Monument Valley 2 was announced and released during the WWDC keynote this past June. Andrew Webster at The Verge talked to the team behind the game about keeping the sequel a secret and the success the game has enjoyed in the subsequent months.
Since WWDC, the follow-on to one of the biggest App Store hits in recent years is selling well, including in China where sales are greater than in the US. Still, it remains to be seen whether ustwo’s latest release can match the original, which did even better in its second year on the App Store. Asked about how that kind of success can be replicated, ustwo head Dan Gray said:
“Your game needs to operate on a number of levels — at least that’s how we work,” he says. “When we think about how kids interact with Monument Valley, they treat it like a toy. There are these amazing structures, and it’s very tactile, there’s a lot of audiovisual feedback. That’s the most simple form of interaction. And then there are the people who understand the basic premise. In Monument Valley 2, that is a mother and child trying to solve problems together. Then there are the people who talk on internet forums and Twitter, and have really high-level, deep discussion.”
The Verge’s profile coincides with the release of a behind-the-scenes video created by ustwo that follows its team as they fly to San Jose and reveal Monument Valley 2 to the world.
Ahead of the upcoming public releases of iOS 11 and watchOS 4 on September 19th and macOS High Sierra on September 25th, Apple has told developers via its developer website that App Store submissions are open.
From Apple's developer news site:
You can now submit your apps that take advantage of exciting new features available in the next release of macOS, iOS, watchOS, and tvOS. Build your apps using Xcode 9 GM seed, test with the latest releases of macOS High Sierra, iOS 11, watchOS 4, tvOS 11, and submit them for review.
Apple has added scores of new features to its operating systems that developers can take advantage of to improve existing apps and create all-new ones that were impossible before the new APIs were introduced. Perhaps most anticipated are the additions to iOS that enable brand new features to the iPad like the dock, drag and drop, Split View enhancements, and much more.
You can also follow all of our Apple event coverage through our September 12 hub, or subscribe to the dedicated September 12 RSS feed.
Oliver Yeh of Sensor Tower shares a revealing statistic regarding the current state of App Store revenue for 32-bit apps, which will no longer be available for purchase or download in iOS 11:
The potential revenue Apple stands to lose from eliminating 32-bit app support in iOS 11, expected to launch next week, will amount to less than 1 percent of its portion of quarterly App Store revenue, according to Sensor Tower research. Based on an analysis of our Store Intelligence data, we have estimated that these older apps, which will cease to function in the upcoming release, accounted for approximately $37.5 million in worldwide gross revenue last quarter, of which Apple’s cut—about $11.3 million—made up a mere 0.41 percent of its total revenue from in-app purchases and paid apps on iPhone and iPad.
While it should come as no surprise that 32-bit apps make up a small portion of App Store sales, this new data reveals just how inconsequential that portion has now become.
ProTube, a YouTube power-user app that I reviewed last year, has long had features that the official YouTube doesn’t have or was slow to implement. Features like background audio playback, support for 4K video at 60fps, Split View support, Picture in Picture, and a URL scheme for automation, put Google’s YouTube app to shame. However, as the YouTube app began to implement some of ProTube’s unique features as part of its $10/month YouTube Red service, I wondered what might become of ProTube. Unfortunately, it looks like the answer came late last week when Apple pulled ProTube from the App Store.
According to developer Jonas Gessner,
YouTube first requested Apple to remove my app well over a year ago, initially just stating that my app violates their Terms of Service. This was a generic takedown request they sent to many YouTube apps at once. They later started going into more detail, even stating that I could not sell the app as that alone violates their ToS. They basically wanted me to remove every feature that made ProTube what it is – that includes the player itself that allows you to play 60fps videos, background playback, audio only mode and more.
The app, which was pulled from the App Store on September 1st is no longer available for sale and will no longer receive updates, but remains available to re-download if you previously purchased it.
It’s a shame to see ProTube go. It implemented features Google didn’t care, or want, to add but that a subset of YouTube users wanted as demonstrated by the top charts numbers in Gessner’s post. However, ProTube also implemented features that YouTube wanted to reserve for paid subscribers and the result, while disappointing, is one of the risks of building an app on top of someone else’s service.
Ulysses, the popular text editor and 2016 Apple Design Award winner, announced today that it has adopted a new subscription pricing model. A post on the Ulysses blog by Ulysses co-founder, Marcus Fehn, covers the details:
- Users can try Ulysses for free for 14 days before deciding whether to subscribe. After 14 days, Ulysses works in a read-only mode, but documents can still be exported.
- Ulysses subscriptions are $4.99/month or $39.99/year.
- Subscribing unlocks both the iOS and macOS versions of Ulysses.
- Students can subscribe for $10.99 for six-month periods.
- Existing users can take advantage of a limited-time lifetime discount equal to 50% off the monthly subscription price.
- Users who recently purchased Ulysses on macOS will be given a free-use period of up to 12 months depending on when they purchased the app. Users who bought Ulysses on iOS can receive up to an additional 6 months of free use.
Existing versions of Ulysses for iOS and macOS have been removed from the App Store and Mac App Store, but have been updated for iOS 11 and High Sierra, so they will continue to work for now if you decide to not subscribe. However, new features will be limited to the new versions of Ulysses that were released on the app stores today. I downloaded both versions and was impressed by the seamless transition, which explained the move to subscription pricing, the limited-time discount offer, and automatically gave me two free months of use even though I bought the apps nearly two years ago.
In addition to the announcement on the Ulysses blog, Max Seelemann, one of Ulysses’ founders, wrote a post on Medium explaining the company’s thinking behind moving to a subscription model that is worth reading. It’s a backstory that has become familiar. Pay-once pricing is not sufficient to sustain ongoing development of professional productivity apps like Ulysses. While Ulysses has enjoyed success, funding the kind of development that pro users expect through growing the app’s user base is not sustainable in the long-term. As Seelemann explains, several options were considered over a long period, but ultimately it’s subscription pricing that gives Ulysses the security and flexibility needed to maintain the app.
I’m glad to see Ulysses adopt subscription pricing. I can’t say that would be the case for every app I use, but I use Ulysses every day. I want it to be actively developed and available for a long time. The tricky part about subscriptions, as we’ve discussed in the past on AppStories, is that the value proposition for each person is different. One person’s mission-critical app might be another’s nice-to-have app and the success of a subscription model depends on picking price points that appeal to a sustainable segment of users. However, the flexibility that Ulysses has adopted with different monthly, yearly, and student pricing tiers in comparison to its pre-subscription pricing strikes me as an approach that is well-positioned to succeed.
Ulysses is available as a free download with a 14-day free trial on the App Store and the Mac App Store.
Equinux, maker of VPN Tracker, Mail Designer Pro, and other products has a fascinating look at the tech behind App Store gift and promo code cards that can be scanned and redeemed with an iPhone or Mac's camera. The company wanted to make scannable cards of its own to hand out at events, so they began investigating how the alphanumeric codes found on the back of the cards work. It turns out there’s quite a bit to it.
After poking around under the hood of iTunes, Equinux discovered that Apple uses a special font, a certain size rectangle surrounding the redemption code, and private framework to scan the codes:
When you look at some of the other folders inside iTunes, we found a tantalizing plugin called “CodeRedeemer.” It showed promise. But alas, no font files there either. The app binary does give a hint of where the heavy lifting is being done: “CoreRecognition.framework.”
Inside the CoreRecognition framework were two fonts, Scancardium and Spendcardium, which, along with the surrounding rectangle, are the keys to creating custom cards.
The entire story is an impressive bit of sleuthing and well worth a read. If you’re a developer and would like to make scannable codes of your own, Equinux’s post includes instructions for doing so, along with Sketch, Photoshop, FileMaker, and Mail Designer Pro templates.
PayPal announced that its payment service is coming to the App Store, Apple Music, iTunes, and iBooks on iOS devices and Macs today, starting in Canada and Mexico with the US and other countries to follow soon. Setting up PayPal works the same as adding a credit card:
Paying with PayPal is simple. Customers with a new or existing Apple ID can select “PayPal” as their payment method from their account settings in the App Store, Apple Music, iTunes [and iBooks] from their iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Mac, or on iTunes from their PC.
After PayPal is enabled, purchases from the selected Apple ID will be made from the customer’s PayPal account.
Adding PayPal should expand the universe of customers making purchases from Apple’s stores by creating an alternative for people who don’t have or don’t want to use a credit card.
According to a Sensor Tower report, the total space required for the top 10 most installed iPhone apps has increased more than 1000% since May 2013, increasing from 164 MB to a whopping 1.8 GB. During that period, Apple has raised the maximum app size from 2 GB to 4 GB and the minimum storage capacity of iPhones to 32 GB, but the size of the most popular iPhone apps has far outstripped those increases. iOS 11 will address the issue in part, with a feature that can offload apps that aren’t used often, while saving settings and user data.
Sensor Tower explains that,
We see the often sudden growth in size exhibited by apps such as Facebook and Snapchat as directly tied to the intense competition between them, which necessitates a steady rollout of new and more space-intensive features. Of course, some apps have likely grown in size simply due to a reduced need (or perception of a need) for optimization.
I'm sure that competition and perception play a role in the increases noted by Sensor Tower, but it would also be interesting to see how deep this trend extends beyond the ten most popular iPhone apps. I suspect it runs deeper than many people realize. Scrolling through the Update tab of the App Store, I have many recent updates on my iPhone that exceed 100 MB, including Apple’s own Keynote, which is 675 MB.
Manton Reece’s assessment of the redesigned App Store coming to iOS 11 is spot on:
The old App Store was designed like a database. Databases are good at showing grids and lists from an algorithm. But the App Store should tell a story about new apps. A blog-like format is the best way to do that.
This plays to Apple’s strengths in design and taste. Where Google might hire more engineers to improve their store, Apple should hire more writers.
Three years ago, Reece argued that Apple should invest heavily in App Store curation, which is precisely what it appears to be doing. The depth and breadth of the new App Store content that Apple has planned is unclear, but during a WWDC session on the changes to the App Store, product manager Pedraum Pardehpoosh declared Apple’s intent to ‘double down’ on editorial curation. If the initial content included with the iOS 11 beta is any indication, Apple may be on track to make the App Store a regular destination for users instead of a place people go to only when they have a specific need.