Friday, December 2, 2011

Puzzle Pal now in the NOOK store

I attended the NOOK Apps Workshop at App Dev Hackathon, and decided to submit Puzzle Pal to the NOOK store just to see how it works. 

Bundle the dictionary

Puzzle Pal was first developed for the G1, which has very little on-device space for apps. This drove the decision to deliver the wordlist in a separate package for storing on SD card. But it makes the initial install a little cumbersome, requiring the user to juggle between two apps. Since the NOOK store has an approval process, I decided it is easier to have a single package with the wordlist bundled. It only adds 1MB to the package, which is not a big deal as long as you are not running the G1 :)

Test on the emulator

I did a round of testing on the emulator from the NOOK sdk. Everything works fine except the about dialog. The AlertDialog on NOOK uses a white background even if you specify a dark theme, so the white text on my about dialog was not visible. I used a WebView to link to the data source for the wordlist, setting the text color with css. With the NOOK, I had to switch AlertDialog.Builder.setMessage so the system can set both the background color and the text color. The side effect is that I could not have clickable links, which is fine. I simply spell out the url.

The many steps of app submission

Now my app is ready, I started the app submission process. Man, there are so many steps!

  1. Upgrade to NOOK App Developer status

    I signed up at the Nook Developer Site to download the SDK, but to submit an app, my account needs to be upgraded to developer status. I did not understand why. Fortunately since I attended the NOOK Apps Workshop, I was granted access fairly quickly.

  2. Get the developer account approved

    Next I had to fill in tons of information including my bank account and tax information. And all these needs to be approved. Why? I am not even selling anything. I just want to offer Puzzle Pal for free. Again, the saving grace was that it took only a few hours for the account to be approved.

  3. Get the app metadata approved

    Finally I got to the point where I filled in the basic information for my app. They wanted a 300x300 icon. No problem, I resized mine that way. A few screenshots with the app running on the NOOK. Fair request, I captured a few. I put everything together, and BAM, the icon was rejected. Why? Because it has a transparent background. What? What's wrong with a transparent background? And oh, it cannot be white either. Why? I ended up adding a random blue gradient background to my icon. But this is so arbitrary.

    And now I wait for the metadata to be approved. That didn't take long, because some script rejected it, saying that the description "makes references to the app being for a phone". I was pretty sure I did not do that, but I checked my description text anyway. Turns out I said you can use Puzzle Pal for "phone spell", which is a standard puzzle technique to translate numbers to letters according to the dial pad, e.g. 3569377 becomes FLOWERS. I didn't have the energy to explain that, so I just removed the words "phone spell" from the description.

  4. Get the apk approved

    Finally I got to upload my apk! That turned out to be the easy part. No issues whatsoever, the apk was approved within a day.

Check the NOOK store

I was waiting patiently for Puzzle Pal to show up at the NOOK store, which should take 24 to 48 hours according to the status message for my app. A week went by and nothing happened. I filed a ticket to figure out why. Someone responded within a few hours:

Hello! Yes, it's being worked on and hopefully resolved by the end of the week. Stay tuned on this. You've done everything right, we're working on our build system and your account had missing information which is on us.

Very happy that they reassured me that I've done everything right. Also very happy that I pinged them, because I had no idea that my account had missing information.

Two days after I filed the ticket, Puzzle Pal is on the NOOK store today!

I did not expect this to be such an adventure. How I miss the straightforward Android Market! Hopefully they will streamline the process so us developers can focus on producing wonderful apps instead of stressing over getting our apps approved and published.

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