking advantage of was rewritten for version 3, and in so doing the handling of touch events changed in ways that may not be significant to some applications but were significant to us.

As a simple example, when you’re tracking a touch event, the system can send you a “cancel” message. This means the phone is ringing or some other event has happened and your program needs to stop what it’s doing and let something more important take over. Well, with version 3 we’d be happily tracking a touch event and suddenly we’d get a “cancel” message. It seems the system was watching the touch events and had decided that the touches weren’t doing anything it cared about, so it told us to cancel our handling of those events. We could’ve ignored the “cancel” message (knowing it was just the OS trying to take over touch handling) but since the “cancel” message also means “really — the phone is ringing — you need to stop right now” we couldn’t afford to make that assumption.

Anyway, the end result was we threw out about six months worth of work and in about a day I coded a replacement that doesn’t depend on a lot of fancy background threads, idle-time drawing, or system touch event handling. The new user interface is simple, practical, and best of all — it’s done.

As if That Wasn’t Enough…

So as we’re recovering from that crisis, the 3GS is released. Now, when you’re developing for the iPhone there are some strict procedures you have to follow to install your program on your phone. Apple wants to make sure all program distribution happens through the App Store, so they limit how many devices you can install your app on outside the App Store. Every time we distribute a beta version (or even one of our own builds we do internally and install on our own phones) we have to identify exactly which phones it will run on. Apple lets us install on no more than 100 devices outside the App Store.

To manage this, developers maintain a list of “unique device ID’s” (UDIDs) in their account on the Apple Web site. Each phone as a UDID that uniquely identifies it. We ask all of our beta testers for their UDIDs and enter those at the Apple site. When we distribute a new build we request a certificate from Apple that contains all the UDIDs we want the program to run on.

So as I was saying, the 3GS was released. Jeff bought one for us to test with. A bunch of our beta testers bought them. So anticipating the release of Beta 2, I started collecting all these new UDIDs so I could update our account on the Apple site and create the new distribution certificate with everyone’s new UDID in it. I got about half way through entering them and the site told me I couldn’t enter any more. It said I had already used my 100 devices.

I only had 82 devices in my list. Turns out when you change someone’s UDID it counts as a new device. I had added 85 devices, deleted 3, and made 15 changes. When you delete a device you don’t get its “slot” back, so from Apple’s perspective the total was 100.

After several email, support forum, and telephone conversations with Apple and other developers, we concluded that we were out of luck. We had to wait until our annual program renewed on July 12. At that time, Apple said our device count would reset. We could delete all our devices and start over. But once we started adding devices, we were stuck with those for a year.

One thing that meant is that we couldn’t have 82 beta testers. We needed to cut the list dramatically. I wanted to get down around 40 testers. That would allow us to add some people over the next year and have room for device upgrades. We should be able to struggle through until Apple figures out that its developers aren’t trying to rip it off; we’re just trying to test our software.

So last week we sent out an email “firing” about half our testers. It wasn’t pleasant, but we had to do it. I think we have a pretty good group left. I can tell they’re good because I disagree with them most of the time. It’s good to be challenged to look at things a new way, and these folks are definitely keeping us honest.

Beta 2 Features

There are some notable features in Beta 2 that the testers will be looking at over the next week or two. These include:

  • Easily navigate to the next/previous page, chapter, or verse using simple taps and gestures.
  • Rotate between open books and Bibles with a tap or a swipe.
  • Hide all controls including the system status bar for full-screen reading, while having instant access to all the controls with a tap.
  • Search for words, phrases, and combinations of words using Boolean logic. Limit searches to any passage, book of the Bible, or range of books. Limit searches to only verses you’ve highlighted in a particular color or bookmarked in a particular category.
  • Add books from your Laridian account. Purchase books at our Web site and download them directly into PocketBible. Remove books as needed to free up memory (just download and install them any time you need them again).
  • Select from any installed font and font sizes from 8 to 72 points.
  • Lots of customization options, and many more features….

What’s Next?

There will be at least one more beta version before we submit PocketBible to the App Store. We’ll post an article like this one when Beta 3 is released, and another article when we send PocketBible to the App Store.

Once submitted, it will take a while for Apple to approve it. They might send it back and ask us to make changes. There’s no way of knowing how long that process will take. Sometimes it takes just a few days or a couple weeks. Other times it takes six months by the time you make all the changes they want and submit version after version for review. We don’t anticipate it will take that long but we have no way of knowing.

Any Bibles or books you buy today for any platform will be accessible from PocketBible for iPhone.

26 Responses

  1. Steve G says:

    Wow, sounds tough. Keep up the good work, guys. I subscribe to your blog via RSS and each time a new article comes up my heart beats a little more quickly in excitement. So I guess you could say I’m looking forward to being able to use it on my phone.

    I promise to buy a few extra titles for the hard work you’ve done. :)

    Steve

  2. Tim Wisner says:

    Like Steve, I’m really excited about this coming out. Thanks for the hard work and for keeping us fans informed as you go. Can’t wait to get this and have one more (legitimate, profitable) excuse to wear out my iPhone battery!

  3. Ghauptli says:

    I’m greatly looking forward to the fruits of your coding labors. I recently switched from a Treo 700p to a 3GS in anticipation of new faster and clever ways of studying the Bible.

    Your app sounds a bit like the well done WSJ iphone app with it’s up/down left right flicking and tap for menus. I’m hoping your efforts will include fast synchronized flicking between several open bibles/books.

    1 Corinthians 15:58 (NIV)

    [58] Therefore, my dear brothers, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.

    Gary

  4. Dave P says:

    Can you believe I held off this long to buy an iPhone simply because there wasn’t a native Laridian Bible for the platform? As a longtime user of your software on previous Palm and Win Mobile devices, I’m really looking forward to the fruits of your obviously hard work. Given the quality of your software I’ve experienced over the years, I’m sure the native iPhone app will be well worth the wait.

    Thank you! Though I’m hopeful that the multiple translations I’ve purchased over the years (most recently for the WinMo 6.1 device) will “transfer” over to the iPhone app, I’ll gladly repurchase all if necessary, if anything as a sign of appreciation for your labor.

  5. Dave Bower says:

    Please hurry! There is nothing else out there that comes close, paid or otherwise.

  6. Ron Felder says:

    Thanks for the update! Glad to hear that Beta 2 is complete. Can’t wait for the final version! Keep up the great work!

  7. Lionel B Dyck says:

    Thanks for the update. Your efforts are greatly appreciated.

    Would you consider posting a prod and a beta in the apple store assuming they would allow it?

    1 Corinthians 10:31 So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.

  8. David Lowther says:

    I put off buying an iPhone waiting for the native app to come out, but I gave in when the 3GS came out, knowing that the beta was coming along and the app would be out (relatively) soon. Until it’s ready, I will use the web based iPhone support. Thanks for you efforts!

  9. Randy H Rowlan says:

    Thank you for the update. I check frequently for news. I put off buying the iPhone until I learned the native app was coming out, but but the 3Gs believing its release was right around the corner. I appreciate your work and look forward to its release! I’ll be praying for patience for you as you go on to perfection!

  10. Warren Scotter says:

    I too will purchase a couple extras when the PocketBible is avail for my 3G. I’m sorry that you have to go through so much difficulty. Hopefully the rest of the beta and changes will go without a hitch. I really am looking forward to getting my PocketBible back. Thanks.

  11. Danita says:

    Hey Guys,

    Thanks for the update, I can’t wait for this release, this will be huge. Currently there aren’t any complete bible study apps for the Iphone so this will be cutting edge. I am going to jump on it the minute it is on ITunes, I already own several bibles from you all & will purchase the MSG bible ASAP.

    One feature that will be VERY helpful is to be able to view 1 bible verse in 2 different bible versions (like a compare), hopefully this is available.

    Thank you for all your hard work for us die hard IPhone users. We really appreciate it.

    Danita

  12. JPVann says:

    Great News! Can’t wait – I use two other free versions on my iPhone, refusing to buy anything else until Laridian comes out!

    If the product is as good as my history has been, I will be Tweeting and emailing friends to look, try and buy.

    Good luck on a quick, and easier finish to the program!

    Jer 23:29

  13. Don Smith says:

    Will be great to have right on my iPhone so often out of range and NO good program. I have a text file or apt of a Hymn book how can I get this running with with the Bible program?
    thank you for alll your work for us at Laridian

  14. Don, you can use our BookBuilder program to create books for PocketBible. As of right now there’s not a way to get those books onto your iPhone, but there will be. So give us some time and we’ll get that worked out.

  15. Steve Adams says:

    I’ve been watching silently from the sidelines for a long time now. I’m excited to hear about the progress you’re making. Can’t wait! Thanks for your perseverance!

    Quick question: I tried iPocketBible for a year on my 1st-Gen iPhone and found it frustratingly slow (plus I travel internationally a lot and don’t always have web access.) Would it be noticeably better on my new iPhone 3GS? My subscription expired before I got the new phone, so I haven’t been able to try it out.

  16. Joshua Morganstein says:

    Thanks for the update, guys. As others have said, sorry to hear about all the hurdles. Many prayers for patience and wisdom as your work continues.

  17. T-Will says:

    Thanks for the updates, sounds really exciting!

    BTW, I’m on a beta test team for another App, and the developer had the same issue with obtaining the beta certificates for the new 3GS phones.

    I can’t believe Apple hasn’t fixed their code to allow a CHANGE of UDID to not use one of the 100 slots.

  18. Steve says:

    I have to say, this is the one app I am extremely eager to have. I have a small library of bibles/books that I used on my Microsoft smartphone but since moving to iPhone I miss them. Some might hate me saying this, but I would be willing to pay a SMALL fee to convert to this app in order to cover some costs.

  19. Don says:

    Impending release of your product native for iPod touch was actually the primary decision point for my going ahead to buy one. I will continue to use Pocket Bible on my Pocket PC until then. This is my fourth consecutive year going through with One Year Bible. Looking forward to using on iPod touch soon.

  20. Lionel B Dyck says:

    I purchased an alternative inexpensive esv for the iPhone as an interim solution as I needed something. After having used your product on both Palm and PPC for many years what I have now is usable but a major step backwards. I look forward to dumping it and getting your product when you release it.

  21. Russ says:

    Thanks SO MUCH for the hard work in getting this app ready. What I’ve seen on the Apple store is only adequate… PocketBible has set the standard asa mobile Bible app and I’m sure that status will continue with this release. Blessings on you and your staff!

  22. Mark says:

    Well I cant wait until the native Iphone App arrives the internet version is iffy and like in my church no cell reception no bible! Errr

  23. Bill says:

    Thanks for all of your hard work! I’m sure the app will have been worth the wait. Until then, I’ve been pleased with the Web Based app and occasional excursions back to my Palm TX, Thinkpad X40, and Palm Treo Pro. Your software has been, is, and will remain my main study tool. Thanks again. We’ll keep praying.

  24. Chris Walden says:

    Can’t wait to get MyBible on the iTouch!

  25. Bob Royall says:

    Cannot wait – very excited. I have done a lot of research (and purchases) on the Bible Study apps currently available and have concluded that there is not one which does all that I would like as am spoiled by Logos! I use them each in various ways during the day and many times have wanted to access resources in my Logos library.

    Now that I know you guys are working an iphone app, I can practice the virtue of patience until you are ready to launch!

    Thank you so much for your work, it has made a significant impact on my growth in the Lord and having such a tool with me all the time is very exciting.

  26. Richard says:

    As I long time user of the Palm and WinMo Laridian products, I also am eagerly waiting for the iTouch version. I have an awful lot of money invested in Laridian. God bless Laridian!

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