Posts tagged with "app store"

PlayStation Network and the App Store

Matt Birchler compares Sony's PlayStation Network storefront to Apple's App Store:

Everything you see when you load up the store has been hand-picked by someone. Of course, the PS4 store only has 147 items on the platform, so manually curating that content is easier than it would be for Apple with its 1+ million apps, but we’ll set that aside for today. Here’s what I have found when thinking about how I shop on the Playstation Network without any top lists to guid me.

As he argues towards the end, Apple does a lot of editorial curation on the App Store – and they are going to do more of it with iOS 8 – but the Top Charts don't reflect those efforts and they remain a difficult place for developers to break into.

Sony has it easier than Apple: the App Store's editorial team has to deal with thousands of apps released each day, frequent updates to existing apps, and a diversity of games and apps. The App Store is a much different market than the PSN or Nintendo's eShop, and, as I've written before, it remains to be seen whether customers will care about more visibility to curated sections in iOS 8.

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Jean-Louis Gassée on App Store Curation

Jean-Louis Gassée, in his open letter to Tim Cook:

Instead of using algorithms to sort and promote the apps that you permit on your shelves, why not assign a small group of adepts to create and shepherd an App Store Guide, with sections such as Productivity, Photography, Education, and so on. Within each section, this team of respected but unnamed (and so “ungiftable”) critics will review the best-in-class apps. Moreover, they’ll offer seasoned opinions on must-have features, UI aesthetics, and tips and tricks. A weekly newsletter will identify notable new titles, respond to counter-opinions, perhaps present a developer profile, footnote the occasional errata and mea culpa…

Good points, and not the first time Gassée has used the Michelin guide as an example of the human curation that could improve the App Store's recommendations.

Gassée doesn't mention the upcoming Explore section of the iOS 8 App Store, and I believe that is going to provide an interesting mix of the classic category-based organization with curation through sub-categories and editorial picks for specific “app types”.

Unsurprisingly, Explore is going to replace Near Me in the middle tab of the App Store app for iOS 8: Near Me will be integrated into Explore, and it will likely extend as part of a new system to advertise apps relevant to your location on the Lock screen. Free of the limited scope of Near Me, Explore will enable the App Store team to offer a full-blown index of app categories that are easily accessible from a dedicated view.

It is my understanding that Explore will feature a mix of the curated app collections Apple has been building for the past couple of years and new filters for app types. Starting with the basic list of App Store categories, you’ll be able to drill down into more specific sub-categories with multiple levels of depth, such as “Music > DJs” or “Productivity > Task Management > GTD”.

While Apple may not be considering a full-blown, standalone App Store Guide as a regular publication, iOS 8's Explore section is showing encouraging signs of new curation efforts that account for the incredible variety of the App Store's catalogue, but it remains to be seen whether customers will take the time to explore the Explore section.

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Four Years in Apple’s Ecosystem

An interesting and well documented experiment by The Typist: a visualization of four years of purchases on the iTunes Store, and particularly the App Store. I can't imagine the amount of effort that went into this (sifting through 90 emails, recalculating prices based on past currency conversions, etc.), but I hope I'll have the patience to do the same someday.

The Typist makes a great point about iOS games:

So what does that mean for games? Of the 34 that I’ve purchased, only 5 games — worth $18 — are currently installed on either of my iOS devices. Of the $111.66 that I’ve spent, $93.71 worth of games are on neither of my devices. Almost 84% of the money I’ve spent on games is now in the cloud.

Does that mean I wouldn’t have bought any or most of them? Not necessarily: That would be like not going to the movies because you pay $12 for 120 minutes that you can’t “reuse”. Most forms of entertainment are ephemeral by nature.

Unlike console games, I can't remember any old iOS game that I intentionally redownloaded to play it again like I do for, say, Nintendo or Squaresoft classics. Maybe it's just me, or maybe it's the nature of mobile games. Also worth considering: old iOS games that don't work properly on current versions of the OS, that don't have Retina assets, or that rely on third-party services no longer in existence (the last one is a problem common to console games, too).

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App Store Freshness

David Smith has a great analysis of the “freshness” of apps on the App Store – data about when apps were last updated, for both Top Charts and the entire App Store.

For a very long time I’ve talked about my concerns about the size and health of the iOS App Store catalog. The App Store currently sits around 1,200,000 apps. For years the depth and diversity of the App Store has been one of the platforms strongest differentiators. However, as it grows the challenge becomes ensuring that it doesn’t begin to strain under its own size.

What has always annoyed me in my discussions about how to improve the App Store was that I didn’t have actual data on the composition of the App Store. Since it wasn’t (to my knowledge) available I started working out ways to get at it myself.

The numbers about the size of the App Store in relation to updates and the release of iOS 7 last year are surprising to me, as I was expecting a much worse scenario. The charts in David's post clearly show a developer interest in updating for iOS 7 – make sure to check out the charts.

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A Candid Look at Unread’s First Year

Unread for iPhone has earned a total of $32K in App Store sales. Unread for iPad has earned $10K. After subtracting 40 percent in self-employment taxes and $350/month for health care premiums (times 12 months), the actual take-home pay from the combined sales of both apps is: $21,000, or $1,750/month.

Considering the enormous amount of effort I have put into these apps over the past year, that’s a depressing figure. I try not to think about the salary I could earn if I worked for another company, with my skills and qualifications. It’s also a solid piece of evidence that shows that paid-up-front app sales are not a sustainable way to make money on the App Store.

The story of Unread is not one of failure, we were big fans of the app and it has made money. But for the creator of Unread, Jared Sinclair, it has not been a success either. The income that Unread has generated just isn't sustainable on a long-term basis. The story about Unread's first year is fascinating thanks to Sinclair's transparency and I'd highly recommend you read it, particularly if you are developer considering to go 'indie' on the App Store.

Sinclair's story clearly hit a nerve because since his post earlier today, there have been a number of others who have written about the situation with their own perspectives. For example, Benjamin Mayo makes some perhaps obvious points that I think deserve reinforcement:

Betting on apps of incredibly large scale means you bear proportionately more risk, with the possibility of no return whatsoever. If you want to maximise your profitability, make small apps that do a few things well. The amount of effort you put into an app has very little to do with how much of the market will buy it. This means that making big apps exposes you to substantially more risk, which is not fairly counterbalanced by significantly higher earnings potential.

At this point, you may be despairing at the reality of the situation and Cezar Carvalho Pereira offers some commentary on that, in a sense giving a reality check on what it means to go indie on the App Store:

So, while I believe the mythical indie is far from dead, I think the path to going indie is a lot less glamorous than what most have come to expect. A beautiful idea followed by a great execution doesn’t necessarily guarantee success.

If you want even more, Stephen Hackett, Tyler Hall, Ben Brooks, and Brent Simmons have all also posted stories on a similar theme today.

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What Makes a Name in the App Store?

I looked at the top 200 apps in each category for both paid and free iPhone apps, 8400 apps in total. Although some developers use up to 49 words (and all 255 characters), the majority are around 4-5 words (24-35 characters). Around one third of apps use a delimiter / separator like 'Flipboard: Your Social News Magazine'.

Stuart Hall takes a brief but interesting look at what exactly makes a name for apps in the App Store. Specifically, he is talking about the full app store name such as 'Wish - Shopping Made Fun'. Whilst Apple allows a name with as many as 255 characters (remember a tweet is only 140 characters), a big chunk of developers stay under 30 characters - which is about as long as it can be on an iPhone before the App Store cuts the name.

Hall also offers some suggestions for coming up with an app name, which are fairly straightforward and make a lot of sense. But one thing missing from the post (through no real fault of Hall's) is some anecdotal evidence from App developers who may have experimented with different length or style of App names - I'd love to hear how it affected their sales (if at all).

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Friending the App Store

Andy Baio shares thoughts (with mockups) on what he'd like to see on the App Store for social recommendations:

My hope is that Apple, and every other app store, can take a page from the last decade of the social web. Give its users a public identity, an incentive to share what they love, and the ability to find and follow others like them.

These are some interesting ideas – especially for indie game developers – and I agree. Social recommendations and “developer notifications” could drive significant traffic to apps recommended by people you trust (your friends) or developers you trust (the ones that make apps you already use), albeit with a different set of questions (how many notifications do you want to receive? How often? From which developers?).

I also think, though, that before social recommendations Apple needs to educate users on the idea of sharing quality apps/games and recommending them to their friends. In this regard, I believe that Explore is going to be an important addition: curated collections and sub-categories will help in communicating the richness and quality of selected App Store content that can be lost in the Top Charts that most people see as an indication of “what's cool”.

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Apple Expanding Curation To More European App Store Categories

Apple's promotion for curated categories on the Italian App Store.

Apple's promotion for curated categories on the Italian App Store.

As first reported by The Guardian today, Apple has expanded human curation on the European App Store to seven additional categories, adopting the same custom layout with curated sections and recommendations that was first introduced in the US Store in late 2012.

The Guardian notes that only five European categories were curated by human editors, with algorithms in charge of highlighting popular apps in other App Store categories for European customers:

iPhone and iPad owners visiting the productivity, photo & video, sport, music, lifestyle, health and travel categories will now see recommendations and themed collections of apps from Apple's editorial teams.

Until today, only five App Store categories – games, kids, education, food and Newsstand – were curated. Homepages for other categories simply displayed lists of new and popular apps chosen by an algorithm.

To promote the increased curation efforts, Apple has included a banner on the front page of several European App Stores, pointing users to a section grouping curated categories. In each category, Apple highlights editorial recommendations, curated collections, themed sections, and "best new apps". Typically, these app picks are refreshed on a weekly basis.

The refreshed category layout mirrors the work Apple has been doing on the US App Store, but it's not indicative of the sub-categories that the company will launch with iOS 8. At its developers conference last week, Apple announced Explore, a new App Store section that will allow customers to browse location-based app recommendations, editorial collections, and brand new sub-categories for apps.