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Posts tagged with "app store"

Finding the Best Apps

Nick Statt, writing for The Verge, has a suggestion to make sure you end up using the app that's right for you:

And therein lies the secret to finding the best apps: don't use what works until you know it works better than the rest. In an era of free services and near-instant downloads, it often costs us nothing but our time and a little bit of effort to experiment with half a dozen products before settling on the one we're most comfortable with. And nothing is ever perfect. No matter what we read, or how many stars or good reviews something has, it takes a firsthand investigation to see if it's perfect for you.

This pretty much sums up the way I look at years of app coverage here at MacStories, and why I'm not a big fan of "the best app for X" roundups with a single recommendation. In today's sea of mobile apps, "best" is a fleeting reward, often reset with weekly updates, semi-annual redesigns, features adopted by other apps, and discontinued services.

"What works for you" is, I think, a more approachable, relatable consideration. There's an argument to be made about evaluating dozens of similar apps and pointing out an absolute "winner" in terms of amount of available features, stability, price, or other objective metrics, but a single "best" implies a one-size-fits-all nature that just doesn't work with the App Store anymore. Maybe seven years ago, when you could count iPhone apps in the hundreds, but not today. To mention a recent example: I could say that 2Do is my favorite task manager or the one with the most customization options or free updates, but it's not necessarily the best for everyone.

This is also why I strive to keep a fresh mind and stay curious about apps. The only way for me to stay on top of the ever-changing App Store ecosystem is to try as many apps as I can and challenge my preconceptions – always asking myself "Would this app make me save time, be more efficient, and work better?".

Sometimes it's not fun, it's a time-consuming process, and it's definitely not cheap, but, after all, this is what I chose to do. And it often pays off with some nice surprises.


iOS App Icon Colors in 2015

Hwee-Boon Yar:

I wrote a couple of Ruby scripts and pulled charts from the iOS US app store using RSS feeds from Apple, downloaded the icons and extracted the primary colors used in each icon. I then wrote a Mac app to generate the numbers, charts and tables. The Newsstand category includes apps from several charts and did not have a separate paid app chart so while I have included the data for completeness sake, I wouldn't be looking at it.

I extract the primary color from each icon and put them loosely into one of these color groups: red, green, blue, black, white and gray. If they are identified as black, white and gray, I look at their secondary color and try to place them into red, green, blue instead where possible (e.g a small, single blue letter on a white background might work better if it's classified as blue instead of white).

The app icons for each chart are then stacked vertically. The taller a column is, the more commonly that color is used for icons in that chart.

The data was pulled over several days from 16 Dec to 22 Dec 2015.

You may remember a similar research by Stuart Hall from earlier this year. Hwee-Boon Yar's builds upon it with more details for categories and a full breakdown of distribution of app icons. I'm always fascinated by these studies.


Apple Names Jeff Williams Chief Operating Officer, Phil Schiller Adds App Store Responsibilities

This morning, Apple announced some major changes to its executive team:

Apple today announced that Jeff Williams has been named chief operating officer and Johny Srouji is joining Apple’s executive team as senior vice president for Hardware Technologies. Phil Schiller, senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, will expand his role to include leadership of the revolutionary App Store across all Apple platforms. Apple also announced that Tor Myhren will join Apple in the first calendar quarter of 2016 as vice president of Marketing Communications, reporting to CEO Tim Cook.

Jeff Williams has been with the company since 1998 and has overseen the entire supply chain since 2010. Johny Srouji joined Apple in 2008 to lead the development of the A4, the company's first system on a chip.

Also of note, Phil Schiller is now taking additional responsibilities for the App Store:

Cook continued, “In addition, Phil is taking on new responsibilities for advancing our ecosystem, led by the App Store, which has grown from a single, groundbreaking iOS store into four powerful platforms and an increasingly important part of our business. And I’m incredibly happy to welcome Tor Myhren, who will bring his creative talents to our advertising and marcom functions.”


With added responsibility for the App Store, Phil Schiller will focus on strategies to extend the ecosystem Apple customers have come to love when using their iPhone, iPad, Mac, Apple Watch and Apple TV. Phil now leads nearly all developer-related functions at Apple, in addition to his other marketing responsibilities including Worldwide Product Marketing, international marketing, education and business marketing. More than 11 million developers around the world create apps for Apple’s four software platforms — iOS, OS X, watchOS and tvOS — as well as compatible hardware and other accessories, and customers have downloaded more than 100 billion apps across those platforms.

The App Store has long been criticized by the developer community for lacking proper accountability and a public figure in charge of the platform. It'll be interesting to see how the App Store platforms will evolve and adapt following Schiller's extended role.


The Numbers of Apple’s New TV App Store So Far

A month after the launch of the new Apple TV and associated App Store, the folks at appFigures have released some numbers on the TV apps available to users:

The long awaited Apple TV App Store opened about a month ago, and since we happen to be into apps that got us pretty excited. We started tracking the new store when it had just opened in late October, and have been keeping a close watch on its progress for a little over a month now. Armed with a database full of apps we set out to share some of the things we’re seeing.

These are some fascinating stats – I wasn't expecting Education apps to be high in the list and, given Apple's promotion during the Apple TV introduction, I imagined we'd see more Shopping apps.

With over 60% apps available for free and 85% of them priced between $0.99 and $2.99, it'll be interesting to see what happens when and if some console games come to the platform.


Apple Highlights Apps and Games Updated for iPad Pro

In yesterday's weekly refresh of the App Store's front page, Apple launched a new section highlighting apps updated to support the iPad Pro with design optimizations and new features.

Creativity and productivity soar when you pair great apps with iPad Pro. We've compiled some of our favorites that take advantage of its expansive Retina display and astounding performance. On iPad Pro, everything from drawing to multitasking to watching videos is a stunning experience.

The section is organized in six sub-categories, each grouping apps that have been updated with integrations for specific iPad Pro and iOS 9 features, such as 'Enhanced for Apple Pencil', 'Powerful Multitasking', or 'Desktop-Class Apps'. Featured apps include well-known names such as Evernote, 1Password, Slack, and OmniGroup apps, but also apps from smaller indie studio like Numerics (which takes advantage of the Pencil in an interesting way), LiquidText, Curator, and Workflow.

With the exception of Apple Pencil, apps featured by Apple in this section don't have access to iOS features that are exclusive to the iPad Pro, and they're not iPad Pro-only apps. Instead, Apple is highlighting apps that optimize for the iPad Pro's hardware and bigger screen to augment existing iOS 9 functionalities. Thanks to the 12.9-inch display, multitasking on the iPad Pro is more powerful than its counterpart on the iPad Air 2; with the four speaker audio system, video apps can be more immersive.

In a separate section, Apple is also highlighting games for iPad Pro – which include titles like The Room Three, Broken Age, and Geometry Wars 3. You can find the section here.

App Store Gets New Shopping Category

Rene Ritchie, writing for iMore:

Apple's App Store for iPhone and iPad is adding a new category—Shopping! It's no secret that there's been an explosion in online shopping and iOS has driven a lot of that growth. Thanks to an incredibly rich ecosystem and empowering technologies like Apple Pay, there's no better way to compare prices, check reviews, and grab deals when on the go than iPhone, and no better place to sit back, browse, share, and check out than on iPad. And that's probably why Apple is moving shopping apps out of Lifestyle and into a category all their own.

From Apple's developer blog:

The new Shopping category is now available in all 155 App Store territories. This category makes it easy for iPhone and iPad users to find and enjoy apps that enhance the shopping experience—including mobile commerce apps, marketplace apps, coupon apps, and apps that incorporate Apple Pay.

Interesting that Apple has teamed up with some of the featured companies to run promotions to celebrate the new category. And it's a smart move to do this before the holiday season, when millions of people will be buying gifts and browsing catalogues directly from their iPhones and iPads. Yet another example of just how much mobile has changed online commerce over the past few years – it needed its own App Store category.


Apple Adds Categories to the Apple TV App Store

Jeff Benjamin on iDownloadBlog notes that the Apple TV App Store now has a Categories section:

Good news for Apple TV owners looking for better ways to discover new apps on the App Store. After adding Top Charts, Apple has added a new Categories section to the App Store as well. As of now, the Categories section appears to be a bit limited, so far listing only Games and Entertainment.

On Monday it was the introduction of Top Charts to the Apple TV's App Store, and today it's the introduction of Categories (albeit limited to just two at the moment). Apple's listening and (thankfully) moving quickly to address concerns about app discoverability. The next thing that should be on their list, in my opinion, is the ability to link to Apple TV apps and preview them on the web. And whilst we're on the topic of Apple TV wishes, let's hope a few developers at Apple have also been re-allocated to quickly update the iOS Remote app to support the new Apple TV.

Although the Categories section appears to be US-only for the moment, this will likely roll-out internationally within a few days. Top Charts was also limited to the US at first, but is now available internationally.


Plex Now Available on Apple TV, and Apple Adds Top Charts to Apple TV App Store

The highly anticipated official Plex app for the new Apple TV is now available on the App Store as a free download. The Plex Apple TV app can play all of your video, music, TV and photo collections from any computer or NAS device that you install the Plex Media Server on. You can view more screenshots of the Plex Apple TV app on the Plex Blog.

There truly isn’t any other platform we’ve wanted to be on for as long as we have the Apple TV. Today’s the day, and we’re celebrating. The app is free in the app store for everyone, and requires the latest media server.

Meanwhile, Apple appears to have listened to some of the complaints about the lack of discoverability in the Apple TV App Store and added a Top Charts section. Just as it does on iOS, the Top Charts section is broken down into Top Free, Top Paid and Top Grossing lists.

Top Charts is currently limited to the US App Store, but it seems likely that the feature will roll out to international stores over the coming days. Unsurprisingly, the lists for the Top Paid and Top Grossing apps are dominated by games, whilst the Top Free list is mostly occupied by media and entertainment apps. If you don't have access to an Apple TV or live outside the US, you can see the top 10 apps in each list on MacRumors.

Perhaps in another effort to increase the discoverability of Apple TV apps, Apple has refreshed the App Store Featured page and is now highlighting some new apps. Typically on the iOS App Store they only refresh the App Store Featured page once a week on Thursdays. Hopefully this happens more frequently on the Apple TV App Store, at least until they introduce categories or some other ways to discover apps that aren't featured or trending.

When a Dev Dies

Craig Grannell has written about a topic that is very dear to me – app preservation in the age of the App Store. Specifically, he wonders what happens to an app when its developer passes away:

Recently, I was asked by a games mag you’ve probably all heard of to write about Apple TV and gaming, largely from a development standpoint. As ever under such circumstances, I went through my list of email and Twitter contacts, seeing this as a good opportunity to offer some exposure to indie developers whose work I’ve enjoyed over the years. One response came back very quickly, albeit from a name I didn’t quite recognise. The message was in fact from a developer’s wife; the person I was trying to get in touch with had died the previous week.

The developer in question was Stewart Hogarth, who’d lost his battle with congenital heart disease; he was just 34. We’d only been in touch a few times, but I’d been captivated a couple of years ago by his truly excellent 8-bit tribute I Am Level for iOS and Android. This was a smart, charming, entertaining title that married eye-searing Spectrum-style graphics, old-school single-screen platforming challenges, and modern mobile tilt-based controls. It was still installed on all of my devices, and it was strange and very sad to think that the person who created it was no longer with us.

I know that this topic is uncomfortable to discuss, but it's an important one. If we want to treat apps as cultural artifacts more than ephemeral utilities – at least some of them – we need to talk about ways to preserve them.

I genuinely believe that, years from now, apps and games will be studied as interesting data points and references for our society, behaviors, and sociological traits. Today, quite paradoxically, in many cases it's actually easier to preserve physical media than digital app store (lowercase, as it applies to every company) content and developers' back catalogues. Servers that eventually disappear, expired contracts, apps that are no longer supported on the latest OS – it doesn't make much sense to me that the rules and limitations of software make it harder to preserve apps than something which physically decays.

I continue to believe that app preservation is a topic worth discussing, and Craig is touching on an important aspect of it.