Apple Are Making Major Changes to the App Store

5 minute read

Yesterday Apple (or rather Phil Schiller who is now in charge of the App Store) announced a number of major changes coming to the App Store, changes so big, people are labelling this as the “2.0” update. In this post, I go through the changes and cast my opinion on them.

Schiller broke the changes down into three points: App Review, Business Models and App Discovery/Search Ads.

App Review

The first point is App Review. Firstly, Schiller said that Apple will never get rid of the app approval service. Apple review around 100,000 apps per week and the approval process now takes less time, 50% of apps within 24 hours and 90% of apps in 48 hours is now the amount of time it now takes to put an app through the approval process. Although this doesn’t sound major, for developers, it is.

“We’re never going to get rid of that [app review] because it matters,” said Schiller.

Let’s say a developer released a major update for their app (the app went though a major redesign and it added several new features) and a couple of hours later, a number of users found some critical bugs that affected the core functionality of the app, the developer would need to issue a patch but would then need to go through the app approval process again which previously took several days, now, they can submit their app knowing it won’t take more than 48 hours to be approved.

Business Models

Apple also looked at their subscription model and have now opened it up to all product categories, whether it be Games or Health and Fitness. Previously, the subscription model was only available for certain types of categories, news apps for example where you’d pay X amount per month to be given the access to read the latest magazines and newspapers. For big companies that offer multiple apps, this is a great addition, instead of charging users for each app individually, they could offer a value subscription package to allow their users to download all the apps they offer.

There’s also going to be a change in how much revenue developers get from their apps. It’s currently split 70-30 but under the new subscription rules, the revenue split will favor the developers more in the second year. Developers will get an 85-15 revenue share for all subscribers that have been customers for over a year. Developers can also choose from over 200 new subscription price points and create specific prices making subscriptions even more flexible. If a developer makes a change to their subscription service, the users will be notified and they will have to authorise the change. No customer will ever be charged at a higher rate without authorising it first.

Schiller also added that the App Store will have a revamped interface to make it “even easier for users to manage subscriptions”. It’d be a very good move if Apple allowed the ability to manage all of your subscriptions within the store itself. I mean, do you even know where you can manage your subscriptions right now in iOS 9? They are fairly hidden within Settings. Go to Settings and scroll down to iTunes & App Store, click your Apple ID at the top, click View Apple ID and insert your password and then click Manage under Subscriptions. Yes, it finally looks like they are getting rid of these buttons that seem like they’ve been around forever and hopefully we’ll be able to remove individual subscriptions, which, at the moment, you can’t do.

APP DISCOVERY

Finally, App Discovery. The App Store will now support ads but in a very specific and non-intrusive way.

“We want our customers to have a reason to come to the App Store every day,” said Schiller.

The Featured section of the store will now longer show apps you already have installed on your device and Apple are also bringing back the “Categories” tab, I’m going to guess it’s going to replace the “Explore” tab. Another change is that you’ll be able to 3D Touch on an app from the Home screen to bring up the Share Sheet and instantly share it with another person. The biggest change however, is what I mentioned just a minute ago, Apple are bringing ads to the App Store.

Schiller said that developers had contacted him in the past about ads but turned them down. There will only be one ad on the search results page which will be positioned at the very top, with a light-blue background with the word “ad” below the app name. The content of the ad will be exactly the same as the content of the app on the App Store.

The ads are done through an auction and there are no requirements so any developer can bid. The ad system will roll out as a beta this summer. Of course, privacy is key and Apple will not track users and will not share any data. Apple will also not serve ads to people 13 years old or under. The ad system will also launch in the USA first and will be rolled out to other countries later on.

All these changes are great, I especially like the new subscription model. I can see a lot of developers using this new system. An example I have is Fantastical, the best calendar app on the App Store in my opinion. Would it really hurt if they charged us £5 per year to continue to use their app, I don’t think so. If you multiplied £5 by X amount of users they have, it’d be a big amount and it would motivate them to create more apps and deliver more great updates.

I also have a few minor changes I’d like Apple to make to the App Store. Firstly, the release notes for new updates. Some developers write great change logs, AgileBits who create 1Password and Flexibits who create Fantastical both come to mind but some developers simply put “bug fixes” and that is so annoying. Sometimes they don’t even capitalise the first letter of the word, don’t use the correct grammar and can’t even put together a whole sentence. The next change (although this one is a bug) is the blank icons in the Updates tab. The chances are if you open the App Store right now and head over to the Updates tab, you’ll already see a blank icon. This can be fixed, but it won’t fix it permanently. The fix is to tap anyone of the icons along the bottom (Featured, Top Charts, Explore, Search or Updates) 10 times and this will effectively “reset” the App Store. However, when you tap on “What’s New” there’s a good chance that the icon you tapped will change to a blank icon. Finally, a finicky issue but, to me, quite annoying. When you go to review an app, the main font size is enormous! They need to make the font smaller.

If you’re a customer of the USA App Store you’ll notice that when you search for something you’ll be presented with “related” searches below the main search bar. However, here in the UK, we still don’t that have that so I am wondering if the UK (among other countries) will have to wait a while until we see these major changes implemented.

Finally, I thought it was a bizarre time to let us know about these upcoming major changes, I mean, WWDC is literally around the corner so maybe the keynote is packed with new software and possibly new hardware announcements that they didn’t have enough time to tell us about all these changes during the keynote. We could be looking at a 2 ½ hour event.

Apple changed the way we paid for software, the big question is; can they do it again?