Happy Monday, everyone!
We made it to Issue #86! Thank you to everyone who read last week’s issue ❤️
Today’s Spotlighted Indie Dev
📆 Today I’m featuring Marcos Tanaka.
You are in a real treat if you haven’t seen either of these apps made by Marcos yet! Both are high quality apps with a rich feature set. I’ve been a big MusicHarbor for quite some time and it’s my favorite way to keep up with my favorite artists. All I needed to do was search for my favorite artists and bands, follow them, and then MusicHarbor takes it from there! I can easily check for any new music releases or news 😊 I’m also really loving Play! I’ve never been great at keeping up with the YouTube videos I’ve wanted or needed to watch but Play has changed that for me. I highly recommend checking out all of Marcos’ apps! They will 100% improve your experience consuming music and videos 💪
👉 Please make sure to follow them or support them anyway you can! 😇 I’m excited to share their indie dev stories.
1) What is your name? Where do you live?
My name is Marcos Tanaka, and I live in Maringá, Brazil.
2) Introduce yourself. Education? Background? Main job? Interests outside of tech? Interests inside of tech?
Hey everyone! 👋 My name is Marcos, and I’m a software developer working on apps for Apple’s platforms. I’ve always been interested in tech for as long as I can remember. I remember playing games on my dad’s Windows PC, digging through the file system and discovering game assets, trying to modify them, and so on (often changing something that I shouldn’t and having to reinstall everything from scratch 😅).
My first contact with Apple came a few years later when I got an iPod nano 2nd Generation for my birthday. I remember being fascinated by being able to carry thousands of songs with me wherever I go. It didn’t take long for Apple to introduce the first iPhone, making me even more interested in the company and its products.
Fast forward a few years, I got a degree in systems development and started working with backend software development. I’ve always had the idea of creating apps for the iPhone, but at the time, I didn’t have a Mac (or iPhone), so it took me a few more years to start playing around with iOS development.
After the 2014 WWDC, when they introduced Swift, I downloaded The Swift Programming Language book from the iBooks Store on my iPad and started studying it. After that, it didn’t take long for me to decide to buy a Mac and finally pursue the idea of creating my iOS apps.
Besides working on my projects, I also like listening to music, cooking, and traveling (although I haven’t done much of the latter since the pandemic started).
3) Have you ever considered yourself an indie developer?
I think so, at least in terms of my indie apps. I have a full-time job, so I’m not working on my projects 100% of the time. But I think that’s the ultimate goal!
4) What got you started/interested in creating your own applications outside of your “normal” job?
I’m always looking for apps and solutions to fix some problems or improve something in my daily life. So when I notice something is missing, I take some notes and start thinking if I could build an app to fix it.
Another exciting aspect of working on your own apps is trying out modern iOS APIs and frameworks, which is not always possible in my regular job.
5) How do you balance your time between friends/family, work, hobbies, and indie dev?
It’s challenging, but I think I’ve gotten better at it over time. I try to focus on development work during the week and reserve the weekends for friends/family and hobbies. One thing that helps me a lot is tracking the time I spent on my indie projects, to get a sense of how much I worked on them during the week.
6) Play - I love Play! I have never been able to successfully watch all the videos on YouTube that I’ve wanted… until Play 🙌 I had no idea I needed this. When did you realize that you wanted to build an app to bookmark YouTube videos to watch later? Were you using any other solutions before building Play?
Thanks! This project was fun because I initially had a different idea of what the app would be. Thanks to beta testing and user feedback, I improved and evolved it to what it is today.
The initial goal was to have YouTube videos on my Home Screen. I have a specific Home Screen for video apps like TV, Netflix, YouTube, etc. And I like how the Apple TV widget surfaces all up next content that I saved. So I thought it would be great to have YouTube’s own watch later queue also available on the Home Screen.
That was all the initial version did. It didn’t have tags, video metadata, and the different options to filter, sort, and search. Then, I started beta testing it and got terrific feedback from users that made me realize that the app’s main feature was not to offer widgets with videos to watch later, but to replace YouTube’s watch later feature entirely. It now is a complete solution to bookmark, organize, and watch videos saved for later on all Apple platforms (except the Watch, for obvious reasons 😄).
7) Play - I’m selfishly curious about how you planned and developer Play 😇 Play has a crazy amount of features on all of the Apple platforms and everything is just polished and fits so well together. Play is just really inspiring to use and look at! Do you have any tips or secrets on how your design and development process works? Do you start small and just build what feels natural? Or do you plan as much as you can upfront?
I usually start with a small set of features that I, as a user, would like to have. After the first version is complete, I start beta testing with a small group to gather feedback and feature requests. This allows me to improve the app for other use cases and discover new ways of using it.
An example is the multiple ways to add videos to the app. At first, videos could be added by pasting a URL, or via the Share Sheet. Users suggested different ways that worked better for their workflows, and now Play has support for importing multiple URLs, drag and drop, Shortcuts integration, Safari Extension on macOS, and more are coming.
It was similar with the Apple TV app. I didn’t think about building one because I didn’t have an Apple TV. I was watching videos on my iPad most of the time. But some users suggested it would be nice to have Play on the Apple TV, which makes sense for this app. So I bought one and started working on it. I’m glad I did because it is now one of my favorite ways to watch my videos saved for later.
8) Play - Not super related to play but what are some of your favorite YouTube channels to bookmark videos from? I’m always looking for some new content 👀
Lately, I’ve been consuming a few music-related channels on YouTube. Two creators that I like are AJayII, who does awesome album reviews, and Blake McLain, who comments on new music releases from a music producer perspective. Another channel that I basically always bookmark new videos from is Kurzgesagt. They explain scientific topics extremely well, illustrated with gorgeous animations.
9) MusicHarbor - I don’t remember when I started using MusicHarbor but it feels like I’ve been using it my entire life! It is such a great way to stay informed about new music releases. Did this app come out of personal necessity? What was your favorite part of building MusicHarbor? What was the most difficult part?
Glad to hear that MusicHarbor has been helping you keep up with new music for so long!
The idea for the app came from noticing that I was checking a few artists’ Apple Music profile pages from time to time and seeing them release new music that I didn’t know about. But before thinking about developing an app, I started looking for tools that could do this for me.
At the time, there was a tool called RecordBird. I discovered it too late though, because it was shut down two weeks after I found it. Around the same time, Apple announced the first version of the Apple Music API, which felt like the perfect opportunity to start working on the app.
One of my favorite things about building it is knowing that it will help me and other users stay on top of new music from our favorite artists. It always brings me joy when I open it on Friday morning and see a bunch of new music I can listen to.
The hardest part is probably working with the 3rd party APIs. Sometimes a random error occurs due to a bug in the API. For example, I’ve had cases where the Music app showed a release date for an album, but the API returned a completely different date. After opening feedback, they fixed the bug a few weeks later. It doesn’t happen that often, but it’s more common than I initially thought. Another challenge is connecting Apple Music with Spotify and matching artists and albums between the services.
10) MusicHarbor - I’m a big fan of MusicHarbor’s revenue model! A lot of apps have one single in-app purchase to unlock a bunch of features but MusicHarbor has an ala carte menu! I can just get the app icon and label unlocks if I want. Why did you decide to go this route instead of one purchase to unlock them all? Have you seen big upsides or downsides to going this approach?
I did it this way because it felt right to give users the ability to pay for just what they wanted to use. So if I want to filter releases by type, for example, I can buy just that. I also added the possibility of purchasing all existing and future features, so power users can pay only once and access everything.
This is possible because MusicHarbor has many different features and customization options, so I can group them into separate categories. It also allows me to sell to different types of users. For example, if a user only wants a specific feature, he can buy just that. On the other hand, if a user wants multiple different features, he can buy them all at once, at a discount.
The downside is that it is a bit more challenging to manage. It’s easier in terms of development to have a paid-upfront app or only one in-app purchase, because it’s fewer things to manage. On the other hand, having multiple IAPs means we need to check them individually for each feature throughout the app, register each one individually on App Store Connect, and so on.
11) Play, MusicHarbor - What’s next?! Do you have any future features planned that you can share with us?
I’m now working on implementing some of the Play’s most user-requested features, including integration with the macOS Share Menu and support for a sidebar to filter by tag. I also have some ideas for new apps I want to launch this year. I hope to be able to release at least one before WWDC. After WWDC, I tend to focus on adopting the new APIs and features announced, to make my apps are ready for when the new OS versions are released. It’s the busiest time of the year for me!
12) What’s been the hardest part of being an indie dev? What is the most fun part of being an indie dev?
One of the most challenging aspects of indie development for me is marketing. As indie devs, we often have to work on all aspects of the business, including customer support, UI/UX, accounting, and marketing. For me, marketing is one of the hardest. I try to spend as much time as possible developing and improving the apps, but I know that promoting them is also necessary. So this is definitely something I need to get better at.
13) Is there anything else you’d like to tell the indie dev community about you?
I can’t think of anything else, but feel free to reach me on Twitter @mactanaka if you have any questions about my apps or indie journey so far!
14) Do you have any other indie devs that readers should follow / lookout for?
These are some of the indie devs that I know who are always sharing interesting tweets: @_inside, @BigSmallWords, @edwellbrook, @joehribar, @JordanMorgan10, @jordibruin, @JPEGuin, @marcoarment, @mixtapesareback
Newly Released and Updated Indie Apps
Here are some newly released and newly updated apps from this past week! If you would like to possibly see your app in this list, please submit your app to the look at me form 👀
Thank you to everybody who made it to this footer! You either spent the time to read or took the effort to scroll 😊
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