App Store Screenshot Changes

Earlier this week, Apple announced a change in iTunes Connect for developers: app screenshots will be “locked” to an approved app, and developers may only change them upon submitting a binary for an update to an existing app (or new app). This has quickly been summarized as a way to slow down a popular tactic for App Store scammers; on the other hand, it also affects legitimate developers, who will now have to more carefully select app screenshots.

Craig Grannel comments on the change:

Users can now look at an App Store grab and be sure that’s the app they’re going to get. This means they will be more likely to trust the system and more likely to use it. That leads to increased income. The compromise: you can’t change your App Store grabs approximately every six seconds

This is one of those changes with consequences that are clearly visible and direct for those who follow development and App Store news, but more nuanced and indirect for the general consumer. Developers will find the change annoying, because it has become common practice to “tweak” screenshots even after an app has been released to highlight different features and/or include text overlays with quotes from positive reviews, and so forth. Now screenshots will perhaps be treated more like app icons, which have to be chosen and studied carefully upon submitting an app. Developers now have less chances to “get screenshots wrong”, unless they want to submit an app update to fix them.

On the flip side, this is the kind of news that average users won’t care about. The billions of App Store downloads are made by people who have no clue about scamming strategies and who definitely don’t read Apple’s developer news. They trust Apple to provide a quality App Store experience, they don’t know about the inner workings of iTunes Connect. This screenshot policy won’t be directly noticed by consumers, but it will help Apple provide a better experience by crippling a common trick scammers used to sell one app for another.

What’s the solution? Enabling a “trusted developer” tier could be an idea. But then again, how does Apple determine “trusted developers”? By making them pay more, or by manually selecting companies they know and trust? And if the latter solution is feasible, how can a kid with a legitimate idea become “trusted” if he has no connections at Apple? Should there be a “request verification” process? And so on.

As the App Store grows bigger and older, dealing with thousands of sellers will become harder for Apple; sooner or later, they’ll have to face the fact that the current App Store infrastructure wasn’t built for a million apps. That is already true for search and curation. Trusting more and more developers is just another consequence of growth.