5 million downloads on 2nd anniversary. What now?
When I wrote my first Medium article about Why did I create Simple Mobile Tools, I decided that I will be blogging more often. So, not even 2 years later, here is my next article!
Srsly, June 5th 2018 marks an important milestone. It is exactly 2 years since the first 8 apps have been published on Google Play. Namely it was the Calculator, Calendar, Camera, Draw, Flashlight, Gallery, Music Player and Notes. Since then an App Launcher, Clock, Contacts, File Manager and Thank You have been added. That makes it 13 apps right now, which just reached 5 million Google Play downloads together. 2.6 million goes to the Gallery, 1 million to the Calendar. All apps have rating above 4.1.
While simplicity and good UX were always the highest priority, during the app development an awful lot of things have changed. The apps kept receiving new features without getting too bloated, new translations (currently 32 languages), new stability and performance improvements. There have been many UI changes along the way too to make the apps look better, feel fresh and modern.
Let’s run through the shared app features that have been added over time. Since I started working on the apps I wanted to reuse as many resources betweens apps as possible. That’s why I created a so called Simple Commons library, which then got included in all apps. It helps a ton with app maintaining. Once I create for example a function for deleting a file, I can easily call it from any app without having to copy-paste anything. It handles the whole flow with some permission dialogs included. If I then fix some glitch in the deletion process, all apps will automagically receive the fix too after updating. That way there is no chance of me forgetting to include some fix in some app.
Simple Commons is not just about some functions though, as the whole About, Customize colors and Licences app screens are reused without any code duplication. Some icons, layouts and strings are reused as well. The library currently holds around 360 strings which are used by multiple apps. Thanks to this method the translators have to translate a particular string only once, even if it is used in several apps.
Quite early on after I’ve added some premade color themes, it became obvious that many of you prefer using dark themes. I honestly wasn’t ever a fan of dark Android apps but once I gave it a go and found a nice color combination I really started liking them. Even so that later I made the dark theme the default one in all apps. Many of you wanted to use pure black and white colors so I created a new B&W theme with special handling of some elements. Initially you could pick any Primary app color but the palette had to shrunk for technical reasons. With all those million of available colors it was not possible to apply the selected color on a couple places, for example the header of the app at the Recents screen. You still have 171 primary colors to choose from, I think that is more than enough. Text and background color ranges stayed unchanged, so you still have millions of shades to choose from. I plan adding more premade themes in the future so if you use some cool color combination, let me know!
Even that level of customization wasn’t always enough, many of you wanted to change the app launcher icon color too. I’ve also read a research which said that up to 20% people are likely to uninstall an app if they don’t like the launcher icon. That is a lot. Customizing the launcher icon is even more troublesome than the primary color and it increases the app size, so the palette shrunk further. Currently you have 18 colors to choose from. The whole selection of primary and app launcher icon colors is based on the Google Material Design color palettes, so blame them for some really similar colors ;)
At the same time the launcher icon colors became customizable I’ve added some material-ish icon shadows too, just to make them more modern. This all happened just recently, when all apps have been updated to version 4.0.
Another neat feature related to color customization that becomes available if you have Simple Thank You installed is an extra Shared Theme. Upon activating all apps will share the same colors. It means that if you change one color of the Shared Theme, all apps from the suite will be automatically updated. If you install a new app from the Simple suite, it will receive those colors too, without you having to do anything. Isn’t it cool? Having Thank You installed is necessary for the Shared Theme to work, as that is taking care of the synchronization. It cannot be done in a decentralized way where every app would somehow handle the synchronization, so I had to pick one app that will do it.
Okay, that’s it for the colors. Let’s talk about some future plans. Over half of those 5 million downloads are from Simple Gallery which seems to be your favourite app since the beginning, so it will be getting a lot of attention from me too. Performance has been improved drastically just over a month ago, when I rewrote the way files are cached and fetched. Sorting by date taken has been readded a while ago, with still a few glitches to be addressed. What you keep requesting a lot is a recycle bin for restoring deleted files. It will come. Soon. I plan adding additional ways of displaying albums, like a more file-hierarchy structured way, which would merge direct subfolders. Grouping of file thumbnails is coming too. You will be able to group thumbnails by dates, folders, file types etc, making a better use of the “Show all folders content”, but it will work at individual folder item thumbnails too. Since the devices nowadays are so huge, it will be possible to move some of the fullscreen view actions at the bottom of the screen. They might be there even by default. A couple additional gestures will come too, just like selecting multiple items by long pressing the first and the last wanted item.
By far the biggest competitor of the Gallery is QuickPic, but since it has been removed from Google Play search results like 1–2 weeks ago, there is just so much more room for the Gallery to grow. It is currently getting around 10k installs a day in average which is a crazy number already, and it will be growing. A lot.
I will not talk about the other apps now as it would be too long. They will receive some improvements too, I can promise that.
While I still have you here, there are a couple other things I want to clarify. Many of you are concerned about your privacy (for obvious reasons) and ask me what data do I collect. Well, just as stated in the app Privacy Policies, I do not collect anything. Even if the apps are open source and anyone can read the code to make sure there’s nothing shady, I guess not many people will do it. The clearest proof of me not collecting anything is the missing Internet permission, you can check it in your device Settings -> Apps -> (App Name) -> Permissions. So, even if I wanted to harvest some data from your device, there is just no way I could send it to myself. As there are no ads, there aren’t any ad providers tracking you either. These are the reasons why I might be the only service which didn’t send you an email regarding GDPR recently. Not like I had your email at all…
I guess you are now thinking… Damn, these apps are cool, wish I could help! Well, I have good news. You can. There are actually multiple things you can do. First, you can help with the translations. I have a guide both for updating a language translation and for adding a new language. Many non-IT people have managed doing it. It is really simple, especially with such a step by step guide. If you need help, let me know. Don’t be afraid of improving existing translations either if it really makes sense, no translator will be mad at you. If you scroll under the translation guides, you can find a way of getting notified whenever a file changes. It means that whenever I add some new string, you will get an email about it. So even if you want to be an active translation maintainer, you won’t have to keep rechecking files over and over again, just to find out that nothing changed. I will let you know whenever something changes. All translators are volunteers doing it in their free time, so some translations obviously aren’t always up to date. All apps contain a “Use english language” switch in the app settings, in case you prefer english.
Another way of helping me is giving feedback. It can be either a Google Play feedback with rating, or some email. Even though I read all Google Play feedback, I reply only sometimes. But I do read it, so keep it coming. Any feedback helps in shaping of the roadmap by letting me know what you guys need the most. Giving good ratings on Google Play helps me getting discovered by new people easier, so that is appreciated a lot too.
If you want to report some bugs, there are multiple ways of doing it. You can either do it at the Issues section of Github repositories (for example the Gallery one is here) after making sure that the issue is not reported yet, or via email. Whichever way you choose please don’t forget telling me your Android OS version and your app version, that you can find at the bottom of the About screen. The more detailed report you give, the more likely I can fix it quickly. Giving some reliable steps of reproducing the issue increases the chance of it being fixed even more.
You can suggest new apps or vote on new apps/features on the apps website, by pressing that orange floating button on the left hand side of the screen. Before creating a new suggestion, please make sure it doesn’t exist yet. As of writing this, the next apps on the roadmap are a PDF Reader and a Dialer.
There are multiple ways of supporting me financially too. These apps started as a hobby project, but they have evolved a lot since then and for a couple months now I’m working on them full-time already, so every bit is appreciated. Some people think that there is a group of developers behind the apps, but they are wrong. I’m taking care of all of them alone.
The last way of supporting me for free is spreading the word about the apps. It can be either sharing this article, clapping for it, sharing any post from our Facebook or Google Plus page, inviting your friends to try out some app, posting about them on some forums, social networks or wherever. You can find some screenshots at the already linked General Discussion Github repository, which you should also use for reporting bugs or any suggestions that affect all apps.
That’s it for now. If you need help with anything, don’t hesitate contacting me at email@example.com.