Posts tagged "apple"

Phil Schiller's All-New App Store

No, I’m not talking about that one…entirely.

I thought it would be worth pointing out—and thanking—Phil Schiller for the changes since he’s taken over the App Store back at the end of 2015. Plus, he also went to Boston College. People who went there are pretty smart I’ve heard.

With that, here’s a list starting from June 2016 through June 2017. Not mentioned in the formal announcements are the much faster review times, letting developers use the same Apple ID across iTunes Connect organizations, and giving developers more control over resetting reviews. The breakdown includes commentary on what we especially liked and what we hope to see continue to improve.

All in all, these are amazing updates in a relatively short period of time. Congrats to Phil and the entire, hard-working App Store team!

June 13, 2016 - Rewritten App Review Guidelines

Rewritten App Review Guidelines with more context, including guidance for Mac apps. While these can be improved further, it showed empathy to regular complaints on ambiguity from the developer community.

June 16, 2016 - App Store Impressions

Improvements for App Store optimization and analytics data, such as impressions. Developers had zero understanding of their App Store conversion rates before this update.

August 8, 2016 - Simplified Screenshots

Only one size of screenshots required per device family. If you localize your app, this change helped considerably.

September 1, 2016 - App Store Cleanup

A focus from Apple on removing abandoned apps, which reflect poorly on the developer community. Also, an attempt from Apple to deal with keyword stuffing in App Store titles. It was a nice balance of not 100% closing off ASO best practices.

September 1, 2016 - Subscriptions, Trials, & Revenue

Subscriptions opened up beyond just content-driven apps, extended trials became available, and the 85/15 revenue split in year two for subscription apps. All welcomed changes. In our experience at Savvy Apps though, Apple is still overly restrictive about auto-renewing subscriptions specifically. It seems hard to get that revenue model approved for new apps that are not content or media-specific. They don’t yet show “ongoing value,” which is obviously hard to show for a brand new app. There was also an update for better reporting of subscriptions on September 13, 2016.

September 22, 2016 - Tokens for Push Notifications

Certificates are still painful as a whole, especially when doing 2-3 different builds per app (production, staging, development). That may change with the TestFlight updates from April 2017. Taking push certificates out of the equation though is helping. Our development team members love this change in particular.

September 28, 2016 - Search Ads

Search Ads are really nice for new apps in particular because it takes some time to begin to rank for relevant terms. Developers can also start to compete with those companies and apps that dominate organic search results.

October 28, 2016 - In-App Promo Codes

When marketing your app before this date, in-app purchases were always problematic. This change ensured you can give key contacts a way to explore premium features and content.

January 19, 2017 - Design Resources 

While there are some great resources available for iOS design—including our own iOS Sketch Wireframe Kit and iOS Sketch App Icon Template—it’s nice to see Apple getting involved. A big win for Sketch as well, since Apple offers their resources both for it and Photoshop.

March 27, 2017 - In-App Ratings & Review Responses

In-App Ratings

If you can’t beat them, join them. Developers wanted to drive ratings and reviews for their apps. Apple wasn’t a fan of third-party, in-app rating options, so they rolled their own solution. We jumped on it but would like to see the ability to trigger the ratings prompt based on actions and behavior. A straight up app launch count, as it is currently implemented, could lead to negative reviews.

Responding to Customer Reviews

Responding to reviews really was a must-have. Other platforms had it and Apple was behind the curve. It’s an important change of policy. We also are glad that Apple notifies users when a developer response is made.

April 11, 2017 - TestFlight Changes

We previously had a fairly extensive TestFlight setup for multiple builds that we are hoping to streamline. Allowing testers to have multiple TestFlight builds is critical, keeping them on a build once it goes live makes tester lives easier, and the update to groups brings significant efficiency.

May 3, 2017 - Referral Sources

Like the App Store impression information, this update lets developers get vital information. Once you know what particular channels have the largest impact on downloads, you can then focus on similar outlets or better try to optimize lower-performing sources.

June 5, 2017 - All-New App Store

I ran down the changes in my post on 11 considerations for updating your app for iOS 11. The App Store redesign hopefully will help with better discovery for non-game apps, highlight many more apps with “Apps of the Day,” and drive more downloads and in-app purchases with the revamped product page.

Everyday Convenience

Benedict Evan’s “Cloudy” take on WWDC has dovetailed with a number of thoughts I’ve had over the last few months:

I’ve described this before by saying that Apple is moving innovation down the stack into hardware/software integration, where it’s hard for Google to follow, and Google is moving innovation up the stack into cloud-based AI & machine learning services, where it’s hard for Apple to follow. This isn’t a tactical ‘this’ll screw those guys’ approach – it reflects the fundamental characters of the two companies. Google thinks about improving UX by reducing page load times, Apple thinks about UX by making it easier to scroll that page.

In particular, this excerpt reminded me of Fred Wilson’s recent comments about Apple not being a “top three” technology company by 2020 because they don’t get the cloud. Over the last couple of years, it has been arguable that Google is getting better at what Apple does faster than Apple is with Google’s core competencies. Whether it’s user experience, design, or even a more platform-centric approach, Google has advanced those fairly quickly compared to Apple’s mastering of the cloud.

So, yes it was a year of Apple having the cloud—including what Benedict calls the “personal cloud”—underpin a number of their key initiatives. But with Google getting better at some of Apple’s strengths, will Apple’s “dumb cloud” approach be able to compete with the likes of Google Now?

I would guess that many consumers would still choose using SMS or taking phone calls from their Mac—features powered by OS X Yosemite and iOS 8—over being told when to leave for an appointment. Clearly each of those kinds of features appeal to a specific demographic but Apple continues to cater more directly to everyday convenience where Google’s AI and machine learning are attempting to solve bigger and more complex problems. Obviously Google Now is just one example but self-driving cars and drones also come to mind.

Put another way, Apple continues to optimize for the relatively near term. Each year they make consumers lives just a little bit better. What they bring to the market may not appear as lofty as Google’s future initiatives but as John Gruber notes, Apple knows how to ship. These aren’t concepts, they’re products that scale to the mass market.

Of course, Apple has their own future-focused, mind-boggling roadmap, which is what has allowed them to launch market-transforming products like the iPhone or iPad. Still, I’ve wondered if Apple is not focused on the future enough. The corollary may be more pressing for Google: optimizing too much for the future will continue to reduce the impact they can have on the present. Apple may not have self-driving, concept cars but there’s no company that can compete right now with their ability to deliver incremental, everyday convenience to the mass market each and every year.

Working with Multiple iPhoto Libraries

When I threw my father a surprise 50th birthday party a number of years ago, we had to scour our family to find decent pictures of his childhood, teenage, and early adult years. In the age of cheap storage and phones that double as many people’s only camera, today we have the opposite challenge of past generations: we have way too many photos.

My wife’s MacBook Air is a testament to that. Her iPhoto Library has grown to over 125 GB, causing her machine to be resource-constrained while iPhoto is open. Between the birth of our son at the start of 2012 and the advancements of the iPhone, she went from snapping around 1,000 or so photos back in all of 2010 to nearly 7,000 just through October 2013 alone.

While a second stage will be to move significantly older photos off of her hard drive, step one was to make iPhoto more manageable by reducing the overall size of her iPhoto Library. My approach was to group photos by year into multiple iPhoto libraries. Beyond speeding up iPhoto usage, this felt like a nice way to browse photos and just as importantly ensure there was no longer a single point of failure by having a single, massive iPhoto Library.

iPhoto does natively support the ability to have multiple iPhoto libraries but as usual, the simple solution is not as simple as it sounds. The main issue is that the easiest way to get photos from one library to another will cause the important metadata associated with the photos to not be maintained. That’s where Fat Cat Software’s iPhoto Library Manager comes into play. While iPhoto Library Manager does much more, what I mainly used it for was to copy photos from the default iPhoto Library into ones associated with each year.

The best part about this app, is that it actually uses iPhoto itself to do the work. After you create the library and choose the photos (and videos) to copy, iPhoto will systematically open and close in the background. Unlike the “easy way” of moving photos mentioned above, iPhoto Library Manager automagically employs the importing functions multiple times to maintain event info and other metadata of the photos. Doing this manually would take a considerable amount of time and could also introduce copying errors.

iPhoto Library Manager also has a nifty find duplicate photo feature—even across libraries—that I’m sure will be helpful at some point. And if I ever want to eliminate certain libraries, there’s also a merge function. For now, problem solved…no more fans kicking off when iPhoto is open. iPhoto Library Manager is well worth the $29.95 price tag.

Jeremy Olson’s Response to iOS 7

Although I think we should try to give our apps a unique look through subtle twists on the iOS 7 design language, I’m excited to focus more on making our apps unique by experimenting with novel interaction models, transitions, and physicality, making our apps a lot more visceral.

- Jeremy Olson

With Apple focusing on clarity, deference, and depth for iOS 7, the new user experience and interactions models of iOS 7 apps are just as important as the new design language.

A point made by Harold Emsheimer on the companion Branch discussion highlights this further, “For now we are just focusing on the new APIs and less on the UI.” It’s an interesting approach that would likely start with incorporating elements such as UI Dynamics and then attack an iOS 7 re-design later, so as he puts, “we aren’t developing new patterns from our gut reactions.”

It’s Time for a Change

To write that the 2013 WWDC keynote was monumental would be an understatement. From the changing of the OS X big cat naming convention to the complete redesign of iOS with iOS 7, it was a significant day for Cupertino.

What surprised me most compared to last year, is that while OS X Mountain Lion was all about unifying Apple’s desktop and mobile platforms (e.g., bringing Reminders and Notes to the Mac), iOS 7 widens the gap considerably. iOS 7 is indeed the “fertile ground” as Marco Arment writes. It’s again a brave new world for designers and developers.

Meanwhile, from a design standpoint, OS X Mavericks will seem out of place and maybe even old or outdated relative to its iOS 7 counterpart. Arguably, it could have been better for Apple to introduce its new design language across iOS and OS X at the same time. OS X Mavericks is an extremely solid update but from tabs on the Finder to tags, it’s an iterative update and not the paradigm shift iOS 7 is. Looking at the developer preview of Xcode 5, however, it’s clear OS X will see a similar overhaul in the not so distant future.

It’s hard to not compare iOS 7’s buttonless, typography-driven interface to what Microsoft introduced with Metro two years ago (see Chris Millr’s observations). Similarly, Google’s iOS apps in particular have been much flatter over the last year. Apple often is a tastemaker and leader in driving design trends but iOS 7 seems more like the first iPod than the first iPhone: it’s an Apple-take on an existing trend, not an Apple innovation. That’s not a dig on Apple, it’s more a compliment to Microsoft and Google.

I’d like to believe that what we’ve seen and experienced in iOS 7 will be different than what consumers install on their iOS devices later this year. That’s not because of the bugs expected in beta software but rather that iOS 7 does not look or feel worthy of Apple quite yet. To that end, I found Frank Chimero’s words comforting when he wrote that iOS, “lacks nuance, but has courage” and that he’s hopeful for its future. I’m not confident that iOS 7 itself will have that nuance because once Apple unveils something, they usually only iterate on it after it goes to the market. That could mean the nuance returns in iOS 8 and I’m certain that Apple would be fine with that.

The analysts have stated that Apple has lost its ability to innovate. Anecdotally, I hear comments from friends and family that the iPhone is no longer new or cool, with regular questions about whether to buy an iPhone or a Samsung device. So, whether your initial reactions to iOS 7 are of love, hate, or indifference, iOS 7 is exactly what Apple needs right now. It’s exactly what iOS designers and developers need right now. And it’s exactly the kind of change only Apple is insightful and bold enough to both recognize and make. It’s time for a change.