19 February 2012
Comments: 30

An unexpectedly warm reception

I have to say that I’m very surprised at how warmly received Solar Explorer was on the Playbook.

In the 36 hours since the app went live, Solar Explorer has been downloaded approximately 150 times for the Playbook, with about 100 of those in the last 24 hours.

All I can say is: “wow!”.

Android Market sales never came close to that level in the 10-or-so¬† months it’s been available. The best day it ever had was back in early December 2011 when about 45 sales resulted from a huge update to the app that included a major overhaul of the graphics.

Sure, I know it’s probably just the honeymoon period of a new app and sales will settle down once it’s disappeared off whatever “Just In” list App World has, but it’s still a stunning result to see it sell more than twice the copies on it’s first full day on App World, compared to it’s best day on Android Market.

Then again, it may not be too surprising. Android Market has been set up to focus on ad based revenue and deter outright app sales. Google has limited the number of payment methods that can be used to buy apps, they’ve designed the market interface to constantly promote the same high profile apps over and over, at the expense of smaller developers with new ideas, and they are particularly unresponsive when problems occur. Solar Explorer is not the sort of app that Google wants to promote in their marketplace because it’s not suitable for generating on-going ad revenue.

My second app, Exoplanet Explorer will be making an appearance on App World as soon as I get a Playbook. It’s a slightly more complex app than Solar Explorer and I really need to be able to test this one to make sure it works before submitting it for review.

Good performance

I had a comment today from a Playbook user who remarked how fast the app runs, which is great to hear, especially since I was unable to test it.

One of the reasons why it would run quickly is that Solar Explorer isn’t really an Android port, it’s actually been recompiled into native code for the Playbook. This was the result of developing the app using Shiva, which has a function to export executables for many different platforms, including Android and iOS. In the most recent update of Shiva, Stonetrip added a new button to produce Playbook apps, which turned out to be excellent timing as a few weeks later, on Feb 3, RIM decided to offer a free tablet to app developers that ported an Android app to the Playbook. I’m just glad that RIM expanded the scope of their offer to include native apps, otherwise Solar Explorer wouldn’t have qualified because it’s not really a port.

Another reason why it would be quick is that It’s been optimised to run on my Samsung Galaxy Tab which has pretty much the same hardware as the Playbook. I’ve been told by Stonetrip, the company that makes Shiva, that in their testing the Playbook significantly outperforms the Galaxy Tab, despite them being so similar. Part of the reason for this would probably be the Sasumg crap-ware that’s bundled into the Gingerbread Android ROM. It’s well known that the Galaxy S phone was unreasonably laggy despite having strong hardware, and the Galaxy Tab is just a Galaxy S phone with a 7″ screen.

  • jess

    saw someone say good things about it on crackberry.com, just bought it and downloading now. Keep supporting Playbook and soon to be BB10 phones please! :)

  • http://twitter.com/userco88 User Company

    anyone think there will be true Android OS ported for the Playbook?

    • http://apps.burlock.org Neil B

      I read somewhere that the Playbook had been rooted late last year, which was the biggest hurdle.

      I imagine that it’s going slowly because there’s not a lot of developers working on the it. The Playbook has good hardware for the price, but it’s not that much cheaper than a reasonable Android tablet.

      That’s only my opinion though.

      • Taylor B

        The rooting was only of the OS, the locked bootloader wasn’t cracked. Until that happens an Android port is impossible, and given RIM’s focus on security I wouldn’t hold my breath. In the months since the original root the PlayBook still hasn’t been re-rooted.

  • shake

    This is a very nice app on playbook. I would be thrilled if you worked towards feature parity with a game called universe sandbox which is available in Steam. One feature I’d love to see is the ability to toggle orbit and planet rotation speed to realistic 1:1. Also to show planet sizes and distance in realistic or enlarged. I have kids that love solar universe and I think it’s important for them to really see how slow things seem to move or how far apart planets really are, but also switch it to an exaggerated and easier to see mode.

    • http://apps.burlock.org Neil B

      Thanks. I’ve never seen Universe Sandbox before, it looks interesting.

      I am planning to implement real time plant/moon orbits in a future update.

      I’ve been asked to show realistic planet size and distance before, but I haven’t come up with a feasible way to do it yet. For example, if the Sun were the same diameter as your Playbook’s screen height (lets say 9cm), then Pluto would be approximately the size of a single pixel over 300 metres away. Shrink it to fit the screen and the inner planets would all be smaller than a pixel and overlap the sun.

      • jess

        That is a good point, but still would be interesting to see.. you could still have the name of the planet floating there and the tiny 1 pixel planet. It would just be neat to actually comprehend the size difference between sun and planets.

      • Explorer

        Was thinking about features again. It would be cool to have a mode that automatically cycle between planets or travels through the solar system. I think it would be neat like a screensaver.

  • Joe Jenkins

    Interesting app. I just picked up the playbook (can’t go wrong for the price). So far I am blown away by the tablet. Your app looks great I will have to check it out.


    • http://apps.burlock.org Neil B

      I hope RIM sell millions of them, the specs are very good for the price.

      • Hhhhh

        Me too, it’s unfortunate their stock has dipped so low when Apple’s continues to climb despite the fact that everything they sell is grossly overpriced.

  • Aj

    is the Exoplanet explorer going to be a native app or will it be an android app ported over?

    • Explorer

      It IS a native app

    • http://apps.burlock.org Neil B

      My development tools only do native applications for Playbook, I’m happy to say.

      You won’t be seeing any ports from me.

  • br14

    I doubt the performance has much to do with Samsung. QNX has had years of continuous improvement. It will probably be some time before Google can match the reliability and power of the Playbooks base OS.

    • http://apps.burlock.org Neil B

      I pretty much agree. Google’s incredibly poor developer support is a demonstration that they’ve gotten what they wanted out of us which was to generate ad revenue and to stop Apple from locking them out of the browser.

      I do however like the idea of Android and I like the variety of devices that are available. Supporting Android’s “fragmentation” isn’t too hard, as my dev tool (Shiva) takes care of most of the problem.

      It is possible to make money from Android apps, it’s just harder because of Google’s difficult payment system which I believe is intended to steer users towards free apps with ads. A lot of developer complaints come from people who are used to marketplaces like the AppStore or AppWorld where purchasing an app is lot more straightforward.

  • Ckinglam

    Arrived here from CrackBerry. As I type this on my PlayBook, I want to say Thanks for your leap of faith in a time where most news are negative.
    I have been a BB fan for years, since the BlackBerry Pearl days. BB fans are loyal and always supportive.
    Your app looks great! Congrats and keep developing for BB!

  • whoppo

    Hey Neil,

    First let me say thanks to you and all the other dev’s that are porting to and/or developing for the PlayBook. It truly is a great platform, depsite it’s intial release in a “less than ready” state. It’s hopeful that with the release of OS2 (and subsequent updates) and some significant growth in the application catalog, the PB will get the recognition and market space that it really deserves.

    Now… about Solar System Explorer… Dude! This application is wonderful! The layout is very nice, the content is great and the user experience exceptional. I particularly like the lens flare effect when rotating an image to place the sun in the background. … and thumbs up to Kevin for the background music!

    I’m looking forward to Exoplanet Explorer.


  • http://twitter.com/SirhillDaDon Sirhill

    To be honest I had on use for this app but after reading all of the reviews, the fact that CB put it up on the blog, and you have been very honest about your experience I said what the hell and I got it. Once I open it up and had a gander I was blown away at how good the app really is. It even had my 5 yr old glued to the tv (HDMI connected) for hours. Like you will find out soon that if you build a good app BB people will buy (if the price is right of course). I even showed it to my daughters Kindergarten teacher and she plans on getting it and using it in her class to show her class, so I say you have done an outstanding job. Keep up the good work.

  • DeepBlade

    Like many others, I found your site/app from CrackBerry and I’m typing this from my PlayBook. I just bought your app and WOW! It’s friggin awesome!! The price is *just* right but I think if you could one day bring it to $0.99 and get it featured by Apple World or have it appear in the top apps section, it would he a no brainer for many. Keep up the great work and thanks for being honest about your experience with the PlayBook so far. Hopefully this is the start of something great for RIM.

    • http://apps.burlock.org Neil B

      Thanks for the info, especially the bug report. I know exactly what’s causing that – one line of code will fix it.

      Wow, Angry Pigs at #5? Is that related to Angry Birds, or a rip off?

      • DeepBlade

        Angry Pigs? Erm.. Are you looking on the AppWorld website..? Angry Pigs is an app that runs on the older OSes – BlackBerry 5, 6, 7.. It doesn’t run on the new OS QNX/PlayBook. I think the website could just be mixing apps from the 2 OSes together. It’s unrelated to Angry Birds and it’s just a ripoff..

        Anyways, you’re #1 now (#1 paid app) – http://imageshack.us/photo/my-images/850/img00000010j.jpg

        Congrats =)

        • http://apps.burlock.org Neil B

          Thanks for the info, I’m stunned.

          I guess I’m seeing the list for all devices because I’m using the AppWorld website. When I get the device, I’ll probably see the filtered list.

          Thanks for the screenshot :)

  • BBMegafan

    Came here from crackberry. Thank you for your support for BB platform. I want to see more and more apps from people like you on BB platform. I hope you make much more money with your apps. Thank you so much.

  • http://twitter.com/CrazyHammer_Mok Martin

    Purchasing app simply to say thanks for support the PB. Keep em coming and spread the word to other devs about the benefits of the PB and ease of development.

  • Soon2BPBDev

    Same here… Saw the blog on CB, and checked it out… Wow! What a beautiful app! Keep up the excellent work. Thanks for adding awesomeness to BB ecosystem!

  • Nigel Brown

    Bought it, love it, support Playbook. Development is great on it, and the performance as you are finding is extremely good. The Playbook has lots of legs left in this realm….

    • http://apps.burlock.org Neil B

      I should have mine on Monday. It arrived in Sydney late yesterday.

  • http://twitter.com/lizzaocampo Lizza Ocampo

    Came here as well by way of crackberry and just bought your app! It looks amazing and the quality, both content and graphics are top notch. Thank you for supporting the PB platform. Let this be an example and a call to developers out there, there is market in the BB world!

  • http://blogs.blackberry.com/ Alex Kinsella

    Great to hear that you’re finding success on BlackBerry PlayBook. We’ve got the best combination for success – amazing developers, excited users, and a suite of dev tools that make building for BlackBerry PlayBook easy. Can’t wait to see your next app.