Nearly a month ago on the 2nd of March, PlayOff was released on the App Store. To call it anything short of an experience is an understatment.
I’ll start with a bit of a backstory…
I got my first MacBook in 2015 and one of the first things I looked forward to doing on it was programming. It was a great time because Swift was still so new. I got a subscription to Treehouse and tried to pick up as much as I could. I don’t think I planned on making something specific but I always loved coding because I could make whatever I built in Photoshop real.
Fast forward a bit, I noticed how often I’d sit down at my laptop and try to pause music playing on my phone (I’m always listening to music). Around this time, iOS 8 and OS X Yosemite was out with Continuity and Handoff. To this day, they’re probably one of, if not my favourite Apple feature.
Trying It Out
Having gotten my feet wet with programming in Swift I thought “oh yeah, I can definitely use this for music”. Naturally, it ended up being way harder than I thought, but I was just having fun with it at the time. I remember being blown away that I was able to control music playing on my phone with something I built — mind you, it was just a play and pause button… it didn’t use Handoff yet… I was very naive.
I put something together in Sketch and tried to build it in Xcode (haha, please don’t judge my design skills on this, please). One day, I got my concept working with native Handoff and I was ready to take my rightful place as CEO of everything.
Then it died…
I didn’t touch it for maybe a year. Howevrt, every now and then I would want to continue playing music on my Mac from my phone. Then I learned that other people seemed to want it as well.
iOS 11 wish list: Handoff for iTunes and Apple Music
Handoff - the feature when you can start an activity on one device and continue it on another - was introduced a couple…
Feature Request: Handoff for music between iOS devices, Macs and HomePods
I've written many times that the integrated ecosystem offered by Apple is one of the company's greatest strengths. The…
So eventually I decided to build it out for myself and thought why not have it in the App Store too.
So I rewrote what I had so far.
Then I rewrote it again using CloudKit (More about that here)… then ignored it again for a few more months (being a student is tough).
I learned a lot of new things along the way and finally settled on building it with Core Bluetooth. Maybe I’ll write about that decision one day if anyone would like to hear more about the technical aspects of PlayOff.
I made a more dedicated effort to launch it by the end of January this year.. then February. In my defense, I uploaded it to App Store Connect on the 28th. Notably, I learned a lot more about development and time management.
Then It Was Finally Released
And I woke up to this the next day:
PlayOff is a new app that enables Handoff-like features between Mac and iPhone for Apple Music
One of the most common feature requests for Apple Music is support Handoff. This would allow you to be playing…
And even more articles, and a ton of tweets, and it got featured in a YouTube video — and Oh My God, people are using something I made and actually enjoying it?!
Aren’t You Worried That Apple Would Steal This?
This was one of the most common critiques and I get it. Actually, this thought held me back from working on PlayOff several times. Ultimately, I’m happy I worked on it — mostly because of all the things I’ve learned.
This may also sound kind of naive… but one of my goals was that Apple would end up building this. I would expect them to do a better job because they have full access to iTunes and Apple Music. Internship maybe? Haha, can’t hurt to ask.
Also yes, Spotify has this; but I use Apple Music ☺️.
Dealing with Feedback
Getting feedback, both good and bad, was probably one of the most notable learning experiences on this trip. There were many beautiful compliments. Others were feature requests. Naturally, some were bug reports and, of course, a few were full-on complaints. This might’ve been the most iconic one:
Unhappy person: The app for IOS doesn’t find my iMac!
Me: Thanks for your support and reaching out! Would you be able to give me more information so I can help you out?
Unhappy person: You better refund my money❗️
Also, word of advice; do not use your regular, personal email for app support. Emails might get lost. It’ll be overwhelming.
This tweet made my day. I low-key want to print it and hang it on my wall. To have someone think so highly of something I built is remarkably humbling — someone working at Apple no less.
I’m honoured to receive feedback from such a great talent.
With most of the feedback, I was able to fix my first major bug; the app wouldn’t play anything if your Mac wasn’t set to English. Who would’ve thought?
I’m still working on organizing feature request, tracking bugs and most importantly, keeping everyone in the loop.
A Massive Thank You
Again, the reaction to PlayOff is something I really didn’t expect, especially not within the first day. Here are some quick stats:
4.8 Stars in the US App Store
Featured in more than 5 news sites or blogs
Hit top 100 (number 97 counts 😁) in Utilities in the US
Over 1K downloads in the first week between both apps
I want to thank every single person who shared PlayOff, downloaded it, spoke about and sent feedback (both good and bad). I might not be able to respond but I read every tweet, watch every video and read every article; I appreciate all of it.
I love technology and what it has the potential to do, in this case, just make something easier and more enjoyable. I am so humbled and immensely appreciative to have been able to do that with my first app.
I’d like to thank Greg Goralski, one of my professors at Humber College; he has supported and believed in me from day one and I couldn’t ask for a better mentor.
Shout out to Frederick Riedel for being one of the first people to test and share PlayOff. Even more so, thanks for introducing me to a larger community of great developers online.
To my family and friends, both here and back home in St. Lucia, thank you for supporting everything I do.
To my mother, you’re the best woman I know and I love you with all my heart. Thanks for telling me to go to bed at 5am while I worked on this.
I’m not done with PlayOff yet. I have lots of things planned and this is just the beginning. My next major goal is to make it faster and more reliable before adding more features. Also, feel free to keep sending feedback!
I also want to be more actively involved in the community. This post is hopefully the first of many where I can share more of my work and experience, maybe throw in a few tutorials in there as well.
Feel free to follow me online to keep in touch. And once again, thank you ❤