Posts tagged with "app store"

Succeeding in a Mature App Store

Charles Perry has a great response to David Smith's concerns about the App Store being “full” (which I also pondered here):

We need to compete in niches, where there isn’t enough opportunity to justify the attention of large corporate developers. Don’t try to create a new bookkeeping app – Intuit will eat you alive. Instead build a bookkeeping app that’s tailored specifically for veterinarians or, even more narrowly, for large animal veterinarians. Don’t build a general purpose word processor – Microsoft has that space all locked up. Instead, build a word processor that’s specialized for a particular field like academics or screenwriting. Each of these niches offer plenty of revenue opportunities for a single developer. The big players won’t be interested, though. After all, a niche with potential annual revenue of $250,000 might be an amazing opportunity for an indie, but for the big players, $250,000 won’t even cover their engineering costs.

As I often argue, small niches can actually be pretty big on the Internet. Or, at least, big enough to turn a profit.

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Apple’s Holiday (RED) Campaign Raises $20 Million

Dawn Chmielewski, writing at Re/Code, reports that Apple's Apps for RED campaign raised over $20 million to fight AIDS:

The technology giant partnered with software developers who sold apps or exclusive items and donated the proceeds to the Global Fund to Fight AIDS. The company also donated a portion of sales at its retail and online stores during two of the biggest shopping days of the year — Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Apple's campaign was a first for app downloads going to charity, and I'm glad that the company and developers involved managed to raise this amount for a good cause.

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Discovery on the App Store

Gedeon Maheux writes about search on the App Store following a simple experiment: looking at search results for “Twitter”. The outcome is concerning:

The following list was generated by a manual App Store (iPhone) search on Nov 15th, 2014 for the term “Twitter”. To make the list easier to parse, I’ve called out all apps that allow a user to directly read AND post to Twitter in bold. Everything else is either a game, a utility, or some other social network enhancement. The official app from Twitter is naturally the first result, but the next actual Twitter client (Hootsuite) doesn’t appear on the list until #20 and the next one after that comes in at #62. Even the mega-popular Tweetbot isn’t returned in the results until position #81 and even then, the older v2 of Tweetbot (for iOS 6) comes first. Where’s Twitterrific? Although it contains the word “Twitter” in the app’s name, Twitterrific isn’t seen in the list until you scroll all the way down to #100.

App Store search has historically been a black box. The problem isn't necessarily that it's getting worse – rather, it's that it doesn't appear to be getting better. Every day I search for something on the App Store and, inevitably, I come across unrelated social games, apps to boost your Twitter followers or Instagram likes, and clones of other apps instead of more accurate results.

In spite of Apple's efforts to put curated lists of apps front and center, people still search for apps the old fashioned way. A mobile take on SEO has become quite popular, studies suggest this, and, anecdotally, the importance of search – inside and outside of the App Store – can be easily measured.

Apple has plenty of room for improvement in App Store search; in the meantime, the upcoming app analytics should hopefully help developers understand how customers are finding (or not finding) their apps through search.

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“Can the App Store Be Full?”

David Smith, in an excellent episode of Developing Perspective about the hyper-competitive nature of the modern App Store:

It's hard to talk to those people sometimes, because I have the understanding that it's very unlikely that you're going to come up with something that is truly new, or something that will be adopted just on its own merits, on it being novel and it being interesting. If you do, it'll likely be copied very quickly. It's just the nature of the store. If you want to make it in the App Store, it's much more a question of patience, a question of savvy maybe, too. Of being really thoughtful about how you're doing things from a business perspective, on keeping your expenses and your costs really really low. That's one point that I know I've been able to make a living out of this, is that I keep my expenses very low on the development side.

The entire episode is worth listening to (or watching), as David makes some great points about facing the realities of the App Store, which is “full” of free apps and where the majority of customers don't fall in the power-user end of the iOS device owner spectrum.

I started MacStories in April 2009, less than a year after the App Store opened. Over the years, I've tried and written about thousands of apps, generally from indie developers who have an idea and want to make an app out of it. From my experience, it's pretty clear that the people who used to make apps in the early days of the App Store have been forced to adapt to a race to the bottom, increasingly harder ways to monetize productivity apps, and a general saturation of ideas. With so many developers making apps, it's almost inevitable that the same idea will happen in different parts of the world at different price points. By 2008-2010 definitions, the App Store can be seen as “full” and the market is tough and sometimes unfair (also because Apple has been slow in providing better tools for testing apps or measuring analytics).

But, it's important to stress the amount of opportunities that new developers starting out today have to make a meaningful impact on the App Store. New ways to monetize, new technologies, new types of customers that are more diversified than five or four years ago. Apps like Workflow, Overcast, Newsify, Elevate, Clips – these, I think, are good examples of the kinds of businesses that can be explored on the App Store today.

By certain metrics, the App Store is less fun because apps are harder to discover, free apps with inferior designs and feature sets tend to dominate, and many developers haven't been able to adapt to new trends, rules, or limitations. And I'm especially sad when I hear the stories of developers whose livelihoods have been complicated by rip-offs, questionable App Store rejections, or piracy. That, unfortunately, is the consequence of a vast and popular marketplace where anyone can make anything within a few guidelines. Everyone is fighting for customers and survival.

Realistically, though, the App Store isn't “full” if you can adapt to its nature in 2014. New ideas are still possible and new apps will be invented to solve new problems for new customers. The App Store is denser, noisier, and more unforgiving than before; developing successful apps – even only by the sheer amount of functionality in iOS – requires more patience and scrupulousness than four years ago. And creating novel apps that are also successful is incredibly challenging and time-consuming. There's no one-size-fits-all solution to this other than advising against relying on luck alone.

The App Store is full of opportunities, but it's a lot of hard work – more than ever.


Apple Posts “Best of 2014″ App Store and iTunes Store Lists

Apple has today published their "Best of 2014" iTunes and App Store lists, which include editorial picks for the best releases in apps, music, movies, TV shows, books and podcasts from 2014.

For the best apps and games, Apple has picked Elevate and Threes for the iPhone, Pixelmator and Monument Valley for the iPad and Notability and Tomb Raider for the Mac. Runners up were Hyperlapse and Leo's Fortune for iPhone, Storehouse and Hearthstone for iPad and Affinity Designer and Transistor for Mac.

Some of the winners in the other categories include 1989 by Taylor Swift as the best music album, Guardians of the Galaxy as the best blockbuster movie, Fargo as TV show of the year, All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr as the best fiction book, and Serial as the best new podcast. Although keep in mind that some of these lists vary from country to country.

Last year, Apple picked Wunderlist and XCOM: Enemy Unknown as winners for the Mac; Disney Animated and BADLAND for the iPad; and Duolingo and Ridiculous Fishing for the iPhone. In 2012, Apple picked Day One and Deus Ex: Human Revolution as winners for the Mac; Paper and The Room for the iPad; and Action Movie FX and Rayman Jungle Run for the iPhone.

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The Effect of an App Store Feature

So, with almost 2500 downloads you are no. 128, and just 2k more gets you to no. 4. Wow. When you look at this, it’s not really that much top-heavy as I thought. It seems that with decent media exposure you can get pretty consistent number of downloads and chart ranking.

Aleksandar Vacić's new app, Run 5k, was featured by Apple, and he posted detailed numbers about the effect of Apple's feature. It's easy to guess that an Apple promotion on the front page of the App Store may help with downloads, but Aleksandar has actual numbers, and it's interesting to look at his graphs to observe the effect over time.

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Apple Launches (RED) App Store Promotion, Donating Proceeds to Fight AIDS

Update: Apple has confirmed the campaign with an official press release and webpage. The campaign, called Apps for (RED), will feature 25 apps and all proceeds from November 24 to December 7 will go to the Global Fund to fight AIDS. Apps for (RED) is the first global App Store campaign for this cause, and developers have created RED-inspired content for it.

“Apple is a proud supporter of (RED) because we believe the gift of life is the most important gift anyone can give,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “For eight years, our customers have been helping fight AIDS in Africa by funding life-saving treatments which are having a profoundly positive impact. This year we are launching our biggest fundraising push yet with the participation of Apple’s retail and online stores, and some of the brightest minds in the App Store are lending their talents to the effort as well.”

In addition to Apps for (RED), Apple will donate a portion of sales from Black Friday and Cyber Monday from retail and online stores. More details are available at Apple’s new (RED) website.

Original post follows below with updated list of apps.

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Apple No Longer Rejecting iOS 8 Calculator Widgets

According to TechCrunch, Apple has changed its mind on calculator widgets for iOS 8 following yesterday's PCalc news:

But now we’re hearing that Apple is changing its course. The PCalc app and widget will remain in the App Store, and all calculator-type widgets will be allowed as well, an Apple spokesperson has confirmed to us.

From our understanding, the calculator use case was not one that Apple had anticipated, which is why an App Store reviewer originally explained to Thomson that he would need to adjust the app, or risk being pulled from the App Store.

James Thomson still hasn't heard anything from Apple officially, and, obviously, there are hundreds of apps that are mysteriously rejected every week and that aren't covered by dozens of tech blogs in a single day.

Still, this is the right decision from Apple, and it'll hopefully turn into an opportunity to clarify the App Store Review Guidelines for widgets and improve the company's internal Schrödinger process that makes an app featured and at risk of rejection at the same time.

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Apple Asks PCalc Developer to Remove iOS 8 Widget

As tweeted by PCalc developer James Thomson today, he will be forced to remove the app's iOS 8 widget. Following an approval that saw PCalc 3.3 launch alongside iOS 8 and a feature in Apple's “Great Apps for iOS 8” App Store section, the company has informed Thomson that “Notification Center widgets on iOS cannot perform any calculations”.

Curious app rejections aren't new to the App Store, but being forced to remove a feature that was approved, featured by the App Store team, and appreciated by thousands of users is a different story. As Thomson tweeted, he invested time and resources into the development of the widget, which was a fantastic addition to the app and a nice way to perform quick calculations directly in the Today view of Notification Center. More importantly, it was a great showcase of the new capabilities of iOS 8.

Thomson wasn't alone in thinking that a widget calculator would be a good idea: dozens of iOS 8 widgets with the same feature have been released since last month (such as Wdgts) and Apple itself offers a calculator widget in OS X Yosemite.

But even with the following examples in mind, being forced to remove apps or features that had been previously approved isn't news either (case in point). Rather, what is disappointing is the persistence of contradicting signals from a company that many developers saw as “more open” after WWDC '14. Developers like Thomson will keep finding themselves in the position of risking to implement a feature or create an app that may be approved, gain users, and be shut down by Apple for a sudden policy change.

PCalc will continue to be a great app even without its widget. But at some point, we'll have to wonder whether technology limitations or murky App Store policies are truly holding iOS back, preventing developers from building innovative iOS-first apps that dare to go beyond the status quo. Today, that's happening to a calculator widget.