We have been working hard for the past year to bring you the new Settle Up. We decided to redesign the app and change the underlying technology, so it’s rewritten from scratch. Let’s dive deep into most of the changes.
New design and colors
That is probably the most visible aspect, because we now have a new design from a professional designer Michal Feltl. It follows the Material Design Guidelines strictly and adds some playfulness. The main concept is that you should be able to choose a different color for each group. The whole app changes color based on which group you are in. We all love the old brown color, so if you want the app look similar to the previous version, just change the group color to it :) The app is also more vibrant and “yours” with pictures of the members. The most visible element is “group circles” — elegant visualizations of debts in the group. The more you owe, the bigger circle you have. We borrowed this from our iOS app to bring platforms closer together.
Super-charged new expenses
Adding new expenses is the main activity in the app. Over the years, we have discovered that there are many use-cases for splitting costs, so it’s quite hard to design its UI right. We liked the simplicity of the previous design with one screen for everything, but after a lot of research we had to split it into multiple screens. The previous design wasn’t expandable for new features and many things were hidden. With the new design, we can support all these use-cases in a clean way:
- Multiple flows (now Expenses and Transfers, Incomes coming soon)
- One person paid
- Multiple people paid
- Custom keyboard for amount with calculator
- Simple split (with checkmarks for whom)
- Split by weights
- Split by amounts
- Add individual amounts first
- List of all supported currencies
- Managing exchange rate
- Adding receipt photo
- Adding purpose
- Changing date
Sharing group has never been easier
Sharing via email in the old app is kind of old. Nowadays, people use various messengers and social networks much more than email. It’s common that you don’t have the email address of the people you are travelling with. Sharing group is very important for us — it’s how the app spreads to new users! So it has to be as simple as possible. The simplest solution is a link — you can share this link via any channel you like (WhatsApp, SMS, email, Facebook group etc.) Anyone who clicks the link is automatically forwarded to the App Store on iOS, the Play Store on Android and to our web app on other devices.
Plus we have added an even simpler way for friends who are in the same room. One person can broadcast the group “nearby” and others can join it automagically. It uses ultrasound!
And you can still add permissions manually via email on the Share group screen if the link doesn’t suit you.
Currencies done right
It’s quite common to use Settle Up in multiple currencies while travelling and expect to have the final debts in a single currency. It’s really important that everybody has the same exchange rates and that the debts are the same everywhere. Previously, it was a paid local-only feature and there was one exchange rate for the whole app. Now we made it available for everybody, the exchange rates are finally synchronized and can be different for each expense! This enables use-cases where you pay something with money from the exchange office and something with your card — both with a different exchange rate. Exchange rates are also updated daily so you always get the current exchange rate for that day. You can even use historic exchange rate if you change date of the expense. If you edit an exchange rate, it will stay fixed for future expenses and the automatic exchange rate won’t be applied (unless you choose to).
Receipt photos are not hidden anymore
It’s useful to attach receipt photos to your expenses. But this feature was quite hidden in the old app. It was a local-only feature and some users thought that it was actually a bug. Now it’s visible on the Summary screen and synchronized, of course. However, saving a lot of pictures costs us more on the server side, so we decided to make this feature Premium only.
Permissions and sign in revamped
Permissions were quite confusing in the old app and users often asked us for support regarding them. The main reason of this problem was merging permissions and group members. Members had two emails: one for sending data via email and one for access to the group. We decided to split it completely and make it clearer — group members are people participating in the expenses. They don’t have any email addresses. You can edit them in the Members screen. And permissions are the accounts which have access to the group which you can edit in the Share group screen. This separation allows for nice use-cases:
- Not every member needs access to the group or use the app at all. Others can manage their expenses.
- People can have access to the group and view what’s going on, but they don’t have to be members.
You can link these and say which member “is you” which will help you see your debts from the group on the Overview and a small visual hint near the member icon.
The level of permissions was quite basic in the old app. We made it more robust with these three levels:
- The group owner can do everything, can’t leave the group unless the ownership is transferred.
- Edit transactions & members — this type can do everything except deleting a group and removing permissions from others
- Read-only access can only watch what’s going on, but can’t change expenses or members
Sign in also has more options now. You can sign in with Google, Facebook or create an email/password account. And you can save all of this to the Smartlock for passwords for an even faster sign-in.
We know from user feedback that the old synchronization was not 100% reliable. In some very rare cases some expense weren’t synchronized which caused discrepancies in the debts. That was really bad for the user’s trust so we were looking for a more robust solution. We found a service called Firebase. Firebase is not only battle-tested on unstable mobile connections, but it’s also super-fast. If you add an expense on one phone, it appears on the other phone almost instantly. No more “Sync now” buttons! Firebase also works fully offline so don’t worry if you are in a foreign country without a data plan.
But since we also need to support the old apps, we had to make both systems work together seamlessly. It’s the main reason why the redesign took so long and the app was in beta for many months. But we believe we have nailed it now and have strong foundations to build on.
In order to support Firebase, we need to convert group data into a new format. This happens when you launch the updated app for the first time. We convert up to 5 groups which were used last. You can convert more of them in the My Groups screen. Don’t worry, you can still use the groups in the old versions and other platforms after the conversion.
For historic reasons, our monetization has been quite fragmented. It’s a free app with ads and in-app purchases on Android, paid app with unlimited features on iOS and free web app but with limited features. It stops some users from using the app, because “it’s not fair that my friend on Android doesn’t have to pay”. Also, when you change your phone from iOS to Android, you have to pay again.
We understand it and want to unify the experience across platforms. We also have to pay server costs for all users so we need to monetize all users, not just new ones. We decided to switch to a Basic plan with ads and limited features and a Premium unlimited plan. The Premium plan can be purchased via subscriptions (monthly or yearly).
We are very careful not to annoy users and not to monetize aggressively. We believe that building user trust will benefit us more in the long term. The app should be usable very well in the Basic plan. The ads are shown AFTER you add every third expense. Your task is done and you might be actually interested in the ad. The Premium features are not essential for every day use and they are just something extra:
- Adding receipt photos
- Extra colors for your groups
- No ads
Plus we are offering a free trial for the Premium plan: a month if you update from the old app and 14 days for new users, both with delayed opt-in. This means that you can start the trial whenever it fits you.
We are also grateful for your previous purchases in the old app:
- If you removed ads in the old app via an in-app purchase, you won’t see ads in the Basic plan.
- Debts in single currency is now available for everyone.
- We have introduced Search instead of the paid Filter feature. You can find it when you click SHOW ALL in the group.
- If you helped us in the past and had all extras unlocked for free, we give you a year of the Premium plan.
Other smaller new features
- Overview of your debts across your groups
- A more detailed list of changes in all your groups
- Richer notifications
- CSV export directly in the app when you use the Email export. No need to use the web app for that.
- List of all transactions grouped by the month including total spent value for each month
- You can change the order of your groups in My groups
- Sign out
- Statistics about the app on the About screen
What did we remove?
Redesign doesn’t mean only new features, but also some spring cleaning. We had some features which were rarely used, confusing, or too geeky for a regular user. We have simplified the app by removing them. These are:
- “Dlužníček” in the Czech language — we all love that familiar name, but it’s quite hard to do branding if you have a different app name in a different country. For example, our Facebook page was then weirdly named “Settle Up (Dlužníček)”. We decided to use “Settle Up” in all languages and build a strong brand.
- Offline groups. They were needed 5 years ago when data plans were expensive, but it’s not an issue anymore. Plus we had some horror stories when people expected that a group would be backed up if they lost their phone, but the offline groups obviously were not and the data were lost. Now all groups are backed up, but they still work offline!
- Marking expenses as transfers. In the new version we have a simplified workflow for transfers. Transfers are now always 1:1 transactions.
- Paying debts via PayPal. When we introduced the feature there were no fees, but then suddenly PayPal started to charge for it. We don’t like this approach and are looking for alternative payment providers.
- Negative payments was a workaround for entering “income”. We will support it properly in the future.
- Adding non-existent currencies. We now have a list of all currencies in the world, you should be fine with them.
- Autocomplete for purposes. Your keyboard does autocomplete these days, so it’s no longer necessary.
- Paid, gave and received amounts for each member. It was confusing and hard to understand what these numbers mean. We have decided to keep only the most important number: how much that member spent.
- Clicking on others Who should pay next. It’s easier now based one the size of group circles.
- Copying members was not a frequently used feature.
- Amount that nobody cares about. It was confusing to explain what it means and it wasn’t used a lot.
- Speak who should pay. It was a funny feature which was used mainly to scare people with a robotic voice :)
- Notification preferences. Most of the notifications are important, no need to turn some of them off.
- Turning off the sync lead to data losses for some users, not anymore.
- Changing the app language. We now follow the device language. If you see some mistake in the translations, help us fix it!
- Import/export. It was actually a source of many bugs, for example if you imported data from another device. Our new synchronization is much more reliable and simple.
- No need for a refresh button, sync now happens instantly!
- Adding more emails you own. It was confusing. Now you can actually sign in with any of your accounts, you can see clearly who has access to your group and with the sharing via link you don’t even need to know your friends’ email addresses.
- Buying author a beer. Thanks for all the beers, but the app is now less a hobby project and more serious, so you can support us better with the Premium plan.
It’s just a beginning
Now that we finally released the new app to everyone, we have some strong foundations for the future. We can update the app and add new features more frequently. We are very committed to build the best expense tracking app for groups. Please give us your feedback and we will continue to refine the experience.
Our priority now is to bring the experience on iOS, Windows and web to the same standard as the Android app. Unify the branding, features, and monetization. We are actually looking for an iOS developer to help us with that, let us know if you are interested. You can still use the old apps on those platforms, they’re fully compatible with the new Android app.
As for the Android app, these features are on our roadmap based on your feedback:
- Widget for a quick expense. We have heard that the new expense flow is sometimes too many clicks for a simple use-case. We plan to add a widget for the simple use-case. You will be able to add expenses very quickly without even launching the app.
- Archiving groups. We know that sometimes you have too many groups in the app, but you want to archive them, not delete them completely.
- Group premium plan. Not everybody likes subscriptions. Sometimes you only need Premium in that one group. And not everybody has a credit card. So you will be able to purchase a Premium for the whole group via a one-time fee and this will be actually added as an expense into the group so you can split the cost!
- Income. There are use-cases when you actually receive some money for the group (you get a deposit back or you earn something). We plan for a full-fledged support for this use-case.
- Android Oreo support. We all love the latest features of the platform. When you have the latest system version, you will be able to filter some notifications, change shape of our icon or add an expense quickly with a long press on the icon.
Well, that was quite a long read, but I hope it is a satisfactory answer to “Why did it take you so long?” :) Cheers and try the app!