On Christmas of 2014 my girlfriend gave me a Philips Hue starter kit as a gift. This was something I had been thinking of getting for a long time and it was the best gift I could've hoped for.
I immediately proceeded to set them up and downloaded the official Hue app. The app comes pre-bundled with a bunch of scenes that showcase the wide range of colors that the lights can achieve, and I played with all of them effusively for a bit. But then, I started to search for ways to simply control my lights, one at a time. You know, basic things, like turning off just this one light, or change the color of this one, dim just my desk lamp. But quickly, I realized that this type of interaction was not what the Philips Hue team had in mind, although you can do it, it is hidden away a couple screens deep and there is not a straightforward way of simply controlling your lights without using them in a scene.
Of course, my immediate next step was to hit the app store and search for third party remote controls. This was a roller coaster in and out of itself. I discovered apps that could pair your lights color and intensity to a music track, apps that simulated fireworks or candles, apps with sound effects, holiday themes, and other great fun things you could do with your lights. Of course I did all these, and indeed it was fun, but then, after all the firecrackers had died, the strobe effects had finished and the crazy color loops had passed, I had a bunch of apps on my phone, and none of them let me simply control my lights in a straightforward way for every day use.
That's when Huemote was born. It was born out of necessity, and out of love for my shiny new lights. Huemote was envisioned from the start as a simple tool that could serve as my daily use remote control, and it's focus has always been speed. I wanted immediate access to my lights state, brightness and color, not tucked away past several screens or with weird UI elements that looked great but got in the way of me controlling my lights.
Today, Huemote is taking the next step. The first version had the most basic implementation of my idea for an every day remote control: fast access to all your lights, and a way to control multiple lights together as groups. But it was lacking several key components that I had originally envisioned but didn't have the bandwidth to do at the time. The most glaring omission was support for scenes, and a today widget to control lights without even unlocking the phone.
Well, I'm happy to say that these features are finally here in Huemote 1.1. This version of Huemote is what I truly envisioned as a 1.0, and it brings fast access to scenes, an improved Apple Watch app, a today widget and iCloud sync so all your settings transfer between all your devices.
Huemote also introduces a way to support further development of the app. Huemote is not my main job, and as such I can't dedicate all my time to it's development and support. Because of this, I've had mixed feelings about charging for the app, since I can't really commit to keep improving it at a pace comparable to other apps. But surprisingly, a lot of people have asked me for ways to contribute, and to support it's development. This is why I'm introducing a patronage model, where you can contribute and support the development of the app. There are many features that I consider essential for an everyday remote control, like support for the Hue Tap and Hue Dimmer switches, changing light colors by color temperature, timers and alerts, and many more.
I'll have much more to say about the patronage model, the state of the app store, and the future of Huemote on other platforms, but for now I just want to close by sharing what I think is the most valuable thing I've learned from developing Huemote.
Although this is my first app on the store, I've been developing for iOS for a couple years now, and I've been following people in the industry for way longer than that. From an outsider's perspective, I had been trained to expect the worst on the app store. I had been told that you need a skin as thick as a rhino to read your reviews, or to see your comments on twitter. I was told 4 stars will be held hostage on every review until I delivered a certain feature, and that if I offered a support email, it would be flooded with demands and complaints.
Maybe this is true for very popular apps, or maybe this is something inevitable that happens once you reach a certain popularity threshold, I can't speak to that. But I can say this: the response from users, and from the community has been nothing like that. It's been the opposite. I have been utterly astonished with the amount of positive feedback and constructive criticism I've received from users. Kind words, thoughtful feature requests, uplifting comments are the only things that have filled my inbox so far. 5 star reviews that make effusive comments, ask for features or crack a few jokes have been the norm, not the exception.
I am not pointing this out to make myself feel good (although it certainly does). I'm doing it because maybe someone reading this has the misconception that launching something on the app store is bound to be bundled with hateful emails, unreasonable demands and toxic comments. That there are only few users who appreciate your work, and truly wish you success because it will mean the app they love will grow and flourish. But this has been far from my experience. I've been deeply moved by the users that have tried Huemote, and that have taken time to write long and insightful emails, thoughtful reviews and kind words on twitter. Launching something is hard, there's always uncertainty, there's always fear. But when you hear first hand from users how much they enjoy your product, or how it has saved them time or made things easier for them, it truly makes it all worth it.
If you've had second thoughts about launching a product, or maybe you think there's the possibility no one will like it, take a chance. The reward from hearing from people who do, will far outweigh your fears and doubts, I promise you.
If you have installed Huemote, go ahead and update from the App Store! If you haven't, give it a try, and either way, I always appreciate to know what you think.