Today, Apple announced that it is reducing the commissions it pays on apps and In-App Purchases from 7% to 2.5% effective May 1st. The iTunes Affiliate Program pays a commission from Apple's portion of the sale of apps and other media when a purchase is made with a link that contains the affiliate credentials of a member of the program. Anyone can join, but the Affiliate Program is used heavily by websites that cover media sold by Apple and app developers. The announcement, which was made in the May Affiliate News email that Apple sends to participants in the program says:
Starting on May 1st 2017, commissions for all app and in-app content will be reduced from 7% to 2.5% globally. All other content types (music, movies, books, and TV) will remain at the current 7% commission rate in all markets. We will also continue to pay affiliate commissions on Apple Music memberships so there are many ways to earn commissions with the program.
With ad revenue in decline, affiliate commissions are one way that many websites that write about apps generate revenue, MacStories included. Many developers also use affiliate links in their apps and on their websites to supplement their app income. This change will put additional financial pressure on both groups, which is why it’s especially unfortunate that the changes are being made on just one week’s notice.
Curtis Herbert, creator of the excellent Slopes for iOS (I wish I was a skier or snowboarder to use his app), has some great tips for developers on dealing with replies to App Store reviews:
I'd recommend every app owner do the following, today. Head into the review section in iTunes Connect and sort by "Most Helpful." These are reviews that customers have voted should be floated to the top, and that's what Apple does. Take a quick look through there and see which ones you can address.
Future customers are most likely to see your replies to these reviews, so that's the best bang-for-the-buck you can do right now. I went further than that, personally, and re-read a ton of my negative reviews and replied to the ones that met the above goals, but you don't have to rush it.
If you're a developer, you'll want to start engaging with customers right away and work through your existing backlog of reviews. I have a feeling the new ability for developers to reply to customers will fundamentally change the tone and utility of App Store reviews.
Following yesterday's release of iOS 10.3, which introduced the ability for developers to respond to App Store reviews, Apple has released official guidelines for how developer's can best craft responses.
The ideal response is concise and clearly addresses your customer's feedback. Communicate in the tone of your brand, and use terminology your target audience will appreciate and understand. If multiple people in your company can reply to reviews for your app, they should use a similar voice and style. Make sure your replies follow Apple’s Terms and Conditions, which prohibits using profanity, posting users’ personal information, and spamming.
The guidelines also recommend:
- Always providing individualized responses, even if only by pairing a personalized introduction with a more generic response.
- Soliciting feedback from users regarding what they'd like to see in future updates.
- Replying to reviews in a timely, consistent manner.
- Prioritizing responses based on a review's apparent level of importance.
- Writing release notes for app updates that specifically address issues mentioned in past reviews, and letting those past reviewers know of the update.
- Staying on topic with the issue raised by a review; no using replies as a means of advertisement.
Besides these guidelines from Apple, as App Store responses have gone live for the first time, more details have come out concerning how those reviews will work.
It appears that every reply submitted by a developer goes through some sort of review process before it is posted to the App Store. In the following tweet's screenshot, you can see a 'Pending' tag on the developer's review.
It was previously unknown how users would be notified when a developer responds to their App Store review. Although a notification from the App Store app seemed a possibility, Apple has instead chosen to go the route of email notifications. Those emails include a link with the option for reviewers to update their original review.
In a continuation of its current promotion of indie games, the App Store has now added a new section dedicated to featuring indie titles.
Chelsea Stark of Polygon adds:
The section kicked off today and will run indefinitely, according to Apple, featuring new games daily, along with highlighting older titles. The games are a mix of free-to-play and paid titles, all selected by the same editorial team that has been highlighting games through the App Store’s history.
The indie games section can be accessed by tapping the 'Celebrating Indie Games' banner at the top of the App Store. Currently it includes featured columns like:
- Our 25 favorite indie games
- Indie game debuts
- Newly discovered indies
- Indie greats: 99¢ for a limited time
- Indie games celebrate innovation...
This new dedicated hub for indie games is available on the tvOS App Store as well, highlighting the kind of quality games that are available not only on Apple's mobile devices, but also its television platform.
Though Apple has stated that the indie games section will be a permanent fixture, it's unclear at this point in what location it will live on. After the current indie promotion ends, will it remain as the top featured banner a while? Or in another featured banner further down on the App Store page? We'll have to wait and see. In any case though, in an App Store that's often dominated by big players, it's exciting to see extra attention pointed toward indies.
The App Store looks a little different today. If you opened it and thought you accidentally landed on the Games category page, it would be understandable. But that’s not what’s happening. Instead, Apple has launched a major promotion of the finest indie games available on iOS. According to the App Store Games Twitter account, the promotion is running for the next twelve days.
There are many classics featured: Super Hexagon, Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery, Monument Valley, Severed, Her Story, and Space Age to name just a few standouts. In addition to indie classics, the banner across the top of the App Store is promoting Mushroom 11 a new game by Untame that looks great, though I haven’t had a chance to try it yet.
The sheer volume of games on the App Store can make the choices feel overwhelming at times. That’s why it’s great to see Apple spotlighting the very best indie games available on iOS. With 12 days to go in the promotion, I expect it will be worth revisiting Apple’s picks. There are currently some gaps in some of the categories highlighted that I expect will fill in with more games as the promotion continues.
With today's release of the first iOS 10.3 beta for developers, Apple announced two changes that have been highly requested by iOS users and the developer community. iOS 10.3 will offer a developer API to standardize how apps can ask users to rate an app or write a review on the App Store, and developers will get the ability to directly respond to customer reviews on both the iOS and Mac App Store.
The long-anticipated iOS version of The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is now available on the App Store roughly one year after it was rejected by Apple. Isaac is a rogue-like, dungeon crawler game that was originally released in 2014 by indie game studio Nicalis. Apple rejected the iOS version of Isaac in early 2016 for depicting violence against children. Late yesterday, the game appeared on the App Store with a 17+ rating.
Apple isn't the first platform owner to reject Isaac. In 2012, Nintendo initially blocked Isaac from its 3DS eShop, but ultimately relented, publishing the game for the 3DS and Wii U.
The Binding of Isaac: Rebirth is available on the App Store for $14.99.
Sarah Perez, writing for TechCrunch:
Mobile applications from Facebook and Google dominated the new list of the year’s top apps released today by Nielsen. Not surprisingly, Facebook again grabbed the number one spot on the list, with more than 146 million average unique users per month, and 14 percent growth over last year. In fact, Facebook scored several spots on the top 10 chart, thanks to Messenger (#2) and Instagram (#8) – the latter which also showed some of the highest year-over-year growth, up 36 percent from 2015.
Messenger came in second place this year, with over 129 million average unique monthly users, followed by YouTube with over 113 monthly uniques.
However, it was Google, not Facebook, that grabbed the most spots on the year-end chart.
I assume that Nielsen's study accounts for both the App Store and Google Play Store (iOS and Android apps), but their findings match the general state of the iOS App Store's top charts. Notably, the only Apple-made app to make it into the Top 10 is Apple Music, which launched in June 2015 and has 20 million paying subscribers, though Nielsen reports over 68 million "average unique users" for it (Free users? Non-subscriber usage? Family accounts? I'd love to know their methodology for this).
See also, from two years ago: No Ecosystem Is an Island.
Apple announced today that the App Store smashed records in 2016 and on New Year's Day. App developers earned $20 billion in 2016, up 40% from 2015. In addition, on New Year's Day Apple set a single-day App Store record when customers spent $240 million on apps.
Phil Schiller, senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing had this to say:
2016 was a record-shattering year for the App Store, generating $20 billion for developers, and 2017 is off to a great start with January 1 as the single biggest day ever on the App Store. We want to thank our entire developer community for the many innovative apps they have created — which together with our products — help to truly enrich people’s lives.
Apple revealed that Super Mario Run, the much anticipated game from from Nintendo, was the number one most downloaded app on both Christmas Day and New Year's Day. Apple's Apps for Earth and Games for (RED) campaigns also raised over $17 million for charity in 2016 and app subscription billings increased 75% in 2016.