Next week the App Store turns 10. Ahead of that momentous date, Apple has published a new retrospective feature on what the last 10 years have been like:
When Apple introduced the App Store on July 10, 2008 with 500 apps, it ignited a cultural, social and economic phenomenon that changed how people work, play, meet, travel and so much more. Over the past decade, the App Store has created a safe place for users of all ages to get the very best apps and a vibrant app economy for developers of all sizes, from all over the world, to thrive. Today, customers in 155 countries are visiting the App Store more often, staying longer and downloading and using more apps than ever before.
While there have been many notable moments since apps first came to iPhone and later iPad, the milestones and testimonials below reflect some of the most significant over the past 10 years — defining how the App Store democratized software distribution and transformed how we live every day.
The article includes quotes from developers who have published their work on the App Store over the last 10 years, as well as from Apple executives, creators like Nintendo's Shigeru Miyamoto, and more. These quotes are framed within the following 11 topics of the App Store's impact:
I. The App Store Opens Doors for Developers, Puts an All New Experience in the Hands of Customers
II. Mobile-First Businesses Thrive
III. Gaming Takes Off, Reaches New Fans
IV. In-App Purchase, Subscriptions Unlock Experiences
V. Streaming Entertainment Takes Off
VI. Creativity, Productivity and Education Soar Beyond Office, Classroom Walls
VII. Health, Fitness and Wellness Apps Surge in Popularity
VIII. Accessibility Apps Empower Communities
IX. Coding Inspires Future Generations
X. New App Store Features Encourage Discovery
XI. The AR Revolution Awaits
10 is a landmark year, and the App Store has a particularly warm place in the hearts of the MacStories team. We have some special celebration plans coming next week, and can't wait to share them with you.
It's tough selling a paid up front app on the App Store. Users have no way of knowing ahead of time whether an app will fit their needs or not, and no one wants to spend money on an app only to find that it wasn't what they expected. Fortunately, App Store review guidelines have been updated this week to address that problem. Matthew Humphries reports for PCMag:
The updated guidelines state that, "Non-subscription apps may offer a free time-based trial period before presenting a full unlock option by setting up a Non-Consumable IAP item at Price Tier 0 that follows the naming convention: "14-day Trial." Prior to the start of the trial, your app must clearly identify its duration, the content or services that will no longer be accessible when the trial ends, and any downstream charges the user would need to pay for full functionality."
So users will know before they start using an app that it will cost money, but only after X days of free use. The upfront transparency should prevent any user frustration, but it could also greatly improve the quality of content in apps because the developer really needs the user to reach the end of the free trial wanting to pay to continue using/playing.
This isn't necessarily a change of policy, but more an explicit clarification of something that's already been allowed. The Omni Group, for example, began switching its entire suite of apps in September 2016 to the same sales model: free downloads, with In-App Purchases for unlocking full functionality after 14-day trial periods. Since that time, however, very few apps have followed the same path – likely in part due to continued uncertainty regarding what's officially allowed. The updated review guidelines should lead to a welcome increase of paid up front apps transitioning to free downloads with In-App Purchases, thus enabling more ubiquitous free trials across the App Store.
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This evening, capping off the first day of Apple's WWDC conference, the company recognized the best of the App Store at its 2018 Apple Design Awards ceremony.
The Apple Design Awards are a WWDC tradition dating back all the way before the turn of the century. The ceremony is an opportunity for Apple to applaud developers whose apps demonstrate a high level of quality and innovation. 2017's winners included the excellent Things 3 and Bear.
Last year the company broke from its norm for the ADAs by making them a private ceremony, exclusive to the award winners themselves, rather than a public event for all conference attendees. This year things were back to normal, as all developers in attendance could attend.
Apple selected the following apps across iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS as 2018 Apple Design Award winners:
Khoi Vinh, writing about one of my favorite aspects of the iOS 11 App Store:
Apple’s dramatically redesigned App Store got a decent amount of attention when it debuted last year with iOS 11, but its unique success as a hybrid of product design and editorial design has gone little noticed since. That’s a shame, because it’s a huge breakthrough.
I myself paid it scant attention until one day this past winter when I realized that the company was commissioning original illustration to accompany its new format. If you check the App Store front page a few times a week, you’ll see a quietly remarkable display of unique art alongside unique stories about apps, games and “content” (movies, TV shows, comics, etc.). To be clear: this isn’t work lifted from the marketing materials created by app publishers. It’s drawings, paintings, photographs, collages and/or animations that have been created expressly for the App Store.
We don’t see this particular flavor of artistic ambition from many companies today, especially tech companies. The predominant mode of product design almost exclusively favors templates and automation, what can be done without human intervention. The very idea of asking living, breathing art directors who need to be paid real salaries to hire living, breathing illustrators who also need to be paid a living wage in order to create so-called works of art that have no demonstrably reproducible effect on actual profits is outlandish, absurd even. The mere suggestion would get you laughed off of most design teams in Silicon Valley. Design in this century has little use for anything that can’t be quantified.
I haven't seen a lot of praise for the artistic side of the App Store's Today page. I think it's remarkable that Apple is commissioning these illustrations and making them instrumental in highlighting apps and developer stories. Don't miss Vinh's roundup of his favorites.
Apple has introduced new web preview pages for the App Store and Mac App Store. The new design more closely tracks the App Store changes debuted as part of iOS 11. Interestingly, the web previews for Mac apps share the same refreshed design despite the fact that the Mac App Store has barely changed since its introduction in 2011.
The new design features bigger images and more white space. Reviews are laid out horizontally as cards near the bottom of the page. Longer reviews open in a pop-over card that hovers above the page when the ‘more’ link is clicked. Mac apps include a ‘View in Mac App Store’ button near the top of the page too.
The new web previews are only accessible from search results loaded in the desktop version of Safari or another desktop browser. The mobile version of the browser offers to take you to the App Store when a link is tapped, even if you long press the refresh button and pick ‘Request Desktop Site.’ In my tests, the desktop search results that load in mobile Safari look more like their desktop counterparts, but DuckDuckGo and Bing still offer to open the App Store, whereas Google’s links are simply unresponsive.
I like the look of the new preview pages. The old ones were too closely tied to the design of the iTunes App Store, which was eliminated last fall.
The inclusion of Mac app previews is intriguing. It makes sense for both Stores to share a common design language, but the Mac App Store is in desperate need of love and attention for many reasons that extend beyond its design. Whether this is a sign that the Mac App Store will get that attention soon, Mac apps will be thrown in with iOS apps on the App Store, or something else will be interesting to watch.
Panic has announced that it will remove Transmit iOS from the App Store soon. In a blog post today, Cabel Sasser explains that the revenue generated by the paid-up-front app was insufficient to justify its continued development. Sasser doesn’t rule out a return of Transmit to iOS some day, and the move does not affect the company’s other iOS apps or Transmit 5 for the Mac, but adding features to the iOS app to match those debuted in the Mac version last year would make Transmit iOS ‘a guaranteed money-loser.’
This is not Panic’s first pull-back from the App Store. In 2016, Panic pulled the plug on Status Board, its widget-style app for tracking data through web APIs. Why Transmit wasn’t sustainable on iOS is unclear:
Was the use case for this app too edge-casey or advanced? Did we overestimate the amount of file management people want to do on a portable device? Should we have focused more on document viewing capabilities? Maybe all of the above?
Although Transmit will be removed from the App Store soon, Panic updated it with iPhone X support, and existing users will still be able to download it from the App Store and use it until some future change in iOS breaks the app.
I’m sad to see Transmit go. It’s a loss for the platform, but I don’t think it’s a bad omen for ’pro’ iOS productivity apps in general. Transmit failed to get the traction necessary to sustain its further development, but there are still many examples of productivity apps that have found success on the App Store. Hopefully, Panic will find a way to bring Transmit back to iOS one day.
During the week beginning on Christmas Eve, the App Store sold $890 million of apps to a record number of customers. In a press release today, Apple revealed that on New Year’s Day alone, customers bought another $300 million of apps.
“We are thrilled with the reaction to the new App Store and to see so many customers discovering and enjoying new apps and games,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We want to thank all of the creative app developers who have made these great apps and helped to change people’s lives. In 2017 alone, iOS developers earned $26.5 billion — more than a 30 percent increase over 2016.”
That’s a big increase over 2016 and with the tenth anniversary of the App Store on the horizon, the App Store is closing in on a big milestone. Since the App Store launched in July 2008, developers have earned over $86 billion. If App Store sales continue to grow at a pace similar to 2017, developer earnings should top $100 billion just in time for the anniversary.
Apple also stated that over 2,000 ARKit-enabled apps are available in the App Store, contrary to estimates by research firm Apptopia that fewer than 1,000 ARKit apps are available.
Just before the annual holiday shutdown of the App Store, Apple has revised its App Store Review Guidelines to address new App Store functionality like Pre-Orders and clarify or expand a handful of existing guidelines, including the creation of apps from templates and how ’loot boxes’ and VPNs should be handled. Below is a summary of the major changes to the Guidelines. To see all the changes, check out Rich Hong’s App Store Review Guidelines gist on GitHub.
You may recall that when Super Mario Run was announced in 2016, customers could request notification of its release, which was a first at the time on the App Store. Now, all developers can do something similar by offering their apps for pre-order. According to iTunes Connect’s Resources and Help documentation:
Now you can make your new apps available for pre-order on all Apple platforms. Customers can see your product page and order your app before it's released for download. Once your app is released, customers will be notified and your app will automatically download to their device. For paid apps, customers will be charged before download.
The process for submitting an app for pre-order seems relatively straight-forward:
To make your new app available for pre-order:
- From the homepage, click My Apps, select the app, and select Pricing and Availability in the left column. You'll see the Pre-Orders section if your app has never been published on the App Store.
Select Make available for pre-order, choose a date to release your app for download, then click Save in the upper-right corner. The release date must be at least two days in the future, but no more than 90 days in the future.
Submit your app for review.
Once your app is approved and you're ready to make it available for pre-order, return to Pricing and Availability, confirm the date your app will be released for download, and click Release as Pre-Order in the upper-right corner.
In addition to offering apps for pre-orders, Apple will report pre-orders as part of the Sales and Trends section of iTunes Connect. Apple has also included an FAQ with further information about the pre-order process.
It’s been about a year since Apple tested the pre-release notification waters with Super Mario Run and it’s nice to see that it’s been opened up to all developers who can use it to get customers excited about their apps ahead of launch.
Update: According to a new webpage published by Apple that summarizes the pre-order program, it also applies to macOS and tvOS apps.
In addition, Apple has added a 'Pre-Orders' section to the Games tab of the App Store, which currently includes five games. No similar section has been added to the Mac App Store or Apple TV App Store.