I spotted this article about postcodes on the BBC a few days ago. It points out how UK postcodes in their current form have been around for almost 50 years. Postcodes are of course hugely important. Though there have been stories over the years of Royal Mail managing to deliver poorly addressed, or even cryptically addressed items, the fastest and most reliable of getting a letter delivered is to make sure you address it with a postcode. Postcodes are also being used increasingly by personal navigation devices and online mapping services as a really simple and short way of identifying locations.

Considering how important and useful postcodes are, you would think that the post office would want to make it as easy as possible to get hold of information relating to postcodes. On the contrary, while it’s not particularly hard, it is prohibitively expensive. This, of course, is where the Free the Postcode project comes in. As such I’d like everyone reading this blog to make sure in this coming 50th year of postcodes that they submit as many postcodes to Free the Postcode as they can. Hopefully someone will make an Android, J2ME or Symbian app to make this easy, but in the meantime if you have an iPhone then there’s a new version of iFreeThePostcode available to you now.

I’ll talk about the new version in a moment but first I thought I’d mention how successful the app has been so far. My main source for statistics has been iTunes Connect, this is part of iTunes you generally don’t see. This is what I used to upload the app originally and setup my contracts. Apple also provide some basic sales data which can be downloaded in tab separated files. When I added the app I was able to choose what stores to make it available in but I decided not to limit it, so that visitors to the UK would still be able to help if they wanted to. Using the files I’ve found these are the top 5 countries that have downloaded the app:

GB 1683
US 535
CA 77
FR 69
IT 66
Others 684
Total 3114

With so many people downloading the app you might think we’d had huge numbers of submissions to freethepostcode.org. Maybe 2 per person, home and work? Or at least 1 per UK person to download? Well, while that hasn’t been the case, I’ve found that over the past month and a half since the app was released, nearly 50% of postcodes submitted to freethepostcode.org have come from my app. A few days ago I received the following stats from Dom, the administrator of freethepostcode.org:

In November 307 out of 1723 submissions were from iFreeThePostcode.
In December 587 out of 1199 submissions were from iFreeThePostcode.

So in December that was 49% of the submissions, and using a little maths I’m guessing at about 59% for the 9 days in November that the app was available. I’m really happy with that, but hopefully with the bugs ironed out, we’ll be able to get that even higher in the coming months. And so onto the new release…

Two days ago the new version of iFreeThePostcode went live on the app store. I’ve noticed a few negative reviews on the App Store saying things like “I tried to click the button to submit and it didn’t work, 1 star!” It seems that my existing way of telling you that the accuracy of your location wasn’t high enough was a little too subtle. Originally I set the button status to disabled, all this seems to do though is change the text colour from blue to black, not the most obvious change. I also colour the accuracy label red or green depending on whether it’s accurate enough.

iFreeThePostcode v1.0 Screenshot

The new version replaces the overly subtle “disabled” button with a label when the accuracy is not enough, this label also shows when you haven’t submitted a postcode or email address. I’m hoping this label will be clear enough and that people will now try waiting for a more accurate location. It’s a good thing to remember that not everyone installing your app will be a technophile, but then even amongst my techy friends there were people who couldn’t tell why they weren’t able to submit. I’ve also made sure that the app remembers the postcode that you’ve put in. The original version didn’t do this because I wanted to make sure that people didn’t accidentally submit the same postcode in different locations, but I’ve realised that this is unlikely to happen, whereas it’s quite possible that someone might be copying the postcode from an email or a contact, and might want to flick between iFreeThePostcode and another app without the postcode being removed.

If you’ve got an iPhone and have installed the app, please leave some positive feedback on the iTunes page to counteract the negative feedback. If you do have criticisms then contact me directly or leave comments on the blog post and I’ll try to put fixes in the next version. If you own an iPhone and haven’t installed the app, why not?! Head over to the iFreeThePostcode page for more information and for the iTunes link.

Oh yes, final thing to mention, this version is of course open source again, see the above link to download if you’re interested in finding out how it works. Patches welcome!