During the weekend, Apple announced that, starting June 1, all new watchOS app submissions will have to be native – written with the watchOS 2 SDK.
This, of course, doesn't enforce existing watchOS 1.0 apps (built with the first SDK) to be updated for watchOS 2, so it'll be interesting to see how Apple will handle developers who launched a watchOS app last year, saw a muted response, and then ignored watchOS 2 due to a lack of incentives.
In my experience, the performance of watchOS 2 apps has only been marginally better than old watchOS 1.0 ones, and I haven't heard of developers rushing to support watchOS 2 as a must-rewrite-everything effort. If I had to speculate, perhaps new iPhone apps for iOS 10 or later could only support watchOS 3 – but, again, that wouldn't solve the issue for watchOS 1.0 apps currently on the App Store. Quite a curious conundrum.
There is no doubt that San Francisco is an expensive place to visit for a week, which puts WWDC out of reach financially for some developers. Fortunately, there are a lot of other Mac and iOS conferences held throughout the year that cost less and provide an opportunity to learn and meet fellow developers. To highlight their events, a group of Fall conference organizers have gotten together to offer a discount on admission to their events:
For the next 24 hours the following iOS / Mac community conferences are offering a 10% discount on the price of admission:
Use the coupon code “COMMUNITY” before April 20th at 9am Pacific Time time to receive the discount.
I attended the inaugural Úll and Release Notes conferences and highly recommend both.
The cost of admission to any of these conferences is already less than a ticket to WWDC, but if you want to save an extra 10%, act fast because the offer is good for only 24 hours.
Alongside yesterday's WWDC 2016 announcement, Apple also added a new webpage providing tips and insights from other developers.
The App Store makes it simple for users around the world to discover, download and enjoy your apps. Grow your business with resources designed to help you create great apps and reach more users.
The featured developers and topics are Seriously (focusing on building a brand), Grailr (bringing CARROT Weather to Apple Watch), Evernote (localising its app for Japan), and Smule (growing a thriving community of loyal users).
The Instapaper team, writing on the company blog:
Since the launch of our new parser in January, we’ve gotten lots of inquiries from developers about using our parser for third-party applications. With the new Instaparser API, app developers can use our parsing tools to provide users with a lightning-fast browsing experience optimized for mobile devices. Data scientists can use the tools to normalize input for text analysis. And hackers can do, well, whatever hackers might like to do with lightning-fast access to clean, standardized web page data.
The addition of an API makes sense to me – now third-party developers (think Twitter clients or news readers) can access the same powerful parser that Instapaper uses (which is excellent). I'm curious to see which iOS apps will implement it in the near future.
There's also a free tier available here.
Safari is joining the growing collection of apps and developer tools that Apple wants to open up for public testing. Earlier today, Apple unveiled Safari Technology Preview, a separate version of Safari for OS X that will allow users and developers to test upcoming WebKit features.
Safari Technology Preview (which, unlike the regular Safari, has a purple icon) is a standalone app that will be updated every two weeks from the Mac App Store.
The browser will be fully compatible with iCloud: contrary to WebKit Nightly previews (the existing way of testing upcoming WebKit changes), Safari Technology Preview supports iCloud Tabs, Reading List, bookmarks, and every other iCloud feature of the stable version of Safari. Integration with iCloud should make it easier for users and developers to test Safari Technology Preview as their daily browser as they won't lose access to their iCloud account and personal data.
Here's Apple's Ricky Mondello:
Safari Technology Preview is a standalone application that can be used side-by-side with Safari or other web browsers, making it easy to compare behaviors between them. Besides having the latest web features and bug fixes from WebKit, Safari Technology Preview includes the latest improvements to Web Inspector, which you can use to develop and debug your websites. Updates for Safari Technology Preview will be available every two weeks through the Updates pane of the Mac App Store.
Safari Technology Preview requires a Mac running OS X 10.11.4 and it's available for download today here.
Club MacStories members know that 'attention' is a topic near and dear to my heart that I've been writing about for the past month or so in my MacStories Weekly column, Ongoing Development. One aspect of attention that I haven't covered yet is media attention. Today, in An Indie's Guide to the Press, Curtis Herbert, maker of Slopes, a GPS tracking app for skiers and snowboarders, shares his experience and tips for dealing the press as an indie developer.
Hundreds of "I have an app..." emails hit the inboxes of the Apple-centric press every day. You're not only competing for attention with other indies that have just as much passion about their app, though, you're competing with the day-to-day news the tech sites have to write about. Readers trust these sites to filter out as much noise as possible. That is their job.
The most important thing I've realized about working with the press is that it's all about finding the story. You have to answer the question why will their readers care?
Curtis' advice is applicable to anyone pitching an app, not just indies. Every publication has a sense of who their readers are and what interests them. If you want to stand a chance of being heard through the noise, you need to understand that too.
As a developer myself who now writes at MacStories, two things have really struck me – the volume of pitches that MacStories receives on a daily basis, and the poor quality of many of them. Developers should heed Curtis' advice. Doing so isn't a guaranty that your app will be covered, but you will stand out from the crowd, which is the attention that gets your foot in the door in a way that many developers never achieve.
Last night emails were sent to develpers by the App Store team announcing a new iTunes Connect feature – weekly App Analytics email reports. This is a welcome addition to iTunes Connect. I check App Analytics occassionally, especially after a significant app release or marketing push, but getting analytics data on a regular schedule is a nice way to keep on top of analytics more regularly.
You can opt into emailed reports with the link provided in the email you receive from the App Store team, or go to iTunes Connect and opt in under the Users and Rolls section.
Casey Newton has a must-read story on the struggles of Pixite (makers of Pigment, among other apps) and the modern app economy:
For a time, Pixite was a shining example of the businesses made possible by the app economy. Like thousands of other developers, Pixite’s founders took what had been a side project and turned it into a full-fledged career. But the company’s recent financial problems illustrate a series of powerful shifts in the industry toward consolidation and corporatization.
For all but a few developers, the App Store itself now resembles a lottery: for every breakout hit like Candy Crush, hundreds or even thousands of apps languish in obscurity. Certain segments of the app economy remain vibrant — ludicrously profitable, even. Apps for massive social networks, on-demand services like Uber, and subscription businesses like Netflix and Spotify remain in high demand. Then there’s gaming: Last year, 85 percent of all app revenues went to games, according to App Annie. Supercell, the top-grossing developer of Clash of Clans, reported revenue of $1.7 billion in 2014. (It spent $440 million on marketing.)
The folks at Pixite have made some mistakes along the way, but the general shift on the App Store is undeniable.
Since the App Store launched in 2008, every app and every app update has gone through a process of App Review. Run by a team within Apple, their objective is to keep the App Store free from apps that are malicious, broken, dangerous, offensive or infringe upon any of Apple’s App Store Review Guidelines. For developers who want to have their app on the iOS, Mac, or tvOS App Store, App Review is an unavoidable necessity that they deal with regularly. But in the public, little is heard about App Review, except for a few occasions in which App Review has made a high-profile or controversial app rejection (such as the iOS 8 widgets saga) or when App Review has mistakenly approved an app that should never have been approved (such as the app requiring players to kill Aboriginal Australians).
Earlier this year we set out to get a better understanding of what developers think about App Review. We wanted to hear about their positive and negative experiences with App Review, and find out how App Review could be improved. It is hard to ignore from the results we got, from a survey of 172 developers,1 that beneath the surface there is a simmering frustration relating to numerous aspects of App Review. There is no question that App Review still mostly works and very few want to get rid of it, but developers are facing a process that can be slow (sometimes excruciatingly so), inconsistent, marred by incompetence, and opaque with poor communication. What fuels the frustration is that after months of hard work developing an app, App Review is the final hurdle that developers must overcome, and yet App Review can often cause big delays or kill an app before it ever even sees the light of day.
Developer frustration at App Review might seem inconsequential, or inside-baseball, but the reality is that it does have wider implications. The app economy has blossomed into a massive industry, with Apple itself boasting that it has paid developers nearly $40 billion since 2008 and is responsible (directly and indirectly) for employing 4 million people in the iOS app economy across the US, Europe and China. As a result, what might have been a small problem with App Review 5 years ago is a much bigger problem today, and will be a much, much bigger problem in another 5 years time.
App Review is not in a critical condition, but there is a very real possibility that today’s problems with App Review are, to some degree, silently stiffling app innovation and harming the quality of apps on the App Store. It would be naïve of Apple to ignore the significant and numerous concerns that developers have about the process.