The long-awaited Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2017 has finally kicked off. Apple CEO, Tim Cook, took to the stage in San Jose, California this week to give his keynote speech in front of a tremendous audience of 6,000 developers. The keynote speech featured an array of announcements, and included the hardware release we’ve all been speculating about…the HomePod, a home device which aims to deliver a high-end music experience in the home. Tim Cook also announced the release of iOS 11, packed with new features and a focus on Machine Learning & AI. However, one of the biggest announcements at WWDC was the App Store redesign, which will inevitably change the game for developers.
Let’s start with the iOS 11 updates…
iOS 11 will be released this autumn, and Apple gave a teaser of what is to come with a demo of some new features. Siri’s voice and tone is now naturally more expressive and does a better job of understanding context (so hopefully, we’ll hear less of “here’s what I found on the web”). You can even translate phrases into several different languages through a voice command. Apple Search is now also smarter and more holistic, bringing suggestions to a new level. For example, your Safari browsing history can now determine the content served to you in other places, such as Apple News. It can even surface certain keywords from articles you may have been reading into predicted text when on iMessage to create a seamless flow. We have seen indications of this in other ways, such as the Look Up feature that offers suggestions for certain popular figures, songs or titles mentioned in an iMessage transcript. These changes announced at WWDC signal Apple’s continued focus on Apple Search, which has largely gone unnoticed in the past – the new capabilities really work to bring Apple Search effortlessly into the user experience.
Some other changes to iMessage include simplified access to your App Drawer with a redesigned view. The App Drawer will appear in a small bar at the bottom of iMessage as a scrollable bar. Again, we’re seeing an effort to bring a feature with significant potential for app developers to the forefront of the user experience – we look forward to the results of this. A crucial part of the restructure is that apps are surfaced within your App Drawer based on context. For example, if you send your friend an iMessage to tell them they owe you money, your friend’s phone will surface Apple Pay within the App Drawer. On the back of the App Drawer changes, we may see a renewed enthusiasm for the fleeting sticker app trend. With the additional context to surface your app, we might also see some more creative utilisations of the App Drawer.
As mentioned above, we also have seen a much-awaited Apple Pay functionality introduced: peer-to-peer Apple Pay. This means users can send money directly through the iMessage transcript and authenticate payment using Touch ID. When money is received, it enters a digital debit card called Apple Pay Cash Card. This can be sent to friends, act as credit to spend on Apple Pay or simply transferred to your bank account. The Apple Pay Cash card is an interesting move from Apple, especially regarding big competitors like PayPal…are Apple paving the way for an Apple bank?
Alongside updates to Maps, Apple Music and a new ‘Do not Disturb While Driving’ mode, Apple have also redesigned the Control Centre, which now appears on as a single screen with 3D Touch allowing greater control over various functions. However, this raises questions about devices (prior to iPhone 6s) that do not have 3D Touch capabilities. Although likely a move to convert users from older devices, Apple need to consider a work around to have the same accessibility to these functions, regardless of the device.
Now, let’s talk about the App Store makeover announced at WWDC…
Apple App Store Redesign:
There are over 500 million weekly visitors to Apple App Store, with 180 billion apps downloaded to date and a whopping $70 billion paid out to developers (30% of this this revenue is from 2016 alone). With the spectacular growth of the App Store, Apple want to bring you newsworthy, curated app content in a new section called ‘Today.’ This will be the first tab in the new App Store.
The ‘Today’ tab will feature daily stories, lists and articles which include text, images and videos of featured app content. This gives developers a platform to voice their stories, and supporting ‘How To’ articles will be included to help users make the most of the apps and their functionality. Users can share each list with friends.
There has been significant discussion within the industry around the need for Apple to improve the App Store. We saw the first step towards this with the introduction of Apple Search, although many found the lack of focus on the algorithm frustrating. The redesigned App Store appears to take a content-based approach that we might expect from other successful content-based apps. The curated content focuses on increasing daily users and follows trends that we see with other content apps such as Buzzfeed with themed listicles. The focus on hand-picked content over the algorithm, which will always be Google’s strong suit, minimises the comparable elements of discovery within the app stores and may work well to continue Apple’s position as the premium OS.
Apple have found a way to make the App Store a moving, living environment, with current and insightful content. It is also an incentive for the massive user-base to continue returning to the App Store and engage with more interactive content. Being featured by Apple in the current App Store sees an incredible increase in app store downloads which will be another avenue of app discovery alongside search. More so, sharing an article of an app rather than a product listing will surely increase interest in their app offerings. There’s a real renewed focus on the developers. However, the process of being chosen to be featured in the ‘Today’ section was not covered in the WWDC keynote speech.
The App Store redesign also sees a massive emphasis on games. In fact, ‘Games’ is a whole new individual section right after ‘Today’. This is no surprise as it is the most popular category in the app store, and the biggest revenue driver. Next to this, ‘Apps’ sit in a separate tab with their own dedicated features and charts.
Another update announced at WWDC included in the redesign centres around changes made to the App Store listings. For example, if your app is ranking, there will now be a visual indicator on your App Store listing to show this. Furthermore, all developer responses will be public and viewable by all who land on the product page. There is also a greater emphasis on video. App Store listings with a video fare much better than those without. Now Apple are offering multiple videos on the product page. In fact, developers can now include up to three videos on a listing, to give users a clearer insight into how an app works, with a better view of its functionality and UI.
Lastly, the App Store looks much more like an Apple product. The revamp is simple and much more aligned with Apple’s aesthetic, with the image cards resembling the UI seen elsewhere like in Apple Music.
We are excited that after nine years of existence, we’ll see a whole redesign of the App Store. We are eagerly awaiting its release this autumn.
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