Monday, June 2, 2014

Big iOS App Store Changes for Devs Coming to iOS 8

I've talked at length about the iOS App Store in the past. After the huge Chomp App Store search changes in the summer of 2012, I was one of the first people to notice and write about it. I talked about the major changes in iOS 6 when the new App Store previewed. Both of those changes were pretty negative for my business, but I quickly adapted and 2013 was my best year yet. 2014 is just slightly behind 2013, but I'm hoping that my latest app release will help close that slight gap.

WWDC started today, and with it come more major changes to the App Store. This time, I'm actually really excited about them.

Spotlight Search

Not exactly the App Store per se, but the first major positive change is that now the Spotlight search will search the store for apps you don't have, and not just apps already on your device. I'm not sure if this will have a huge impact on download numbers, but added visibility and a new window into the store can't hurt.

Permission for Family Downloads

As an update to parental controls, instead of just not letting kids download stuff, they send a notification to the parent with the option to either allow the download or not. This probably won't effect me, but it's pretty cool. 

Killed "Near Me" and added "Explore"

I always found the "Near Me" tab to be useless, and I'm glad it's getting killed. It looks like it will be a small part of the new Explore tab instead of taking up so much valuable real estate. I'm not entirely sure what is going to be in the new tab, but it is for category browsing and that is a good thing. It can only mean more visibility for apps, and that is a good thing. I suspect I have exactly 0 downloads originating from the near me tab. 

Continuous Scrolling Search

In 2012, after the new App Store came out with iOS 6, I said that the easiest way to improve it for both users and more specifically for developers was to get rid of paging. Previously, with a list of icons, the top 25 of a search were really in the running for at least getting seen, and the top 5 were all visible at the same time. With the iOS 6 store search, that switched to a card view that showed 1 at a time, and scrolling through it was paged. That makes it slow, and it means that users likely don't get past the first few options. Being #1 for a search is a HUGE bonus over the rest of the list.

Well, thankfully Apple clearly reads my blog, though I must say 1.5 years is a long time for this small change I suggested. In iOS 8, we are going back to a continuous scrolling list, but keeping the new "card view" that includes screenshots and the ability to download the app directly from the list.

I'm not sure how much it changes things, but the new view also goes back to the vertical scrolling list from the current horizontal scrolling. 

App Bundles

I'm not sure how much this changes things for me, but they are also adding the ability for developers to bundle their apps. If you have several apps in the same genre, you can now bundle them together and offer likely offer a slight discount for people buying them all. This is a small but nice addition for those that can use this. I suspect this will be a great feature for indie game developers trying to cross promote their other work. 

Conclusion

Normally, Apple changing the App Store scares the crap out of me. WWDC and new versions of iOS are exciting for me, but they also make me very nervous. In 2012 my sales absolutely tanked after the new store was released, and I had to work very hard to adjust and come back stronger. Perhaps that's a good thing, but that doesn't make it any less scary when my livelihood depends on it. These changes don't scare me too much though.

There's always going to be a little bit of nervousness because of the black box that is the App Store. I'm not entirely sure where all my downloads come from, but that being said, all of these changes look great to me. I don't think any of them lower my visibility, and some of them definitely have the chance to raise my visibility. If you believe you are doing quality work, then the biggest key is to just get that work in front of people. On that note, I'd be remiss if I didn't at least link my new app, Vima - GPS Run Tracker. I think it's pretty solid, but now the key is just getting it out there. I think the new App Store will only help it.  If you like running, check it out. 




If you've read this far and are interested in the mobile app market you may want to check out my book on how I make money on the mobile app stores called Building an App Business.