This week's sponsor

Screens

Control Any Computer from Your Mac or iOS Device


Posts tagged with "iMessage"

More Than Stickers: Exploring iMessage App Utilities

It has been nearly a full year since Craig Federighi introduced the iMessage App Store to developers at WWDC. Coming out of that keynote, it was easy to guess that sticker packs might become a hit with users, but the big unknown surrounded the idea of more powerful iMessage apps. Would anyone actually want to use iMessage for anything more than basic messaging?

The challenge with creating a great iMessage app is similar in ways to that of creating a great Apple Watch app. In most cases it requires taking an existing app and stripping functionality down to its simplest form, while still retaining the overall usefulness and power of the full app. And as is true with Watch apps, some iMessage apps tackle the challenge well, while others fail to be useful due to slow or overcomplicated interfaces.

The first year of the iMessage App Store has been dominated by stickers, but amidst the crazy sharks and flaming pizza, there are a number of interesting and creative apps serving as helpful utilities as well. I have tried out iMessage apps for ordering food, managing files, sharing calendars, sending payments, planning meetings, and more. What follows is a list of some of my favorites.

Read more


Dispelling the Apple Services Myth

Apple is known for its quality hardware and software, but services are another story.

Cloud-based services are the future – there's no denying that. And Apple historically has struggled with its cloud offerings. From MobileMe, to the early growing pains of iCloud, to the Apple Maps fiasco, the company gained a poor reputation in the area of services.

Only in the last two years has Apple publicly touted services as a core part of its business. Company press releases as recent as May 2015 ended with the following self-definition:

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software. Apple leads the digital music revolution with its iPods and iTunes online store. Apple has reinvented the mobile phone with its revolutionary iPhone and App Store, and is defining the future of mobile media and computing devices with iPad.

There's a lot that feels outdated here, including the fact that both Mac and iPod are highlighted before the iPhone. But one major way this paragraph fails to describe the Apple of today is that the word 'services' is nowhere to be found.

Amid a variety of other changes, Apple's current self-definition includes the following:

Apple’s four software platforms — iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS — provide seamless experiences across all Apple devices and empower people with breakthrough services including the App Store, Apple Music, Apple Pay and iCloud.

Services are a key component of modern Apple. The way the company defines itself, along with the numerous services shoutouts in quarterly earnings calls, prove that.

Despite Apple's increased focus on services, the common narrative that the company "can't do services" still hangs around – in online tech circles at least.

But is that narrative still true, or has it grown outdated?

I want to share how I use Apple services in my everyday life across three important contexts of life:

  • As I work,
  • On the go, and
  • Around the house.

My aim is not to perform an in-depth comparison of Apple's cloud offerings and competing products. Though competitors and their features will come up occasionally, the focus here is on my experiences in everyday living – my experiences, not yours. I understand that just because something does or doesn't work for me, the same isn't necessarily true for you. The point of this piece is not to try proving anything; instead, I simply want to assess and share my current experiences with Apple's services.

Read more


Starbucks Launches New iMessage App with a Giveaway

Starbucks launched a new iMessage app recently, and yesterday they announced a nice incentive for users to give it a try:

Now you can send Starbucks Gifts with iMessage with Apple Pay. Be one of the first to send a $5 or more Starbucks Gift via iMessage and receive a $5 Starbucks Gift for yourself - while supplies last.

The promotion ends on April 23rd, or after 45,000 people have taken advantage of it – whichever comes first.

The process of sending a gift card through iMessage is extremely simple. Assuming you already have Apple Pay setup on your device, you just select the style of gift card – options include things like 'Congrats,' 'Thanks So Much,' and 'Happy Birthday' – select a quantity of $5, $10, or $25, then hit 'Buy' and authorize Apple Pay. The whole process takes mere seconds.

While the idea of sending gifts through iMessage had never occurred to me before, Starbucks has convinced me that it can be a great experience.

Permalink

Apple Promotes Sticker Packs with New Video

Apple released another installment in its iPhone 7 ‘practically magic’ video series today that celebrates stickers. The spot, called ‘Sticker Fight’ pulls sticker packs out of the Messages app and into the physical world. Set to a single by The Monks called ‘Boys are Boys and Girls are Choice,’ which has a fantastic 60s-style beat, the video features a sticker fight that breaks out across a city with people slapping stickers on each other and practically everything else in the landscape.

Read more


The iMessage App Store’s Discoverability Problems

Adam Howell sums up some of the major issues affecting the iMessage App Store and iMessage apps:

I love the idea of the iMessage App Store. I love Apple’s focus on privacy. I love building on top of an app I use all day everyday. But not only is the iMessage App Store dying —I’m afraid it might already be dead.

I agree with most of his design and functionality-related points. Using stickers and iMessage apps requires too much effort; a lot of users are still confused by iMessage-only apps; and I don't understand why Apple thought Digital Touch was so important. I like his proposed solution for iMessage app activation, too.

On curation, though, I believe Apple has been doing a decent job with refreshing featured apps and sticker packs on weekly basis. A few months ago, Apple's editorial team also started highlighting iMessage apps and stickers on the front page of the iOS App Store, which must drive some visibility. Every week, we discover new stickers to feature in our newsletter also thanks to Apple's curation and the store's top charts, which are dominated by Disney stickers as it's a massive brand that has absolutely nailed the idea of selling "premium" iMessage sticker packs.

Aside from design and functional issues (in short, Apple should redesign the entire iMessage app drawer), I think the reality most iMessage apps are facing is a repeat (at a smaller scale) of what happened with the main App Store. Apple should make meaningful improvements to make developers' lives easier, but it's always going to be a tricky business to figure out in such a competitive landscape.

Permalink

Fantastical 2.8 Brings Rich Notifications, iMessage Stickers

Rich notifications and stickers in Fantastical 2.8.

Rich notifications and stickers in Fantastical 2.8.

With a new version released today on the App Store, Flexibits updated Fantastical – the popular calendar client with natural language input – to include deeper support for iOS 10 and the iPhone 7. Version 2.8, available on the iPhone and iPad, adds new iMessage stickers using the app's icon as the main character in different expressions, haptic feedback on the iPhone 7, and, more importantly, rich notifications for calendar events and reminders.

Read more


My Favorite iMessage Apps and Sticker Packs of 2016

You may have noticed that we’re big fans of iMessage apps and stickers. Since their introduction with iOS 10 in September, we have covered more than 250 sticker packs and apps between MacStories and the weekly roundup of stickers Federico and I do in MacStories Weekly for Club members. That’s a lot of apps and stickers, and there are so many excellent ones we covered this year that it was difficult to narrow them down to shorter list.

When it comes to iMessage apps, my favorites are games and apps that make it easy for me to share bits of useful information with friends and family. Sticker packs become favorites for a wider variety of reasons; some are useful, allowing me to get my point across better than words alone, others are funny, and some just look great, but all liven up conversations. Here are my favorites of 2016.

Read more


MarcyMoji: A Sticker Tour Around the World

When Apple launched the iMessage App Store with the release of iOS 10, it was dominated by sticker packs. Many of my personal favorites came from Disney, including the Star Wars , Zootopia , and Mickey & Friends packs. But one of the nice things about the new App Store was its accessibility to a wide variety of creatives, not just the big players like Disney. A simple sticker pack truly requires no coding knowledge. Because of that, since day one there has been an abundance of sticker options on the iMessage App Store, each with a unique story behind it.

One such story comes from Marcy Smith and Andrew Williams, the creators of MarcyMoji . Born out of Marcy's lifelong love of painting, MarcyMoji was originally conceived as a custom keyboard, but Apple's announcements at WWDC quickly shifted the couple's focus to building an iMessage app.

Read more


Dissecting the Most Profitable iMessage Apps

Ariel Michaeli, writing on the appFigures blog:

When it comes to making money, users seem to be fine with paid apps. Unlike the iOS App Store, on the iMessage App Store only 7% of top grossing apps are free(mium). That’s just 13 apps!!!

The remaining 93% of apps (187, to be precise) cost between $0.99 and $4.99, with the majority (61%) having a price of $0.99 and 36% having a price of $1.99. The remaining 4 apps split between the other price tiers.

Monetizing upfront is great for developers because it’s simple and easy to implement, but it’s also a sign of a store that isn’t mature. If the iMessage App Store matures similarly to the iOS App Store—which is likely considering it’s the same audience and device—we’ll see a strong shift towards freemium. For now, developers should make the most out of it.

Speaking from personal experience, the iMessage App Store's top charts are a constant source of discovery for new paid sticker packs from indie artists. These first numbers from September seem to be holding up so far.

Permalink