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.