WWDC 2020: iOS 14 and the Impact on Apps

iOS 14

Kicking off with a 2-hour keynote speech from CEO Tim Cook and a range of demos, the new iOS 14 release was announced on the first day of WWDC. The keynote speech unveiled a refreshed UI and Apple’s efforts to reimagine app discovery and the app experience, alongside defining a stringent approach to user privacy which will have a knock-on effect on tracking and advertising on mobile. We’ve put together the highlights and have outlined what impact this could possibly have on your apps, below:

iOS 14

As expected, Apple unveiled the release of iOS 14, a central update aimed to redefine how we connect and how we navigate using our Apple devices. The new update was positioned as a rethinking of Apple’s iconic elements for an elevated experience. There are various feature updates that were of note, including how apps can be organised on your device and reimagining the app experience through new formats for app discovery and user acquisition.

App library

iOS 14 now allows a device user to organise all apps into a single home screen through the App Library. This is an automatic process that helps to organize your apps into a simple view and also hide excess pages. This means your app no longer holds a definite position on your homescreen. Instead, the OS update will include an app search field, which will offer smart  suggestions and recently added apps at the top, whilst giving the user freedom to hold only their most important apps on a single home screen. This places further emphasis on your engagement strategies to ensure users don’t forget that your app is on their device.

Picture-in-picture and widgets:

Not a revolutionary update as this has been around for Android for a while, but the new iOS 14 update will also allow for a picture-in-picture view. Essentially, iPhone users can maintain a video view between apps for a seamless and uninterrupted experience. This could improve engagement rates for streaming and OTT apps in the long-run.

Another one that’s been around on Android for a while is widgets and Apple took the opportunity to foreground their reimagined experience for app widgets on iOS devices at WWDC. The new designs are ‘data rich’ and come in a variety of expandable sizes to rejig on your homepage amongst the rest of your apps so that you can interact with apps without opening them. There’s also the ability to add a ‘smartstack’ widget, which will offer smart suggestions, a window into useful apps and features based on various behavioural triggers. Optimising for widgets will be key for app owners moving forward.

App Clips…what are they?

Apple also unveiled their version of Android’s Instant Apps, aiming to extend the success of the app store through its Clips feature that lets you try snippets of apps without downloading them in full. The App Clip is a fragment of your app’s experience, drawing from the existing part of the app that is light and fast, a convenient reimagining of the app experience. App Clips appear as a card through a relevant pop-up screen that can be used for various cases such as booking, renting or payments, all transactions which will stay within the walled gardens of Apple (Apple Pay for payment and Apple ID for registration). App Clips can be launched from web, messages, maps, NFC tags or QR codes from products you’ve purchased. 

App Clips will be bundled in with your app in the App Store, similar to how iMessage apps are bundled today — that is, as an extension of the app, under the same store listing. App Clips are also native code, not web technologies.

Apple states that App Clips are an opportunity to quickly demonstrate the value of your app and encourage download. By offering a view into the app experience, App Clips will be a significant discovery and acquisition channel for iOS apps when the feature is made publicly available. It can also be a great way to encourage registration, a typical churning point in the user journey which will be made far more seamless, with user details transitioned to the full app if downloaded.

iOS 14 Privacy Updates

One of the most significant announcements is the new user privacy features that will be bundled in with the iOS 14 update. Starting with iOS 14, apps will need to receive permission from users in order to use the Identifier for Advertisers, the IDFA, which explicitly grants permission to track users across apps and services. On top of that, it has also been revealed that the App Store product will start to feature summaries and a tailored breakdown of your self-reported privacy practices, plus a link to your privacy policy. The depreciation of the IDFA has been long anticipated and it seems that Apple have taken the first steps to give users more power to opt out of tracking. With greater visibility and power to enforce restrictions on part of the user, this could hugely impact the view of your users and their behaviours, including your targeted advertising efforts and even integrating third-party SDKs in your app.

This is a clear prompt for developers to converse with users to gain tracking permissions and to clarify the value exchange in granting these permissions to their users.

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