Oct 10, 2019

Going to Lugano - Our Appbuilders 2019 Diary

Dominik Bucher
Dominik Bucher
Going to Lugano - Our Appbuilders 2019 Diary

Last winter, our iOS team was implementing new features into the Showmax app and, as I sometimes do during my workday, I watched talk about System design by John Sundell (who is really a nice guy btw) at https://www.swiftandfika.com.

It made me want to go to a conference and share some experiences with other developers. Denis Bogomolov and I started looking for some conferences to attend this year, and although a few goods ones had already happened, there were still some interesting events on the calendar. In the end, we decided to go to Switzerland and have some fun at appbuilders.ch.

The history of Appbuilders

Appbuilders started in 2016 and is now one of the biggest European conferences on mobile development. It runs for two days and usually takes place on the last weekend of April every year.

There are always some really interesting talks from both the iOS and Android worlds, but there are some talks that are not so technically-focused and help you build up better soft skills and business thinking. The speakers tend to be top-tier developers from all over the world who are always ready to help you out with your own development struggles and issues.

Welcome to Lugano

Lake Lugano - taken from front of Cathedral of St. Lawrence.

When we arrived in the city center, I was immediately struck by the views and the architecture. Lugano, like most of Switzerland, features a combination of a variety of architectural styles, and you can pretty much find everything here. I actually kind of forgot that I was in Lugano for a conference for a bit.

Travelers tip: If you are planning to buy groceries, get to the shop before 6:30 pm or you will be left with no other choice than going to a restaurant - which can be pricey.

Day one

We woke up at 7 am, went for breakfast, and decided to walk to the venue rather than take the bus. It was nice, and only about 10 minutes on foot. We arrived at Palazzo dei Congressi on time for the 8 am start, got our badges and swag, and finished breakfast inside the congress center.

We met up with some of our friends from Cocoaheads (hi Tom) and some other Czech friends, and went to see John Sundell open the event.

AppBuilders swag bag - socks, chocolate, small gym bag, and stickers.

Scott Chacon - Lessons learned from an Accidental Entrepreneur

From the name of the talk, I honestly didn’t quite catch the real purpose of the thing, but as soon as Scott started to talk, everyone got excited. This talk was more market-oriented, had a lot to say, and expertly delivered - simple, straightforward and clear.

The short version: Use your own product, listen to your customers, and you should (really) augment rather than replace.

This was one of the best product talks I’ve ever seen. Scott is super passionate about what he does and it shows.

Janina Kutyn - Size doesn’t matter: Building an app for every iOS device

This presentation had the most value for me, as I always struggle with how to design a proper UI for all screen sizes. This session was useful and helpful for all developers, and I recommend that you watch it.

Janina started by explaining the concept of Size classes and the counter-intuitiveness of them being the same on iPhones and iPads. There were some very interesting facts on the number of active users and higher prices for iPad apps, and why it’s worth caring about them.

The short version: iPad apps cost more, iPad owners are less sensitive to app cost, and have on average higher income than iPhone users.

Cecilia Humlelu - Use C, C++ and Objective C Libraries in a Swift project

Here, we got a little sneak-peek into how C frameworks are used inside the Spotify application. I really like how Cecilia described the interoperability between the 4 languages, and was quite surprised that you don’t need Objective C to connect C++ to Swift at all. If you want a wrap up of this talk, you can watch it here, or take a look at this article.

The afterparty

If there’s something worth mentioning, it’s the afterparty on the first day. I loved how Patrick Balestra put the extra effort and creativity of the other developers into the game and created this beautiful list of developer drinks.

The afterparty drink list.

Apart from the drinks, it was nice to meet developers from other companies and plan some trips, post-AppBuilders.

After this great experience, and with heads filled with new knowledge and ideas, we headed off to bed.

Day 2

Second day was almost the same as the first one. We joined up with Kuba and went to the Palazzo dei Congressi for next set of knowledge. Second breakfast was already waiting for us so without hesitation I took the almost-best-coffee I ever had and some croissants and happily went to the other conference room.

Brandon Williams - Protocol Witnesses

In a nutshell, protocol witnesses are just another look into abstraction. This is an absolutely mind-blowing solution to the obstacles you face when using protocols with generics. This is an incredibly valuable presentation if you are looking for a solution to non-flexible protocols and have problems with why protocols cannot “inherit” each other.

This was the best talk I saw at the event.

Kristaps Grinbergs - How to tame Core Animation

This was a fabulous, flawless presentation. I loved how we got through the history of animations on the cocoa platform, and how Kristaps defined what is, and what is not, CoreAnimation. He went through why you should animate a layer instead of UIView, what runs on CPUs and GPUs, and the important stuff like the fact that UIView.animate doesn’t use CoreAnimation.

There is a slide to consider if you care about animations inside your application:

Catch from presentation.

Guilherme Rambo - Ship it safe

Basically you should never collect any data you don’t need from your app, be extra cautious about third party SDKs, use Cloudkit, and process data on the device. Also he mentioned that Your app is your responsibility, no matter which SDKs you integrate, so be super careful about suspicious frameworks that could collect data from your users.

In short you should not hide data from your users and you should always give them at least the option to request portions of the data you required (this goes hand-in-hand with GDPR anyway).


The end was inevitably coming. I feel like we all needed the talk from Adrian KosmaczewskiRefactoring ourselves. This was a nice, relaxing, full of memes from the developer world, and some worthy philosophical thoughts.

If you are planning to go to a conference, I definitely recommend booking something soon. Go not just for the huge amount of knowledge you will gain, but for making connections with other developers and to enjoy the beautiful atmosphere.

You can find all of the AppBuilders videos here (If you somehow didn’t get to the playlist from headers)

Here is a list of conferences I’m interested in:

In case you’d like to talk at any conference, here’s calendar where you can meet Showmax engineers.

Looking forward to meeting you!

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