As part of a series of planned updates for the Sun Seeker augmented reality iPhone app, the latest update v1.5 has just been approved by Apple.
For a video demo of Sun Seeker see this earlier blog post.
The main changes for v1.5 are:
- Enhanced performance for smoother compass dial rotation
- Added new table of annual rise and set times
- Added new table of sun’s daily azimuth and elevation
- Added tap action to rise/set label to see local times instead of intervals
- Better handling of disabled Location Services
- More efficient use of GPS – now only used briefly on startup
- Fixed some minor bugs and issues with date changes
[Note – v1.5.1 update has been submitted to fix OS3.0 backward compatibility and missing sunset times for some locations west of GMT.]
Following is a more detailed description of some of these items.
1. Enhanced Compass Dial Rotation
The compass dial in Sun Seeker includes text which retains its orientation relative to the device regardless of the compass rotation, and this means that at least part of the image needs to be re-rendered for each incremental rotation of that dial as the compass rotates. Previously the whole image was being redrawn each time, and that performance hit meant that the dial motion was quite jerky when it needed to make large rotational changes. The new implementation involves much less redrawing, and hence allows the compass to be much more responsive.
2. New Tables
The table of rise and set times spans the entire year, and hence allows you to look up rise and set times for any given date.
The table of the solar path lists the sun’s azimuth and elevation at 15 minutes intervals throughout the currently selected day.
3. Tap action to see rise/set time instead of intervals
This was added simply for clarity. Tapping on the rise/set labels on the compass screen toggles the display between showing the rise and set time in local time versus showing time duration between now and the rise and set times.
4. Better handling of Location Services status
A problem to date has been if the user has switched off the device Location Services or (perhaps accidentally) disabled them for this particular app. In these cases the app can only use its last acquired location data, and in this case the app shows data which is correct for that old location, but incorrect for the user’s current location.
This issue has been the biggest generator of email support requests to date, but I now expect that this will lessen considerably, because I have implemented clear warning messages which pop-up whenever location services are disabled, each time that the app starts up or resumes from background.
5. More efficient use of GPS
Previous versions of the app left GPS on continuously while the app was active (although off when inactive or in background), and this presented the app with ongoing positional updates while it was open. But for the sake of efficient use of GPS, it seemed unnecessary to leave it on once the location had been determined to a reasonable accuracy, so GPS is now only on as long as location has not been found to reasonable accuracy. However an important point here is that the app should re-query its location not only every time it starts up, but also whenever it resumes from background. The reason for this of course is that the device may have changed location while it was in background – for example it may resume from background after the user has traveled somewhere by air!
6. Future Updates
By far the most common request from users has been to allow selection of other cities/locations rather than just the current current, and this is the next major feature planned. But please note that it is not a trivial update! A particular difficulty here is in ensuring that the local times reported for other locations respect the correct timezones and daylight savings rules for those locations throughout the year. However, I do have a solution planned, and hope to be able to do this within a reasonable timeframe.
The next most common request has been for an Android version. Due to the particularly technical nature of the app, and the fact that I personally have no grounding in Android development, this is a much more difficult proposition. However I have been looking to outsource it. I apologise to those who have been waiting impatiently, and I can assure you that these plans are progressing.
In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy the app!