Monthly Archives: October 2014

Cocos2D vs Unity3D – A Comparison Of The Best App Development Frameworks

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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A common query among many aspiring game/app developers is, whether to use Cocos2D or Unity3D for their first few applications. We have here done an in-depth, point-by-point comparison of the two development frameworks.

 

Thanks to the rapidly growing popularity of the Cocos2D and Unity3D development systems, hardly anyone uses the XNA framework to develop games and apps at present. Particularly among iPhone app developers, Cocos2D has become the first-choice framework to work with. On the other hand, interest in, and usage of, Unity (both 2D and 3D) has witnessed a spurt over the last few months. Let us here do a brief Cocos2D vs Unity3D comparative study, to help you decide which one would be the best for you:

 

  1. Prior programming knowledge – If you have decent experience of coding in C and C++, you can start learning Cocos2D. However, for an absolute newbie, Unity3D is always the better choice. All that you will need to know is a working knowledge of some of the supported languages (Unityscript, C#). With detailed tutorials being available online, that is hardly a difficult task.
  2. Learning curve – Longer and significantly steeper for Cocos2D. Those who are new to the field of gaming software and mobile app development tend to get confused while learning about ‘pointers’, ‘particle systems’ and ‘bitmap fonts’ (the last two are third-party tools), in particular. Although highly beneficial, the Cocostudio requires some time to get used to as well. Unity3D is way easier to learn. If you sincerely keep at it, you can start making your own app within 2-3 days.
  3. Low-end development support – As a new developer, you should start off with a small, simple game. Cocos2D offers greater opportunities on this front. With this development framework, games with sizes as low as 1.5 MB can be created. On the other hand, the minimum size of games/apps developed via Unity3D have to be 8 MB. The size of the app you wish to develop is, hence, an important influencing factor.
  4. Amount of manual coding involved – Cocos2D is open source, and users need to write the bulk of the code lines themselves. As we have already pointed out, if you are not comfortable with coding (or do not have the time for it), opting for Unity3D is advisable. There is a slight ‘beta’ feel about Cocos2Dx as well, which most app development experts do not enjoy.
  5. Time-management – It’s a tie between Cocos2D and Unity3D, as far as the time-factor is concerned. The Unity Editor in the latter helps developers do away with unnecessary wastage of time – since apps/games can be directly tested on it (deployment with devices is generally not required). If you are prepared to invest some extra time, you will find the Cocostudio to be equally time-efficient as well. There is a host of free third-party tools and add-ons that make the job of iOS app developers easier.
  6. Availability of online support – Cocos2D is catching up, but till now, Unity easily has greater community support on the web. The are close to 16000 search results on stackoverflow, and finding tutorials, user guidelines, and even cheat sheets is fairly simple. Now compare that with the community support for Cocos2D, for which the stackoverflow search count hovers around the 3500 mark. Most of the early books on Cocos2D (v.3.0) were in Chinese, and that added to the problem. However, new Cocos tutorials are being released, and its online support base (forums and communities) is expanding.
  7. Customization for different games – Essential for Unity3D users, not so much for those working with Cocos2D. On the former, each of the game objects has to be coded separately – and there is a large number of Unity scripts associated with every game or mobile application. To a certain extent, this does reduce the time-advantage offered by the Unity Editor.
  8. Suitability for custom mobile app development – When it comes to compatibility with different platforms, Unity3D wins hands down. While Cocos2D is almost exclusively used by iOS app developers, Unity comes in handy for making Chrome applications, iPhone games/apps and even Android applications. Also, as it is pretty evident from their names, Unity3D is the better choice for making three-dimensional games and applications. Cocos also has a 3D version, but it is not as good.
  9. Expenses involved – Both Cocos2D and Unity3D are available for free download (on Windows and MacOS X systems). With SpriteBuilder 1.1, the new version of Cocos2D (open source, version 3.1) has also become available. The only snag regarding Unity3D is, if you want fancy graphics or splash screens for your app – you will probably have to go for the paid version of the framework. The monthly subscription charge for a Unity3D Pro License is $75. Not a very small amount!
  10. Examples of successful usage – Renowned game and mobile app companies have been working with the two systems for close to a year now. As such, both of them have been used to create several hugely successful gaming applications. Angry Birds Epic and Temple Run 2 are two of the biggest hits developed with Unity, while Cocos2D had been used for creating winners like BadLand and 2048.  At most companies, Unity3D as well as Cocos2D projects are regularly accepted.
  11. Third-party Cocos tools vs Unity plugins – Unity3D might be the easier framework to learn for a new developer, but its external plugins can be just a tad confusing. In particular, for creating menus on games/apps, the NGUI plugin (available at the asset store) is required – and you will need to spend some time to get a hang of how it works. Tilemaps and bitmap fonts are two of the most frequently used external tools of Cocos2D. It’s a fact though, that the more useful of these Cocos tools are available only on Mac systems.
  12. The power of C++ – There is a general opinion that C++ support makes the task of app and game development just a tad easier. Only if you are working with Cocos2D, will you get this. However, the C# and native UnityScript support for Unity3D is robust enough as well. On the reliability front, there is very little to choose between the two frameworks.


All things considered, Unity3D would slightly edge ahead of Cocos2D – particularly due to the Unity Editor, and the fact that new developers find Cocostudio rather complicated. Game objects can be reused more easily with Unity too. However, for two-dimensional games, Cocos2D does an excellent job as well, since it is very user-friendly and does not have excess overheads (due to the single platform focus). If you wish to start making both 2D and 3D games, you should take time out to learn both the development engine frameworks. Depending on your projects, budget, workflow and other factors, you can then make the correct choice every time.

Nexus In & Android Silver Out For Google?

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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Contrary to what many had thought a few months back, Google is clearly giving greater precedence to its Nexus line of phones over its much-talked-about Android Silver program. We here dissect some key signals which suggest that Nexus is indeed more important than Android Silver for Google.

 

From April, rumors have been doing the rounds in mobile tech communities and forums, that Google was planning to launch a new mobile software program, Android Silver. Many feared that the Nexus line of phones would be withdrawn, even after David Burke, the engineering head at Google, categorically asserted that the company is still very much ‘invested in Nexus’. Six months on, it is the Android Silver program that has taken a backseat – while the new flagship Nexus phone and tablet have been officially announced. Here are certain telltale indications that Google is definitely focusing more on Nexus devices than on Android Silver at present:

 

  1. Confirmation of the Nexus 9 tablet – Android Authority has confirmed that the HTC Nexus 9 tablet is scheduled to be unveiled in about a week (October 15 and 16). The Nexus 6 phone, which would also be known as Motorola Shamu or Nexus X, will be launched before the year is out as well. There has been no such information forthcoming from Google regarding Android Silver.
  2. Nexus 6/9 will be replacing the older devices – Android Silver is a brand new program, while Nexus is a well-established, and rather successful, line of handsets. The Nexus 6 will directly replacing Google Nexus 5, which is, in any case, running out of stock at several places. Most mobile analysts and app developers feel that the Nexus 9 would be a more-than-adequate replacement for Asus Nexus 7 and Samsung Nexus 10. Creating a market for Android Silver would be an entirely different ball-game.
  3. The departure of Nikesh Arora – Arora, who was one of the head architects at Google and directly in charge of the Android Silver project, parted ways with the company in July. He was overseeing strategic carrier partnerships and device management plans for the program too. Understandably, his departure has played a part in the Silver project getting delayed for the time-being. Just goes to show that for small mobile app companies and a tech giant like Google alike, loss of key personnel always leads to complications.
  4. Android L is expected to debut on the new Nexus phones – A long-standing tradition of Google has been to launch new versions of the Android mobile OS along with a new Nexus phone. The successor to Android Kitkat, Android L (in all probability, ‘Lollipop’) will make its first appearance later this month – and it is only natural that Nexus 6/9 will be the devices it will debut on. Focusing on Android Silver now would force a break in this tradition.
  5. Android One has already been launched – Google has big plans with its Android One project – which targets at delivering the ‘best Android experience’ to every user, at prices of less than $100. The project has kicked off in India with three Micromax, Karbonn and Spice phones, and mobile marketers and app developers feel that Google would soon expand this project to other Asian countries. Nexus and Android One have become Google’s priorities, and Android Silver has – as a result – been delayed.
  6. Lukewarm response from partners, OEMs and carrier companies regarding Android Silver – For Android Silver to emerge a hit, Google would need the unconditional support of a large number of original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) as well as carrier companies. The former, in particular, have not been really been interested in a project that would leave them with only the hardware to play around with. Among carriers, Verizon and AT&T were directly against the program, and Google had managed to bring only T-Mobile and Sprint in its corner. Until the support base becomes stronger, launching the Android Silver program would be a risky proposition. Launching a new Nexus device is a way safer strategy.
  7. Extra interest from HTC – The ambitious entry of HTC into the tablet market with Jetstream and Flyer had fizzled out earlier, and the mobile company is desperate to set things right this time. Since interest is already brewing about Nexus 9, and the specs of the device have impressed general enthusiasts and mobile app developers alike, it is almost certain that HTC will finally have a successful, well-reviewed tablet in the market. Understandably, it’s an extra motivation – and Google seems ready to oblige. After Nexus One, no other Nexus phone had debuted on HTC – and that’s a factor as well.
  8. Repeated signals from the Google engineering chief – Let’s face it – as soon as it was known that Google was working on a new program called Android Silver, people simply assumed that it would replace the Nexus series. Apart from rubbishing such claims and stating that the company is ‘invested in Nexus’, David Burke has also said on record that the assumption of Nexus being discontinued is a ‘totally wrong conclusion’. Interestingly, he, along with other Google engineering hotshots, have refused to make any comment on Android Silver. It’s easy to deduce which project Google is currently more interested in now!
  9. Android apps are being updated – At all leading Android app development companies, developers are updating/optimizing their applications – so that they become compatible with the specs of Android L. That is yet another confirmation that the new Android update is coming soon, and Google would be well-advised to release a new Nexus phone and tablet with it. What will be the point of unveiling Android L if there are no new devices to showcase it on?
  10. Need for strong competitors to iPhone 6 and 6 Plus – Bendgate and Hairgate notwithstanding, the new flagship handsets from Apple are off to a flying start. Samsung Galaxy S5 is a challenger to iPhone 6, but the South Korean company is almost certain to part ways with Android (in favor of its own Tizen OS). As such, it is vital for Google to release Nexus 6 (challenger to iPhone 6) and Nexus 9 (challenger to iPhone 6 Plus) as soon as possible. Otherwise, it might fall behind in the worldwide smartphone market. There is no such urgency for Android Silver.
  11. The Nexus line is not likely to ‘disappear’ any time soon – Provided, of course, the new Nexus phones are not dramatic disappointments. As David Burke pointed out, Google is into making Nexus phones and the Android open source code. That is, and always will be, the way of working at Google – and there is no chance of the company suddenly bringing the Nexus line to an end. Android Silver, even if it does come along later, will never be a ‘replacement’ of Nexus.
  12. Specs of Nexus phone are out but nothing is known for certain for Android Silver – This is probably the clincher. Right from mobile app development experts to online Android community and forum members – almost everyone knows that the Motorola Nexus 6 will have a 5.92” screen, a Snapdragon 805 processor (in all likelihood), 32 GB (internal) memory space and a 13 MP camera. Now compare that to the Android Silver scenario – where nothing is known about even carrier support or partner OEMs. Google is silent about Silver, a clear indication that the program is being kept on hold.

It was a folly to assume that Google would terminate the Nexus series after Nexus 5, and it will be a mistake to proclaim anything like ‘Android Silver is dead’ now. All that can be said for certain is that, Google is investing more time and effort on the new Nexus phones and popularizing the Android One project. Work on Silver might well resume sometime next year.

 

AppBoard Tuesday – 11 Things To Do AFTER Creating A Mobile App

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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Howdy, all you Teks fans out there! Our teeny-weeny holiday’s over, and it’s back-to-work time. That, of course, means, AppBoard Tuesday (ABT) – our free newsletter – makes a comeback from this week as well. In today’s edition, we won’t be dealing with how you should create apps. Instead, we would be focusing on what you should do after the app development process is over.

Maybe when you are learning the ropes of coding for mobile apps, the mere completion of an application is viewed as an achievement. In the professional world though, things are a whole lot different – and unless your app manages to stand out amongst the 1.3 million-odd applications at Google Play Store or iTunes, the entire thing would be treated as an exercise in futility. Creating a post-release buzz about a mobile app in order to ensure strong initial download figures is not a particularly difficult task though. Here’s how you should go about gaining maximum exposure for your apps:

 

  1. Submit your app – Yes, this is a bit of a no-brainer – but it’s the first thing you need to do. Once you are done with all the mobile app testing stages (and are satisfied with the results), submit your app at iTunes and/or Play Store. For the former in particular, you will have to be extra careful – for the app review process at the Apple App Store is rather rigorous. Of course, that does not mean you can get away with making buggy Android apps!
  2. Get reviews – This is where you will need to showcase your PR skills. Ask your colleagues, friends, family members, other close acquaintances (basically, any person you can approach for a professional favor) to give a favorable review of your app at the store. Make sure that your application is indeed worthy of a high rating (in fact, that’s the first thing you should consider!). Provided that your app is good, users would start giving reviews on their own over time. A fairly large number of positive reviews within the first week or so after the release of the app can serve as a great launching-pad.
  3. Showcase the designs – If you have created a unique, breakthrough application that no other mobile app company has been able to think about – good on you. Given the sheer number and variety of apps at the stores, chances for that are slim though, and there will be competition in practically every genre. What can make your app stand out is its UI/UX designs, color combinations, splash screens, and other display features. Channels like Behance and Pinterest can go a long way in highlighting the mobile app designing styles you have made use of. Find out how you can promote your app through Behance here.
  4. Think cross-platform – There’s more money in iPhone apps, while Android dominates the worldwide smartphone market. Any mobile app developer worth his/her salt would want to reach out to the maximum number of people. If you have made an iOS application, create an Android version of it as well (and vice versa). Specializing in cross-platform mobile app development would help you have a buffer – just in case any one version of your new app fails.
  5. Optimize the app-description – It’s only partially true that people do not generally bother to read the entire description of an app at iTunes or the Play Store. Everyone browses through the first 2-3 lines though – and that’s precisely why you need to explain the key functions and benefits of your app at the very outset. Arrange the rest of the text in small paragraphs/bulleted points. Do not forget to research for, and include, relevant tags for the app. Do not make any false claims in the description, however!
  6. Social media is your friend – Think Facebook, think Twitter, think Google Plus. On FB, announce the arrival of your app at the store(s) and provide the download link – without being overtly promotional about it. Regularly tweet about the key features of your new app, and use the ‘hashtag’ option to emphasize on them. On G+, publish information about your app in more or less the same way. Change the reach of your Google Plus posts from ‘Friends’ to ‘Public’. The more people get to know about your app, the better.
  7. Think beyond your own social media pages – This is, for all purposes, an extension of the previous point. On Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus and most other leading social media sites, you will find groups/communities/pages dedicated to mobile app development. Promote your application on them as well (you might have to become a member of these communities first). In addition, you can publish teasers/images of your app on the pages/timelines of other people interested in app designing and development. Do no spam though – and ask for their permissions, before going ahead with your postings.
  8. Publish informative press releases – You might have heard that online press releases have lost much of their value – since a large number of them are not newsworthy at all. However, for publicising a newly launched app, they are still one of the best tools. Ideally, write in third-person about the app’s features, the purposes it is meant to serve, the availability at stores, the price (if it’s a free app, mention that). Do not promote the app too much, and avoid praising it to the skies. PRs are supposed to be neutral, you have classified ad sites for more hardcore promotions.
  9. Regular upgrades are important – People shy away from mobile apps which are upgraded rarely, if at all. Provide information (in the app store description as well as via social media) regarding how frequently you plan to provide free updates/version upgrades (yep, they have to be FREE!). You have the option of naming the introductory version of your app something like ‘Version 1.0.1’, and include a few basic features (say, bug fixes) as ‘new’ in it. Buyers love apps that at least seem to have been recently upgraded.
  10. Bad screenshots = Bad impressions – A rule of thumb you should learn by heart. A prospective buyer is not really interested in how much technical expertise has gone into an Android or iPhone app development process, (s)he only skims through the app-descriptions – and all that (s)he wants to know whether the app would be useful and easy-to-use. This is where the importance of using high-quality app screenshots at the stores come into the picture. Ask your graphic designer to make detailed screenshots (at least 5) for every version of the application (if it is an iOS app, have separate screenshots for iPhone and iPad). Remember, these screenshots are the only way the public can form an idea about your app.
  11. Listen to what the early adopters have to say – Mobile app testing in a focus group is important, but it is not entirely foolproof. It is very much possible that an app which everyone at your mobile app agency have loved actually has certain snags (say, causes excess battery drain, consumes too much mobile bandwidth, etc.). Actively seek feedback from the people who have downloaded your app during the first couple of weeks. If there are any user-complaints, rectify it – and release an updated, problem-free version. Before launching a large-scale promotional drive, make sure you will not be pushing a defective app. Word-of-mouth publicity matters!

Email marketing is another initiative that is often adopted by app development companies, to inform potential clients about new app releases. If your company has a weekly/monthly e-newsletter subscription facility, promote new apps through them as well. The app market is crowded and getting featured at the stores won’t happen overnight – but if your application is good and you follow smart post-release promotional strategies, the chances of success would become a lot brighter.

 

That rounds up this week’s dosage of Teks-gyan. If you are into the mobile application development business, do let us know about how you generally go about promoting your new apps. If you wish to know in detail about any particular aspect of app-making, do let us know – and we will try to cover it in forthcoming editions of AppBoard Tuesday.

 

ABT will be back next Tuesday, with yet another interesting discussion on mobile apps. Wait for it…and stay zapped with apps!

 

iOS 8: More Lows Than Highs?

Hussain Fakhruddin
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Hussain Fakhruddin

Hussain Fakhruddin is the founder/CEO of Teknowledge mobile apps company. He heads a large team of app developers, and has overseen the creation of nearly 600 applications. Apart from app development, his interests include reading, traveling and online blogging.
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Tim Cook has every reason to be happy with the burgeoning sales reports of iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. However, he and his colleagues are probably concerned about the many snags in the new iOS 8 platform that are being reported. We have here focused on some key issues with the mobile OS.

 

In the domain of mobile technology, Apple Inc. hogged all the headlines in September. Tim Cook and his team launched iPhone 6 (and its bigger phablet-cousin, iPhone 6 Plus) amidst much fanfare at a Cupertino event. As had been expected from the frenzy and anticipation among Apple-fans, the initial sales figures of the new flagship smartphones have been excellent – with the 4.7” iPhone 6 reportedly closing in on 20 million sales. What those in charge at Apple had not accounted for were the multifarious snags in iOS 8 (the platform which debuted on the new handsets) that would soon become apparent. It has been nearly a month since the arrival of iPhone 6, and these have been the chief user-complaints about iOS 8:

 

  1. Bug in wi-fi connectivity – A problem that has been reported by early adopters of iPhone 6 as well as those who have upgraded the mobile OS on their iPhone 5 handsets. The bug is causing frequent connection drops, problems in identifying and registering on new networks, and a general unsatisfactory browsing experience. Software and mobile app developers have found that re-starting the wi-fi settings serves as a temporary solution of this issue.
  2. Keyboard usage problems – Much to the delight of, well, any user, Apple has finally made a mobile platform that supports third-party keyboards. However, it is pretty clear that, till date, this customization option is not entirely without flaws. People have reported problems in connecting with external keypads, and there have been usability issues with the native phone keypad as well. A new update that irons out these problems is expected soon.
  3. Sorry state of Bluetooth connectivity – Oh well, this has raged on even after Apple released the iOS 8.0.2 upgrade. Users are finding it rather tricky to connect their new iPhones with their vehicle audio systems and headsets. There is a growing discontent about the connectivity with Bluetooth speakers too. Logging out of iCloud and rebooting the devices is a way to work around this problem – but it’s definitely not a satisfactory one!
  4. Excessive battery drain – To be fair, not everyone has experienced this problem, and you do not expect a high-end smartphone to have spectacularly high battery-life either. Even so, there have been a buzz in online Apple forums and iPhone app development communities that some devices upgraded to iOS 8 have lost a rather significant chunk of their battery performance. There won’t be any magic remedy for this – but the Apple engineers would surely find a way to do away with excessive battery drain problems, soon.
  5. Sluggish mobile web browsing – This was definitely not a problem anyone had anticipated. Upgrading to iOS 8 (or purchasing an iPhone 6/6 Plus) have compromised with the overall web browsing speeds for many users worldwide. The main complaint refrain is the same – web pages are taking comparatively longer to load properly in devices powered by the new mobile OS. For people who surf the internet on the go and/or love to use web-supported mobile applications regularly, this is definitely something to be concerned about.
  6. Hardly anyone has loved the free U2 album – We are not suggesting that the U2 band is no longer cool or anything. It’s just that, surveys conducted by mobile app developers have conclusively revealed that users do not want stuff being ‘pushed’ to their devices (even when they are free), and prefer ‘pulling’ things themselves. Also, the popularity of downloading music is on the wane, since live music-streaming has emerged as a much more convenient option. Thankfully, Apple has provided an option to remove the free U2 album from the new iPhones.
  7. iMessage and Notifications troubles – A relatively minor glitch, but a glitch nevertheless. If the ‘Alerts’ option is selected under Notifications, it is practically impossible to compose a Quick Reply to any new text message (without having to toggle from the screen a user was originally on). The only option to tackle this problem till now is to select the ‘Banners’ notification option. That way, message notifications can be pulled down easily, and replies can be composed much more quickly.
  8. Crash reports in the Settings app – A lot of the common issues with iOS 8 platform can be addressed by tweaking the built-in Settings app. The problem is, even this application has been reported as buggy by several users – with frequent crashes being cited as the main proof for that. Another telltale indication of snags in the Settings app is the sluggishness that seems to plague the new phones, after any feature has been changed.
  9. iPhone 6 bendgate – Okay, this problem has got nothing to do with the tech features of iOS 8 – but it has added to the negativity about the new mobile platform. The all-new aluminum body of the iPhone 6 Plus is susceptible to get noticeably bent, when kept in front/back pockets for 15-18 hours. The ‘bendgate’ controversy has become the butt of jokes, memes and sarcastic competitive advertising by Apple’s main rivals – and if the problem persists, it is going to hurt the popularity of iOS 8 in the long-run.
  10. Much higher average crash rate – The average crash rate of iOS 8 devices is almost 80% higher than those running on iOS 7! That, in turn, is making many people apprehensive about upgrading to the new platform. Of course, a clearer picture would be available after a few months, when Apple has finished with all the preliminary bug-fixing procedures. For now though, stability is a major issue with iOS 8.
  11. Malfunctioning Twitter app – Interactive notifications and the share widget have been great additions to the pre-built Twitter app for the new flagship iPhones. However, regular users of the microblogging site have not been entirely pleased with its performance. There have been intermittent losses in connectivity, significant lags in new tweets becoming visible, and other such irritants. For greater acceptance in ‘twitterverse’, iOS 8 needs to be more polished!
  12. The loss of face with iOS 8.0.1 – It’s not that those up top at Apple had not envisaged that the new platform might run into a few problems in the initial stages. Sadly, the update they came up with to ‘solve’ these problems – iOS 8.0.1 – was nothing short of a horror show. Not only did it not address most of the use-complaints, implementing it also led to a much higher rate of call drops. The iOS 8.0.2 update has been better (although Bluetooth problems are yet to be fixed), and a full-blown iOS 8.1 upgrade might soon be announced.

 

Reports that apps crash about 3%-4% of the time (on average) on iOS 8 have got iPhone app developers from all over rather worried. The fact that 5.8 GB of free space is required for installing iOS 8 is a problem for many users as well. Apple needs to improve iOS 8 considerably, and in rather quick time – failing which, the new platform might well turn out to be a flop.