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Posts tagged with "app store"

The iOS App Icon Book: The MacStories Review

I’ve eagerly awaited The iOS App Icon Book by Michael Flarup ever since it was first announced in 2018. The book sits dead center among topics that are at the heart of MacStories: apps, app preservation, and design. As a result, my expectations were high, and I’m happy to report that it doesn’t disappoint. If you care about apps, you’ll love The iOS App Icon Book.

The cover of The iOS App Icon Book sets the tone with a large iridescent squircle, the shape that defines every app icon. It’s the canvas on which every app icon is created. The squircle has become iconic in its own right, creating a consistent thread that ties disparate designs together into a coherent whole. The shimmering foil used for the book’s squircle is an excellent touch that hints at the colorful variety of icons between its convers.

The iOS App Icon Book is an art book at its core. The book’s pages are packed with icons of varying sizes, but the book also features essays by Flarup, a foreward by Bjango’s Marc Edwards, a history of iOS iconography by Jim Nielsen, and profiles of a dozen designers and design studios. The focus of the book lies firmly on the icons themselves, but I’m glad the essays and profiles were included. The essays provide an outlet for anyone who happens upon The iOS App Icon Book and wants to know more about the history and design of icons, while the profiles put a face to some of the artwork on its pages.

Of course, the stars of The iOS App Icon Book are the icons themselves. Each high-resolution image is reproduced in vivid colors on high-quality paper that makes browsing through the book’s pages a pleasure. As someone who writes about apps, I enjoyed flipping through the pages, rediscovering the icons of apps from the early days of the App Store alongside the icons of apps I use every day. It’s a careful mix of old and new that blends the context of early app iconography with current design trends.

As you flip through The iOS App Icon Book, you’ll find that the icons are arranged in a number of different ways. Some are grouped by color, while others are organized thematically, like the pages featuring food, games, and photography apps. My favorite part of The iOS App Icon Book, though, is the pages that trace the evolution of specific icons. Each version is dated and connected by horizontal lines to indicate its lineage. It’s fascinating to see the directions that designers have taken app icons over the years.

The one thing that The iOS App Icon Book doesn’t do that I would have liked to have seen is trace the evolution of the icons used for some of Apple’s system apps. That may not have been feasible given the need to get rights to the artwork for printing in a book. However, it would have been interesting to see the extent to which Apple’s design work has influenced third-party designers.


iOS app icons are the first thing that users encounter when they download an app and use it for the first time. Icons set the tone and personality of an app. It’s an important part of the app experience that has a rich history on iOS. The iOS App Icon Book brings that history to life in a way that immediately had me flipping back and forth through its pages, rediscovering old favorites and studying the details of icons I’d never run across before. I highly recommend it for anyone interested in apps and design.

The iOS App Icon Book is still available to pre-order for €60.00 from its website.


Paper’s 10th Anniversary

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a decade since the drawing app Paper was released on the iPad. Andy Allen, a co-founder of FiftyThree, the company that released the app in 2012, marked the anniversary with a post on Andy Works that recounts the app’s origin story during the early days of the iPad.

According to Allen, Paper was born from the ashes of Microsoft’s prototype device called the Courier, which was never released:

While Paper was born in 2012, its roots go back a few years prior when we co-founders first met at Microsoft working on the idea for a new device called Courier. Before the iPad, this was a two-screen digital journal + pen with an entirely new OS and apps designed for a very un-Microsoft customer—creative types. Despite internal excitement for the product, Ballmer shut down Courier in 2010, and if it wasn’t for a leaked prototype video that caused a stir online, things might’ve ended there.

Allen’s post also describes the unconventional design decisions that drove Paper’s unique look and interaction model, which anyone interested in the history and process of app design will love. What really struck me, though, was Allen’s observations about the Paper’s resilience, which is more an exception than a rule:

Most apps from the early App Store-era that were hailed for their design are no longer with us (Path). Yet Paper is still here. And in much the same form as when it was first released having weathered the many tides of changing UI trends (flat design) and iOS updates. The same principles continued guiding it through new features, experiments, and even full rewrites. Every part replaced, yet its soul intact.

Yet, despite Paper’s longevity, even it isn’t immune from the impermanence of modern apps:

In writing this article, I wanted to get the original version of Paper 1.0 running on an old iPad. I tried for a full day but failed. A reminder that our work is transient—here for its moment and then gone.

I’m glad Allen shared these stories about Paper. Too many of the tales of the early App Store have already been lost, and Paper is an important milestone in that history that illustrates the kind of creativity and innovation that the iPad made possible.

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Wordle! Developer to Donate Game Proceeds to Charity

Wordle is the web-only daily word game that has taken the Internet by storm. The simple, free game by Josh Wardle struck a nerve, quickly spreading thanks to its social-media-friendly score sharing and a New York Times profile of the game’s backstory.

The game also spawned a legion of rip-off versions that appeared on the App Store and were ultimately taken down by Apple. However, one of the App Store apps that saw a spike in downloads last week wasn’t a Wordle clone. It was an entirely different game called Wordle! that was first published five years ago by Steven Cravotta.

Emma Roth, writing for The Verge reports that Cravotta has decided to donate the proceeds of Wordle! to charity at the end of January. According to Roth:

Cravotta says that downloads for Wordle! slowed to around one to two per day, but when the browser-based Wordle started taking off, so did his app. The app racked up 200,000 downloads in a single week, albeit from confused users who mistook it for the browser-based Wordle. Cravotta reached out to Wordle app developer, Josh Wardle, and let him know about his plans to donate the proceeds from his app to charity — Wardle sent out a tweet of his own to acknowledge the gesture.

Cravotta told The Verge that the earnings from Wordle!, which stand at just over $2,000 so far, will be donated to BoostOakland, a charity that supports tutoring and mentoring young people in Oakland, California. After the gleeful tweets by one Wordle clone developer, it’s refreshing to read about Cravotta’s plans for the windfall he received from the similarity between his game and Wardle’s.

If you’re a Wordle fan, be sure to check out WordleBot, Federico’s shortcut inspired by Wordle’s score sharing feature. The shortcut preserves the game’s iconic score-sharing graphic but adds text labels to each row to improve the accessibility of scores on services like Twitter and provide additional context to the results.

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Apple Recaps Its 2021 Services

In a press release today, Apple shared an update on the success of its services. According to Eddy Cue, Apple’s senior vice president of Services:

Apple’s world-class portfolio of services proved essential in 2021, as people worldwide sought new ways to keep entertained, informed, connected, and inspired. With over 745 million paid subscriptions, Apple continues to connect the world’s developers, artists, and storytellers with users across more than a billion devices, delivering powerful tools, content, and experiences that enrich their lives in profound ways every day.

Apple says that developers have earned more than $260 billion on the apps and games sold through the App Store since its inception in 2008. That’s a $60 billion increase since last year’s services announcement. The company also reports that 2021 was another record year for sales, and the Christmas to New Years Day period saw double-digit sales growth. However, unlike past years, sales numbers weren’t shared for the week between Christmas and New Years Day or for New Years Day.

Apple has created lists of 2021’s most downloaded apps and games, if you are curious about which apps resonated with the most users last year.

Apple’s press release recaps a long list of achievements of its other services, too, recapping the highlights of 2021, including the nominations and awards won by Apple TV+, the expansion of Apple Pay, and the recent additions to Fitness+. Having followed this annual services press release since its earliest days, what’s most impressive is how long the list of services has grown. What was once primarily an App Store and Apple Music recap now covers a much broader range of services.


Apple Names the 2021 App of the Year Award Winners

Apple has revealed its annual App of the Year winners. This year, the company picked a collection of 15 apps and games from among the millions available on the App Store, naming them the Apps of the Year. In recent years, Apple has also used its App of the Year awards as an opportunity to highlight trends on the App Store. This year, the company’s App Store editorial team picked just one trend, Connection, sharing a collection of 5 apps that span a wide spectrum of genres.

Just like last year, Apple has honored 15 apps and games as the App of the Year winners from a wide variety of categories. According to Apple’s press release:

“The developers who won App Store Awards in 2021 harnessed their own drive and vision to deliver the best apps and games of the year — sparking the creativity and passion of millions of users around the world,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “From self-taught indie coders to inspiring leaders building global businesses, these standout developers innovated with Apple technology, with many helping to foster the profound sense of togetherness we needed this year.”

Mac App of the Year, Craft.

Mac App of the Year, Craft.

This year’s app winners are:

Apple Arcade Game of the Year, Fantasian.

Apple Arcade Game of the Year, Fantasian.

Apple also recognized games on each of its platforms, plus its Arcade service:

Apple Watch App of the Year, CARROT Weather.

Apple Watch App of the Year, CARROT Weather.

The App Store editorial team sees a lot of apps every year, and the trend it saw emerge in 2021 was ‘Connection,’ a theme embodied in the following apps:

Bumble is among five apps selected as embodying the Trend of the Year, Connection.

Bumble is among five apps selected as embodying the Trend of the Year, Connection.

In addition to naming this year’s winners, Apple called out each of the developers of the apps and games in a special ‘Developers make all the difference’ story, which links to profiles of each app and game. You’ll also find features on each app and game in Apple’s App Store apps.

Apple has created a profile story for each App of the Year winner.

Apple has created a profile story for each App of the Year winner.

To commemorate this year’s App of the Year winners, Apple’s designers created physical awards, which made their first appearance last year. The blue awards resemble the App Store’s icon and are made from 100% recycled aluminum with the winner’s name engraved on the back.

Picking the best apps of the year isn’t easy, which makes it easy to quarrel with individual picks. However, I think the choices by Apple’s editorial team this year do an excellent job of capturing a wide range of the best that the App Store has to offer.

Congratulations to this year’s Apple App of the Year award winners. I always enjoy seeing developers’ hard work and contributions to Apple’s platforms recognized.


Coming Soon: The Fourth Annual MacStories Selects Awards, Featuring Expanded Readers’ Choice and New Lifetime Achievement Awards

Soon, we’ll announce the fourth annual MacStories Selects Awards, honoring our favorite apps in a wide variety of categories. Winners will receive a physical MacStories Selects award designed by MacStories’ Silvia Gatta. As with last year, awards will be selected in the following eight categories:

  • App of the Year
  • Best New App
  • Best App Update
  • Best New Feature
  • Best Design
  • Best Watch App
  • Best Mac App
  • Readers’ Choice Award

We’re also making a couple of changes this year to expand the awards and Club MacStories member participation.

First, we’re introducing an all-new Lifetime Achievement Award to recognize an app that has had an important impact on the world of apps. We’ll be choosing an app beloved by users and inspiring to developers, which has left its mark on the App Store’s history.

Second, we’re adjusting the Readers’ Choice Award to incorporate Club MacStories’ new structure.

All Club members can nominate their favorite apps for the Readers’ Choice Award. A link to the nomination form and details about which apps are eligible for the award can be found in Issue 297 of MacStories Weekly right at the beginning of the issue. Nominations will be accepted until 5:00 PM Eastern US time on Monday, November 15th.

After nominations close, we’ll tally the submissions and open voting on the top five nominees to Club MacStories+ and Club Premier members via our Discord community. Voting will conclude at Noon Eastern US time on Thursday, November 18th.

For more details on Club MacStories, please visit plus.club.

Every year, we look at hundreds of terrific apps. MacStories Selects is our way to call out a handful of our absolute favorites that are shining examples of the best apps on Apple’s platforms.

We look forward to sharing our selections and our Club members’ pick. We’ll be handling announcements a little differently this year, too, so keep an eye on all we do here and elsewhere for the big reveal in December.


What Does It All Mean?: A Look at Judge Gonzalez Rogers’ Decision in the Epic Versus Apple Trial

Yesterday, US District Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers decided Epic Games’ antitrust lawsuit against Apple, delivering a ruling in favor of Apple that comes with significant caveats. Although the Judge found that Apple‘s operation of the App Store isn’t an exercise of monopolistic power, she concluded that App Review Guidelines and related provisions of its agreements with developers foster a lack of pricing transparency store-wide that undermines competition under California law. So, while the decision is undeniably a win for Apple in many respects, it’s also a decidedly mixed bag. I’ve taken the time to read Judge Gonzalez Rogers’ 185-page decision and having written an in-depth look at the issues going into the trial, I thought I’d follow up with what the Court’s ruling is likely to mean for Epic and Apple as well as all developers and consumers.

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Apple to Allow Reader Apps to Link to Account Management Pages on the Web in Early 2022

Apple has resolved an investigation by the Japan Fair Trade Commission by agreeing to allow ‘reader’ apps to link to websites to set up and manage an account with the app’s provider beginning in early 2022. The agreement reflects a loosening of existing App Store Guidelines and will be applied worldwide, but it’s also narrow.

First, the agreement is limited to what Apple refers to as ‘reader‘ apps. In App Review parlance, these are apps like the Netflix or Spotify apps, which “provide previously purchased content or content subscriptions for digital magazines, newspapers, books, audio, music, and video.’

Second, the developers of ‘reader’ apps can only share ‘a single link to their website to help users set up and manage their account.’ That language suggests, for example, that users could follow a link in the Kindle app to manage their Amazon account and perhaps initiate Kindle book transfers to an Apple device, but it seems to preclude the Kindle app from offering a catalog of books with links to a product page in a web browser. However, the press release does suggest a link could be used to set up a subscription to digital content like Netflix or Comixology Unlimited.

Third, the agreement doesn’t address videogame streaming services, which Apple does not consider to be ‘reader’ apps. Streaming games fall under a separate section of the App Review Guidelines, which require each game to be submitted to App Review.

The changes announced to end the Japan Fair Trade Commission investigation only affect a narrow category of apps and will only provide a single link out to the web. However, the agreement is a sign that the legal and regulatory scrutiny around the world is beginning to force Apple to change how it runs the App Store. With the number of pending lawsuits and investigations that remain outstanding worldwide, I expect we’ll see more of this sort of adjustment to App Store practices in the upcoming months.


2021 Apple Design Awards Given to Twelve Developers

The annual Apple Design Awards were handled a little differently this year. On June 1st, the company, for the first time, announced finalists in six categories: Inclusivity, Delight and Fun, Interaction, Social Impact, Visuals and Graphics, and Innovation. For each category, Apple picked six finalists for a total of 36 ADA contenders.

As a part of sessions held at WWDC today, Apple announced the 12 winners, an app and game in each category:

Inclusivity

App Winner: Voice Dream Reader

Apple picked Voice Dream Reader as the winner for the app Inclusivity ADA for its use of VoiceOver technology. The app is a text-to-speech reader that can turn any document or ebook into audio.

Game Winner: HoloVista

In the game Inclusivity category, Apple chose HoloVista, a game where you explore a mysterious mansion, filled with secrets you need to uncover.

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