The work and times of the app development team at Steamclock.

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Erica Leong • Mar 7th, 2022

Getting Just the Right Fonts on Mobile

Picture this: your design team, potentially an external agency, is excited about the excellent new fonts they’ve proposed for your brand, and they’ve secured licenses for print and web use. The new typefaces do a great job conveying your brand voice to your customers.

Fast forward a few months, and your mobile app team is ready to ship an update with these new fonts, and need an app-specific font license. Surprise! You discover that the cost of licensing for mobile is 2x, 3x, or more what you expected. Or, worse, the type foundry doesn’t even have an option to add an app license to cart, and has instead left behind this cryptic message: “contact the font designer for app pricing”. 😱

Not wanting to blow your budget at the last minute, your team concedes to swapping to a cheaper, alternate font — maybe even a system font — ultimately paying the iron price of an inconsistent brand experience across platforms, not to mention the designers’ ire.

Don't sacrifice your product's brand personality if you don't need to.

What to look out for

So, what can you do to avoid this? Whether you’re in charge of exploring fonts, or working with an external branding team’s choices, it pays to do some extra research at the start. If you know you need a mobile app, evaluate app licenses alongside web and desktop and factor them into your budget. But what do you need to look out for?

First, take stock of what you need. How many font weights or styles are used in the app? The cost difference between getting a license for a single font versus its’ entire family can be vast. Like $100 versus $10,000 vast.

Second, go directly to the font foundry’s website and determine what pricing structure they use. Some foundries use tiered pricing determined by how many monthly active users (MAUs) or total downloads the app will potentially have. For example: $320 for 10K users a month, $1800 for 100K, $17k for 10M, so on and so forth. Or alternatively, the tiers might be based on term: $8,640 for 1 year, $36,720 for 5 years, $43,200 for perpetuity for an entire font family.

Other foundries opt for a simplified approach, offering to cover everything with a single commercial app license. Instead of looking at MAUs, total downloads, or term, they might look at how many developers or designers in the company are using the fonts instead.

Regardless of how pricing is determined, be sure to check the fine print in the EULA (End User License Agreement). In doing so you may discover potentially surprising stipulations, like one that states an upgrade of the App License is required for every major release update of the app (like going from 1.0 to 2.0) — such is the case at foundries like Typofonderie.

Great design requires great type

Thoughtful type is part of every strong brand. But if you’re not careful, you can hit unexpected costs and even compromises when it comes to bringing type to mobile apps. So avoid headaches, and do your research up front! And here’s a little bonus: if you purchase desktop, web, and app licenses at the same time, sometimes you can even get a bulk discount from the font foundry, as a little treat. Now those are some real dividends.

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Erica Leong • Feb 28th, 2022

Case Study: Ora Organic

Ora Organic, purveyors of organic plant-based supplements, challenged us to build a high-quality iOS app for core subscribers.

Learn how we delivered a pleasant and performant e-commerce app with Shopify’s Buy SDK, SwiftUI, and some good ol’ iterative design and development – all under 5 months.

Read the case study

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Erica Leong • Nov 25th, 2021

What the Duck?

Stuck on a problem? Feeling frustrated? Not sure what the duck is wrong with your code?

Well in this case, it’s traditional to consult a rubber duck. Rubber duck debugging is an age-old practice, but conventional rubber toys tend be a bit… lifeless. That’s why we’ve created What the Duck!

Bruce (that’s the duck’s name) is eager to listen to you talk through your code, line by line. It’s almost like therapy! (Not really.)

While not a licensed therapist, Bruce is here to help. is a safe space. Unless you turn on Rude Mode, that is.

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Brendan Lensink • Oct 6th, 2021

Levelling up our Networking at Steamclock

On most mobile app projects, networking is a pain. Over the years our team members at Steamclock have tried a half-dozen different networking libraries, and each one tended towards some combination of common problems. Too often projects end up with one giant networking file, requests that require wrappers to handle simple JSON, and painful error handling when juggling global and local errors.

Three years ago, with Codable on the horizon, we concluded it may be time for something better. We started by brainstorming some core principles around a networking library:

  • Handle the simplest REST API calls with minimal code, while still having the extensibility to decode the gnarliest responses
  • Leverage Swift’s Codable protocols for automatic decoding and encoding
  • Avoid monolithic networking files and avoid wrappers
  • Straightforward global and local error handling
  • Add a little bit of magic, but only where it goes a long way

From there, we prototyped a humble little networking library. One by one, we started implementing it in our projects, refining and improving the library based on what we learned.

Now, after two years of refinement, we’re happily using Netable as our networking library of choice in most of our projects, including our popular game Two Spies.

Today, we’re thrilled to announce Netable 1.0. As with our other libraries, Netable is open source under the MIT license, and we are accepting pull requests over on GitHub.

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Brady Valentino • Aug 24th, 2021

Case Study: Two Spies

Is it a game? Is it an app? Yes!

Our latest case study goes behind the scenes on the development of Two Spies, our Swift experiment turned side project that netted 700k downloads and rave reviews.

Read the case study

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The work and times of the app development team at Steamclock.

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