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TapCellar — A Different Kind of Beer App

A couple of weeks ago, Gabe Weatherhead1 and I released a iOS app that we had been working on for the past year and a half called TapCellar.

Gabe wrote up a nice overview of the features in his post announcing the app so you can click on that to get his take on the features.

I wanted to emphasize a few things that differentiate TapCellar from the rest of the beer apps in the App Store. Gabe touched on some of them in his post so there is going to be some overlap but I will put more emphasis on certain things and Gabe on others so hopefully combined the two pieces will give you a nice perspective on the app.

The elevator pitch goes something like this.

We created TapCellar because we felt that the beer apps out there didn’t suit our needs. There are a lot of beer apps out there but they all do their own thing, some better than others. Gabe and I took a hard look at what craft beer drinkers needed in a beer app. We took a deep look at other apps out there and gave some thought to what we didn’t like about them. Then we set our sights on an app that we would use and enjoy because we knew if it made us happy, others would like it too.

One of the main differences between TapCellar and some of the bigger apps out there is that we don’t want to join a social network in order to catalog, rate and enjoy beer. We take your privacy and personal data seriously so you can back up and archive your beer database whenever you want. None of your data is used to track you and let others know where you’ve been, when you were there or what you drank. We have sharing cards, called Mugshots, but they are images that allow you to share with whoever you want, as privately as you want.

We wanted users to be able to access all of the beer without having an active data connection, too. We know what a huge pain it is to be in your cellar, at a pub or attending a beer festival with no cell service and not be able look up information about a beer or brewery. TapCellar has about 34,000+ beers in a local database ready for searching, rating, and exploration — no data connection required. When you have a data connection, we will keep that growing list of beers updated too so you’ll always have the newest beers added to the database.

Another untapped (!) market is for beer apps with a comprehensive cellaring component. We build TapCellar to allow multiple vintages, cellar inventory counts, journaling by vintage and vintage-specific beer grades.

For every beer in the database, TapCellar provides for per-beer journaling, geotagging, photo support and sharing cards.

I know, I know. Lots of people use Untappd to share their beer experiences with friends. While Untappd isn’t our thing, we hated the thought of users having to choose TapCellar over Untappd so we added the ability to send your journal entry straight to Untappd from within TapCellar’s Journal feature.

There are a lot of other things waiting for you to discover in TapCellar which I’ll write about in the coming weeks. I’ll provide some tips on creating some compelling Saved Filters, how to quickly put information about a beer right onto your clipboard, ready to paste anywhere and others.

  1. Gabe of 

App Developers, The Sky Is Not Falling

Unread is a really nice RSS reader for iPhone. I eventually bought it after Newsblur support was added and found that the app is designed with some really nice features that set it apart from its peers. I’ve enjoyed using Jared Sinclair’s apps (like the stellar Riposte) and bought Unread more out of a desire to support Sinclair’s development efforts than my need for an iOS RSS app. I suspect many who appreciated Jared’s previous work did the same thing.

Sinclair recently wrote a post with some revealing data about Unread’s earnings along some details about its design process and some decisions involving the app’s App store distribution. As his blog post made its rounds on the echosphere, developers and pundits alike were pounding out stories about how the App economy is dead since Unread, by all accounts a fantastic app, couldn’t earn above poverty wages.

I think the premise behind many of these pieces is flawed. They take a surface look at the App economy through the lens of an app that, while serving a fairly large overall market1, was ultimately targeting a niche market2 inside a niche market3 inside a niche market4 inside a niche market5.

We can’t know all of the decision points that pushed Sinclair to explore the RSS app market as his next target after Riposte and Whisper (both top shelf apps). While he did talk about some of his thought process in his visit to the App Story podcast (episode 4), we don’t know what type of competitive analysis he did or if it even mattered to him that he was entering a market in which the winners and losers were largely already decided. Doing a cursory look in the current RSS reader market, you can find many capable RSS apps that have been used on iOS devices for quite some time. Some of these apps are free and all perform the common functions of an RSS reader.

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When Google Reader shutdown last July everyone who used the service was forced to decide where they were going to land on the RSS reader front. It caused quite a shake-up since many people were using Google Reader, including me. Some decided to ditch RSS altogether and stick with Twitter, some decided on Feedly, and others decided on NewsBlur among others.

When Unread launched, it didn’t support all of the services that people had flocked to. I know when I saw its original release and noted that it didn’t support Newsblur, it meant that if I wanted to use Unread on my phone I would also need to switch RSS services. Since I had just signed up for a year-long Newsblur subscription, that didn’t sound like a solid idea either.

Sinclair also faced the difficulty in selling a reading app for the smallest iOS device, the iPhone. While he may have built a lot of innovation into the controls for managing feeds and reading one-handed, the truth is I tend to not read RSS on the iPhone, instead opting for a bigger screen which allows for richer navigation and visuals.

When I look at the things stacked against Unread doing well (RSS war fought and won on many fronts months before, readers generally wanting to read longform articles on larger devices, other capable free apps on the market, $5 price tag) I actually thought Unread sold fantastically well. It doesn’t really serve as the best example for why it is hard to make a living solely by publishing apps on the App Store. And as the man once said, “If it was that easy, everybody would be doing it.”

  1. As of 2013, RSS readers number in the 200-250m range. 

  2. Tech nerds who like opinionated software. 

  3. People who haven’t yet found an RSS reader they liked a year after the Google Reader shutdown. 

  4. People who want to read RSS on a small iPhone screen. 

  5. People willing to pay $5 for an app.