John Voorhees

879 posts on MacStories since November 2015

John joined MacStories in 2015. He is an editor and regular contributor to MacStories and the Club MacStories newsletters, co-hosts AppStories, a weekly podcast exploring the world of apps, with Federico, and handles sponsorship sales for MacStories and AppStories. John is also the creator of Blink, an iOS affiliate linking app for the iTunes Affiliate Program.


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Game On: A Decade of iOS Gaming

Nowhere has the App Store’s impact been more profound than the game industry. Roughly one-third of the 500 initial apps that debuted on the App Store were games. The percentage of games on the App Store has risen over the past 10 years, but not by much. By some estimates, between 35 and 40 percent of the App Store's apps are games today. What has changed is the size of the Store. With over 2.1 million apps currently available for download, that means around 800,000 are games.

Mobile gaming has become the primary driver of growth in the game industry over the past several years. According to a recent report by Newzoo, the mobile game industry, in which iOS plays a central role, will be a $100 billion market in just three years time.

The success of games on iOS parallels the phenomenal success of the iPhone and App Store. The iPhone’s hardware played a significant role with its novel design that provided game developers with the flexibility to experiment. Just as important, though, was the advent of In-App Purchases. Games, like other apps, were originally free or paid. When In-App Purchases came along, a whole category of games that offered in-app, paid consumables, level packs, and other digital goods was born that has been wildly successful for many game developers.

Now, free-to-play games with In-App Purchases dominate the top grossing charts and a relatively small cadre of games soak up the majority of money spent on the App Store, making it harder than ever to succeed as a game developer on the App Store. It’s a familiar story faced by app and game developer alike. Notwithstanding the stiff competition in the games category though, the mobile game market’s sheer size has allowed creative, independent game developers to find ways to succeed on the App Store.

Perhaps most exciting of all though, the success of mobile games has led to an enormous influx of people into gaming who would never have considered themselves gamers. That creates a tremendous opportunity for Apple and game developers which has become all the more interesting as the constraints of early iOS devices have been replaced by hardware that approaches the capability of game consoles. Mobile games stand at a pivotal moment in time that has the potential to upend preconceptions about the distinction between mobile and other video games, but to understand what the future might hold, it’s instructive to start by looking at the past 10 years.

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Adobe Acknowledges Working on a Full Version of Photoshop for the iPad

Bloomberg reports that its sources say that Adobe is working on full versions of its desktop Photoshop app and other Creative Cloud apps for the iPad. Although Adobe has not committed to the October unveiling and 2019 ship date also cited by Bloomberg’s sources, its Chief Product Officer, Scott Belsky did acknowledge that the company is working on a new cross-platform version of Photoshop and other apps. Bloomberg’s sources say Illustrator is one of the other apps being developed for the iPad, which they say will be released sometime after Photoshop.

Belsky, noting that newer versions of Apple’s iPad Pro line are now capable of running Photoshop, told Bloomberg:

“My aspiration is to get these on the market as soon as possible,” Belsky said in an interview. “There’s a lot required to take a product as sophisticated and powerful as Photoshop and make that work on a modern device like the iPad. We need to bring our products into this cloud-first collaborative era.”

The addition of Photoshop and other Creative Suite apps to the iPad would be a significant step forward for the tablet’s push into the pro user market. Currently, only Microsoft’s Surface line of tablets is capable of running a fully-functional version of Adobe’s pro apps, making it the default choice for creative professionals who want to use Creative Suite on a tablet.


MacBook Pros Updated with Faster Processors, Up to 32 GB RAM, New Keyboards, True Tone Displays, and More

In a press release today, Apple announced updates to its MacBook Pro line of notebook computers. The new models feature faster 8th-generation Intel processors with six cores in the 15-inch model and four cores in the 13-inch model. According to Apple, the 15-inch model is up to 70% faster and the 13-inch model two times faster than earlier models.

The new notebooks also support up to 32 GB of RAM and include a True Tone display and Touch Bar. The 15-inch model can be configured with up to 4 TB of SSD storage, while the 13-inch model is limited to a maximum of 2 TB. The new MacBook Pros feature Apple’s T2 chip, which debuted in the iMac Pro and adds ‘Hey Siri’ support to the Mac.

In the wake of issues with recent-generation MacBook and MacBook Pro keyboards, Apple has also updated the keyboard of the new MacBook Pros to a new, quieter third-generation model. Apple’s website doesn't address the new keyboard's performance or whether the issues experienced with earlier models have been resolved. However, according to a story on The Verge:

This new third-generation keyboard wasn’t designed to solve those issues, Apple says. In fact, company representatives strenuously insisted that the keyboard issues have only affected a tiny, tiny fraction of its user base.

In addition to the new notebooks, Apple introduced a leather sleeve for the MacBook Pro that is available in Saddle Brown, Midnight Blue, and Black, which is similar to the leather sleeves available for the MacBook.

The new MacBook Pros are also part of a Back to School promotion that Apple announced today.

Sonos Adds AirPlay 2 Support to Certain Speaker Models

Sonos announced today that it has added AirPlay 2 support to compatible speaker systems. The update allows users to stream audio to the company’s Sonos One, Beam, Playbase, and the second generation Play:5 speakers from iOS apps that support AirPlay 2 and from iTunes on a Mac.

Sonos, which did not support the original AirPlay technology, is the first third-party manufacturer to make AirPlay 2 available to its users. In addition to streaming from iOS devices and Macs, AirPlay 2 will allow Sonos users to incorporate their speakers into multi-room setups that can be managed with Apple’s Home app and controlled with Siri. Sonos speakers that don’t support AirPlay 2 can also be used to stream from Apple devices when paired with an AirPlay 2-compatible Sonos speaker.

The update, which will be free to Sonos customers, can be applied to compatible Sonos speakers using its iOS app.

Developers’ Decade-Long Rollercoaster Ride: The Business of Selling Apps on the App Store

The case for native third-party apps on the iPhone was apparent immediately. By creating a device that blends into the background – with functionality entirely driven by software – Apple built a mobile computing platform that could become anything, so long as there was an app to drive the experience. The idea that the iPhone might be limited to a handful of stock Apple apps felt like a horrible waste to developers who were hungry to build their own apps.

When developers arrived in San Francisco for WWDC in 2007, they were eager for news of a native iPhone SDK. Instead, Scott Forstall took the stage and introduced iPhone web apps as Apple’s ‘sweet solution'. It didn’t go over well.

Fortunately, Apple’s flirtation with web apps was short-lived. By the fall of 2007, Steve Jobs confirmed that the company was working on an iPhone SDK for third-party developers, which was released in March 2008.

About four months later, the App Store launched on July 10, 2008, with around 500 apps. Ten years later, the Store offers over 2.1 million. Of course, a lot has happened in between too:

  • 2008: The App Store was launched with roughly 500 free and paid apps and games.
  • 2009: In-App Purchases were added for paid apps, followed by free apps a few months later.
  • 2010: Apple launched its iAd in-app advertising platform.
  • 2013: By its 5th anniversary, the App Store featured over 900,000 apps.
  • 2015: Apple Senior Vice President Phil Schiller took over responsibility for the App Store.
  • 2016: Apple expanded the categories of apps that can use auto-renewing subscriptions, discontinued iAd, and launched a search ads program. Free, time-limited In-App Purchases were also used for the first time to approximate free trials of apps.
  • 2017: Apple redesigned the App Store with daily editorial content.
  • 2018: As of WWDC, the App Store offered over 2.1 million apps and had paid developers over $100 billion in 10 years.

It’s hard to overstate the meteoric growth of the App Store as a marketplace. Over the course of a decade, the App Store’s history has been dominated by rapid growth and constant change that’s been highlighted by spectacular successes, failures, and controversies. Nowhere has that change been more pronounced than the economics of the App Store. It’s a story that has had a profound effect on the way software is sold and how users relate to the apps they use.

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App Store 10th Anniversary: The AppStories Interview Series

As Federico explained yesterday, we knew from the earliest planning stages of our coverage of the App Store’s 10th anniversary that we wanted to include interviews with the developers and designers of apps and games we love. We do interviews periodically on AppStories and knew it would be the perfect way to let the people whose lives have been affected by the App Store tell their stories in their own words. Over the course of this week, we will post one episode of AppStories each day featuring interviews on a wide variety of topics that complement the in-depth stories you can read here on MacStories.

If you haven’t subscribed to AppStories yet, you can do so with the links at the bottom of this post or listen here in your browser using the embedded players below. As new episodes are published this week, we will update this post with the latest interviews.

I hope you enjoy these conversations as much as we did recording them.

Sponsored by:

Episode 69 - An Interview with Ryan Cash and Harry Nesbitt of Team Alto

Federico and John are joined by Team Alto members Ryan Cash and Harry Nesbitt.

Episode 68 - Interviews with Michael Flarup and Marc Edwards

Federico and John interview Michael Flarup and Marc Edwards about iOS app design.

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The Decade-Long Road to Trism 2

Variety has an in-depth profile of Steve Demeter, the former Wells Fargo software developer who created Trism, one of the App Store’s earliest hit games.

Demeter became the face of the App Store gold rush for many people. His game, Trism, was one of the 500 apps that debuted on the App Store 10 years ago next Tuesday. The game, which incorporated the iPhone’s accelerometer, earned $250,000 in its first two months. With 3 million lifetime downloads, many at $4.99 each, Demeter quit his job as a developer at Wells Fargo to work on a sequel, eventually pouring all of the original game’s earnings into the effort:

Lost in the shadow of his initial success and worrying about a sophomore slump, the development of “Trism 2” became a nightmare cycle of starting and restarting, creating and destroying.

Eventually, Trism’s earnings dried up and Demeter got a job at Storm8 and later, FoxNext Games. Now, 10 years after Trism’s release, Demeter is releasing its sequel, Trism 2 to coincide with the 10th anniversary of the App Store with the help of FoxNext.

After all these years, it’s great to see Trism 2 launch, and the tenth anniversary of the App Store feels like the perfect time given it’s unique spot in App Store history. We’ve got special coverage of the App Store’s 10th anniversary coming from the entire MacStories team next week, so be sure to check back then.