It’s only been about 5 days since Mental Case appeared on the iTunes App Store, but — from this end — it feels more like 3 months. Downloads of the iPhone app have been strong, and this has driven customers to the Mac app, which we hoped it would. Sales there have exceeded expectations. With the increase in user base has come considerably more support work, but that’s a nice problem to have.
Now is a good time to talk a bit about what made it into the first release for iPhone, what we left out, and our motivations. First, we are the first to acknowledge that the first release lacks a few features. We had very little time to prepare the app, because we only got access to the developer program some time after the App Store opened to the public. We decided to try to get out an app that supported the bare minimum of functionality to be useful, and make it robust. We didn’t want to try to rush in functionality, and release something that crashed every few minutes.
Version 1.0 of Mental Case for iPhone is the end result. It takes an approach very similar to Apple’s own iTunes approach to music in many ways. Syncing of content is one-way, from the Mac to the iPhone. This means you can’t create notes on the iPhone. There is some data synced back, such as which lesson notes were studied on the Phone/iPod touch. (This is similar how Apple syncs back the play count of songs.) We think this approach is a good compromise for a first release: it is useful, because you can take your study with you, but it has limitations too.
New features in Mental Case App
It may seem that adding notes on the iPhone should not be difficult to implement. That is true; in fact, it’s already in there, but hidden. Why would we hide extra functionality? Although you can add new notes on the iPhone, they won’t sync back to the Mac, so the functionality would be pretty useless at this point. Two-way syncing of content is actually the bottleneck — it’s hard to do right. If someone edits a note on their iPhone, that data needs to be merged with the data on the Mac, and conflicts can arise. That’s not to say we aren’t planning to do it, just that it was too much trouble for a first release that needed to be pushed to the public as soon as possible. (Keep in mind that Mental Case is the only flash card app at this point that is even attempting to sync data between Mac and iPhone.)
Adding content directly to the iPhone is obviously a high priority for future releases, but it is not the only one. Many customers have asked for more configurability; for example, being able to change fonts. We will definitely add these finer details.
Others want better support for images, such as zooming. We intend to add this too, and have already started by introducing a landscape slideshow mode to be released in the near future.
Another feature we find important is access to content. Sharing of notes between users, and publishing of cases online. You can already share notes using Mental Cases’ export features, but it would be nice if there was an online repository of notes. We have already begun talks with one of the biggest players in online flash cards to see where it could lead, and hopefully we will have something for our customers in the not too distant future.
In the meantime, keep the feedback coming. We are listening, and the more we hear a particular request, the more likely it will work its way to the top of the ToDo list.