Daring Fireball has a piece today announcing changes to Apple’s App Store. Apparently there is so much to be announced at WWDC that they didn’t have time to discuss this in the keynote.
Apple has been quietly changing the App Store under the hood for a while — approval times are now dramatically lower, and the tools for submission and management of apps have been actively changing for months. I personally have noticed changes to the iTunes Connect user interface and features, sometimes in the middle of a day.
Their major change is long overdue, and will help make independent development more viable. The main feature is the expansion of subscription pricing to a wider range of apps, and support for different tiers of subscriptions. The system will make it possible to offer trail versions, for one thing, and the revenue split on subscription apps will be 85/15 for subscriptions over a year old.
In addition, there will be the ability to pay for ad placement in search results. This, of course, will benefit large publishers a lot, but it also helps even the playing field for indie apps.
It’s always been challenging to make a living from an independent app on the App Store. The ‘pay once’ model has made it tough for developers to set a price and build a sustainable business — raising the potential revenue per customer makes it possible to build a high quality app and keep improving it over time.
Was on my way back from Burning Man when the latest Apple announcements came out. The iPad Pro plus Apple Pencil combination looks like it will give Wacom some heartburn. The larger form factor of the iPad Pro combined with the 3D touch should enable some new forms of interaction; it will be interesting to see what developers do with this, but it’s going to take a while before the ecosystem gets comfortable.
Same goes with WatchOS 2.0 and the new tvOS. That’s a lot of stuff for devs to embrace, especially when they are scrambling to prepare for the iOS 9 release. I know I have a lot of woodshedding to do, including an update to iBuddha for iOS 8 compatibility, and perhaps an iBuddha for Apple Watch.
I don’t think the expansion of the ecosystem is a bad thing at all, and it’s likely to weed out a lot of casual hobbyist developers. The companies most able to take advantage of this explosion of alternatives will be bigger companies, but that also creates an opportunity for someone to provide smaller developers with tools for building apps that can run appropriately across all the platforms. Games are going to go crazy on the new Apple TV, especially if you can handoff from your iPhone or iPod. These announcements are the fruit of the Handoff work that was done in Yosemite; Apple is playing a long game, and it’s not obvious how any one move is supposed to stack up.
More when I’ve had a chance to digest the announcements further and look at docs on the new OS offerings.
My replacement Nike FuelBand arrived a week or two ago; it’s the Nike Fuelband SE. The packaging and the device look exactly like the first model of Fuelband, so I was a bit confused at first, but once you plug the device in, it’s a big difference.
For one thing, the display animations are much faster, requiring less time to check your progress or see what time it is. The most important change in the user experience, though, is the data sync. In the first version of the fuel band you had to press and hold the button (you know, that button that always broke for me on four different fuel bands) in order to sync. It would then link via Bluetooth to your phone and update the app with your progress. It did this very slickly and seamlessly in early versions in the app, but later versions were kind of wonky with this feature.
With the new model of the FuelBand, they do it the way it should have been done in the first place. Launching the *app* will just automatically sync up with the band and get the progress. Much more intuitive, and it seems to work much more reliably as well. It should also put a lot less stress on the button — I’m hoping the new model has a more reliable button mechanism to begin with, but I also will use it less as a result of this change, which is good thinking on their part. The FuelBand works best as a ‘put on and forget’ device.
Nike must be feeling the competition from other fitness trackers, or perhaps the upcoming Apple Watch — the Fuelband SE now is $99 for the stock models, and there are a couple of glitzier-looking colors that run $149.
This article about the iOS8 Message app has a lot of great insight about how one can improve a commonly-used feature , and the importance of attention to detail. The genius of this change is that they added an amazing amount of power, but what the user sees is not so different from iOS7 that they would get lost.
The only downside is that the change isn’t easy to discover for everyone. Tap and hold is pretty common now — he points out that many messaging apps like WhatsApp have it, and it’s something that Pinterest uses as well — but it’s not always clear in an interface what things support it.
These instantly sent pieces of media are also ephemeral. You have to explicitly ask to save them, or they self-destruct after 2 minutes.
tl;dr – if you tap and hold on the microphone or camera icon in your iMessage screen, you can send voice or pictures or video without launching another app. They’ve also made tapping on the camera icon show you the most recently taken photos so you can send them without searching. Easy-to-miss, but smart changes.
An analysis of apps in the Apple App store by price, ratings, etc. Some interesting insights, including that 60% of the apps in the app store have no ratings.
WWDC 2014 tickets will be offered via a lottery You have until 10am PDT April 7 to register for a chance to attend, and people will be notified that evening. Given the limited size of the conference, which has maxed out at 5000 attendees to maintain a 5 attendees-per-Apple-engineer ratio, this is my first chance to go in years.
This analysis of Apple’s Arm processor micro architecture suggests that there is a lot of untapped power that iOS apps aren’t using yet.
This new tool provides a quick way to generate code to animate iOS transitions.
With Amazon’s new Fire TV and a rumored new offering from Google soon, this may very well be the year that iOS apps move to the Apple TV. The LA Times compares the current crop of TV boxes here.
Clearly the streaming media race is heating up: Amazon is rumored to be going after Spotify with a new streaming subscription service soon.
Speaking of Spotify, their newest version on iOS is beautifully designed, and very in-line with the iOS 7 aesthetic, with a content-forward look-and-feel. I haven’t had time to completely explore it, but really like what I see so far.
Microsoft has announced Cortana, their answer to Siri and Google Now. While the reference to the character from Halo probably resonates with the Xbox crowd, it seems like an obscure choice to pick for an already underdog mobile platform. I had no idea who Cortana was myself, having never played Halo. The interesting thing about the feature is that it’s powered by Bing — this may be the time for Bing to actually shine, the Bing team has some great technology that has been largely ignored, but maybe mobile is the right venue.
The comics medium has been used for journalism for a while now. Joe Sacco’s Palestine is a prime example; a personal and immediate first-hand account of life in the occupied territories.
Symbolia magazine takes this form of journalism to the iPad as a Newsstand app.
Symbolia is available in the iOS App Store. Download is free, an annual subscription is $11.99 for 6 issues. Single issues will run $2.99. The app comes free with the preview issue, which showcases Susie Cagle’s piece on the Salton Sea.
Newsstand Icons are rendered differently from normal apps, like the Zinio icon at left.
Apple’s Newsstand is a very underrated iOS feature. Newsstand apps are essentially iOS apps with additional privileges that allow pushing of new content to your device so that the latest issue is available to you offline. Apple hasn’t promoted Newsstand much, but there are an impressive number of major titles available, including the New York Times, Sports Illustrated, Esquire, Wired, and others. You can easily differentiate Newsstand apps from others on the app store by their icons; instead of the rounded square icons, Newsstand apps are rendered to look like magazines or newspapers. It’s a good thing, too, as the ‘store’ feature in Newsstand is kind of broken.
Ironically, today News Corp. announced that they are shutting down The Daily, but tablet-based magazines such as Symbolia and Marco Arment’s The Magazine seem to be gaining momentum. The Magazine is already profitable, has hired an editor, and increased its rates for writers. The economics of these magazines are very compelling in comparison to print magazines, and the barriers to entry have never been lower.