Since being unveiled earlier this summer, iOS 8 and the changes it will bring to the App Store have been eagerly anticipated, but what do they mean for iOS developers, and how will they affect discovery? In this series, we ask prominent members of the iOS community to share their insights on what to expect and how to stay ahead of the curve, as we explore the Road to iOS 8.
In case you missed it, Part I: App Bundles.
With several discovery improvements coming to the App Store this fall, including the return of vertical scrolling, live app previews, Safari’s built-in app search, and store trends, Apple has thoroughly stirred the pot. The implications these changes will have on how your apps are found and downloaded are anything but certain, but one thing’s for sure–the more you know, the better prepared you’ll be. To shed some light on what’s coming, we’ve called on Ouriel Ohayon, co-founder of Appsfire and a well-known industry expert. He was kind enough to share his insights on app search and discovery.
Ouriel, can you review the big changes the App Store will see in in iOS 8?
The App Store is going to enjoy some nice cosmetic changes but the core is actually not going to change much. To start, Apple is going to remove one of its less useful features, Near Me, which unsuccessfully replaced the inadequate Genius feature. Instead they’ll introduce a much more interesting section named Explore, that lets users dive deep into curated lists of apps which are grouped logically by theme.
Apple is incrementally improving search by enabling vertical scrolling in lieu of the painful-to-the-thumb horizontal scrolling and showing two screenshots at once instead of just one per result.
Video previews are another interesting addition, but for now I am taking the position of “let’s wait and see”. Apple is playing catch up with Google Play with videos that are restricted in their duration and what content they can contain.
But the core remains the same; editorial features and top charts will continue to be the main driver of discovery and point of entrance to the App Store. Not a word on whether the ranking algorithm will remain the same (ie: based on download volume and velocity) making it very easy to game.
More importantly, instead of moving the App Store towards a personal, more tailored experience, Apple is keeping the experience the same for everyone. In my opinion that’s the most important change the App store has to go through to make everyone happy.
Finally, one of the most important app discovery improvements is not in the App Store, but in iTunes Connect. Keeping developers informed about their app usage analytics, and where their downloads and engaged users are coming from is a massive step forward. This is the kind of thing that will make developers aware that discovery is the result of marketing efforts that need be constantly adjusted and improved based on the data. No more blind spots (well, except that Apple conveniently won’t provide analytics related to in-Store browsing and search).
Safari in iOS 8 has a built in search for apps. How do you think that will help discovery?
Apple is introducing app search in Safari and also in Spotlight. Apple does not have a great track record of providing great search experiences, especially in the App Store. I am sure it will contribute to more discovery, but I doubt it will be significant. That’s mainly because most people who search in Spotlight and Safari are probably not doing so with the intention of finding a new app.
How do you think Apple’s return to vertical scrolling will affect apps that aren’t in the top 5 for their keyword?
We already know it, most mobile users have little patience and a short attention span. So an additional tap is a chance to zap to something else. I think the vertical scrolling experience is much better, but I don’t think it will dramatically improve the discovery of apps beyond the top five or ten spots. What I would love to see (but Apple isn’t introducing) is the inclusion of smart filters based on price, taste, app types, etc.
How do you see app bundles affecting discovery (ranks, reviews/ratings, etc), and do you see one app being very successful resulting in more bundle downloads due to a higher rank?
App bundles are a great idea. Apple played a nice card here, but bundles can only include paid apps. It is indeed a great way to improve the discovery and sales of paid apps. I wish they extended it to free apps too, but that doesn’t seem to be a part of Apple’s agenda.
Do you think “app previews” will change the way consumers evaluate apps? And, should developers even bother?
Certainly so. But it mostly depends on how much freedom developers will have to produce high quality videos. My understanding is that app previews should not be a commercial but more of a short preview, leaving very little room for voice overs, elegant transition effects, feature summaries, etc.
Ultimately we’ll have to see how developers embrace that feature too. I don’t think anyone will really know how videos affect their sales conversion until Apple provides analytics on video views.
Thanks to Ouriel for sharing his insights to help us prepare for iOS 8. If you haven’t already, be sure to check out our previous installment on App Bundles, and come back next week for the next post in the series where we’ll be covering App Previews.
Ouriel Ohayon is co-founder of Appsfire.com, a global mobile native ad and marketing solution provider for app developers, as well as Isai.fr (early stage fund). Ouriel is an investor in eBuzzing, Outbrain, Eyeview and Ginger Software, and founded the French version of TechCrunch.
Since being unveiled earlier this summer, iOS 8 and the changes it will bring to the App Store have been eagerly anticipated, but what do they mean for iOS developers, and how will they affect discovery? In this series, we ask industry veterans to share their insights on what to expect and how to stay ahead of the curve, as we explore the Road to iOS 8.
In the first part of the series we’ll be shedding some light on App Bundles, a relatively little-discussed feature of iOS 8, which could become the most significant new way to monetize iOS apps since in-app purchases.The ability to sell app bundles opens up great opportunities for developers, but is sure to bring with it a new set of challenges as well. To help you make the best of it we’ve enlisted the help of our friend and industry veteran Joe Cieplinski from Bombing Brain Interactive. Joe has been keeping close watch on app bundles since day one and was kind enough to share some of his insights with us.
What type of apps/developers do you think will benefit most from bundles?
I think indie developers who mainly target the paid up front model stand to benefit most. Game developers, big social media and other corporations who mostly give their apps away for free, stand to gain less from this. They could use bundles, I suppose, as a method of cross promotion, or to charge a small up front fee for multiple apps instead of doing everything as a freemium model. But I think the big winners here will be smaller indie companies who are still selling their wares to smaller audiences at an up-front price.
How do you see bundles affecting discovery (ranks, reviews, etc)?
You could use bundles as a fairly effective cross-promotion tool. We have the “related” tab on the app store, but I wonder sometimes how many people ever look to see what other apps a particular developer has made. With a bundle, there’s a financial incentive to look at what else might be on offer. Again, it helps if your apps are related to each other. Bundling a game with a notes app might not be very effective. But you never know. I’m sure developers will come up with all sorts of creative ways to use this new feature that we haven’t thought of yet.
As far as discovery goes, I do think that the financial incentive to at least glance at a bundle is a heck of a lot stronger than the one to scroll down a list of fifty or sixty search results. Reviews are always tough to get, but I suppose if you sell an app to the kind of person who writes a review, and you can sell another one to that same person, then that other app has a better chance at getting another review.
Rankings might actually get worse for smaller indies, because this may be the strongest incentive for the big, high-ranking apps to use bundles themselves. They could easily crowd people out of the top 100 by bundling ten of their own apps together and getting them all on the top lists. Top lists are never going to be a good place for smaller indies to concentrate their efforts. It’s a lost cause.
Can you provide any technical details behind app bundles?
Apps in a bundle must be from the same developer. So no bundles between developers. (I’d love to see this change, but that rule has been stated clearly.) Bundles are also iOS only at this point. Can’t bundle iOS apps with Mac apps, even from the same developer. In addition, a little birdie tells me (this hasn’t been publicly disclosed yet, and it could be wrong, or Apple could change its mind, but I get it from a solid source) that bundles cannot include an iPhone only app and an iPad only app. In other words, you can’t use a bundle to sell the same app’s iPad and iPhone versions. Same device class only. So two iPhone apps. Three iPad apps. Five Universal apps. etc. Which is a real bummer, if it’s true, because I thought that would be one of the major benefits of bundles to indie developers. My guess is that Apple doesn’t want to give us an incentive to not make our apps universal. They also don’t want to confuse customers, or have customers buying apps for devices they don’t yet own.
Do you see bundles as working better for the same app on different devices (iPhone, iPad, mac) or for different apps for the same device?
As I mentioned in 1 above, it doesn’t look as if Apple will allow us to bundle apps for different devices. We know for sure this won’t happen between Mac and iOS, and that makes sense, given that it could confuse customers who might buy a bundle on iOS without even owning a Mac. With iPads and iPhones, I suppose Apple would make a similar argument. That a customer on an iPhone might buy a bundle, not realizing that the second app is iPad-only, and they don’t own an iPad.
Again, I hope Apple changes this, or that my source is wrong on this matter. But I have a strong feeling this is accurate info. Maybe if bundles prove to be very effective, Apple will find a way to expand the program over time.
How do you intend to take advantage of bundle pricing for your apps? And do you think there’s a good guideline to follow when pricing bundles?
At Bombing Brain, we have our Teleprompt+ app, which is already universal. We have a new app in development, meanwhile, that many Teleprompt+ users may find very useful. So we intend to sell this new app on its own, as well as inside a bundle with Teleprompt+. That way, we can reward our loyal customers who have already purchased one of our apps by offering a discount on this new app, essentially. Because, if my understanding is correct, there is a “complete my bundle” feature, which allows customers to pay the difference between what they paid for the one app and what the total bundle would cost.
This is a huge thing. It’s a massive incentive for indie developers like us to be thinking about targeting our new product ideas toward similar audiences. Which is good business, anyway. But Apple is making it that much easier for us, and I think that’s great.
Obviously, it needs to be cheaper than buying the apps separately. I wouldn’t make it less than buying either one of the apps on its own, either. But anywhere in between could work, depending on your audience. The nice thing about bundles is that you’re not discounting either one of your products. You’re not cheapening the product itself, or making people think your software is worth less. You’re simply offering a reward for buying more than one app from the same company. Customers can see clearly what they would have paid for the apps separately, so they know exactly how much of a reward they are getting.
Thanks to Joe for sharing his insights and providing some protips to help us prepare for iOS 8. Be sure to read the complete App Bundle guide from Apple, and check out our next installment on The Road to iOS 8: Improved App Store Discovery.
Joe Cieplinski is a lifelong musician and technology nerd, now living in Manhattan. He is currently developing UX and Graphics for Bombing Brain Interactive, an iOS and Mac OS X development company. Joe is the creator of x2y, an aspect ratio calculator, and Fin, a timer for live performers, both for iOS. Joe is also the co-host of Release Notes, a podcast about iOS development. Follow him on twitter @jcieplinski.
We’ve been getting a lot of questions about iTunes Connect sub-user roles lately and figured it’d be helpful to map them out so you can choose the role that’s best for you.
What are roles?
Each iTunes Connect sub-user is assigned a role to control what that sub-user can access. Basically, these are permissions settings that control which reports will be available to that sub-user.
Comparison of available reports:
Er… what to choose, what to choose….
We recommend choosing the Finance role because it will provide more accurate data and will make financial reports available. If you’re anxious about having an account that makes banking data available, though, you can choose the Sales role–even though we’d never abuse your trust!
Here’s the difference in the accuracy of the two roles: the Sales role reports base your revenue on downloads, so it’s telling you how much money you will probably make. The Financial role reports base your revenue on payments, so it’s telling you exactly how much you’ve made. It also tells you other useful financial information like the exact exchange rate used at the time of payment, giving you dead-on numbers for the money that you’ve made.
OK, gotcha–so how do I assign a role?
- Log in to your iTC account.
- In the lower-left of the welcome screen, click on the “Manage Users” icon.
- Choose “iTunes Connect User” on the left.
- Click on the “edit profile” button to the right of the sub-user account you’ve created for appFigures.
- Click on the “Roles” tab in the top middle of the screen.
- Check off either the Sales or Finance option in the column headers, and you’re all set!
If you’ve set up a new user don’t forget to head into your Account > External accounts and simply update your already linked iTunes Connect account with the new user/password.
As always, we’re here to help. So if you have any questions about iTunes Connect roles, linking an iTunes Connect account, or life in general, just contact us.
We’ve noticed that a lot of developers are confused when it comes to understanding Apple’s payment system, and with reason. And while Apple has been very clear that daily/weekly reports should not be used for financial purposes, they never explained why.
We bring you the explanation!
Before we go into the actual explanation keep in mind that financial reports follow a fiscal calendar that is different from the normal calendar. You can see Apple’s fiscal calendar for 2010 here.
So here’s the big difference:
Daily/weekly reports record downloads as they happen, while financial reports record credit card transactions as they clear with the bank.
This means that downloads that occur at the end of the fiscal month will be reported in the daily report but not in the financial report, and it can go either way depending on the previous fiscal month.
With that in mind let’s look at actual numbers.
Here’s real data for the fiscal month of Aug. 09 (8/2 – 8/29).
Here’s a comparison of estimated vs. actual profit for the data above:
Profit (from daily): $7,739.90
Actual Payment: $7,767.00
Last 3 days: $30.80
* These results may be a bit skewed because the app was featured early in the month.
- Credit card charges may take more than a day to clear.
- There’s a delay between when a download occurs to when it is posted.
- Because of 1 and 2, downloads that took place over the last 3-6 days of the fiscal month may not count towards that month’s payment.
- This results in a difference in profit of the total of the last 3 – 6 days of the month
Feel free to share your story by commenting.
We couldn’t help but notice our community being all a-twitter about huge, unexpected rank changes in the last two days. We thought we’d break out the old calculator and examine it a little bit.
As you know, appFigures tracks top-200 ranks in App Stores around the world. We took this data and looked at each app’s changes by comparing the hourly change of each app and taking the largest hourly move per day. We added up all the apps that had a big change > 50 (up or down) and compared those numbers to the same days of last week. The goal was to get a picture of high-magnitude changes in rank, the sort that would seem unexpected. The numbers spoke and told us that something was not right.
Tuesday was slower than usual…
Wednesday, and Thursday were crazy!
Let’s get numeric:
During a normal day, 5.77% of apps experience an hourly rank change of more than 50 places (up or down). On Wednesday, that number shot up to over 70%, indicating that it was a particularly volatile day in terms of high-magnitude hourly moves. Thursday experienced similar churn, with nearly 50% of apps experiencing these high-magnitude changes.
Here’s an overview of the last 30 days on the App Store. Look at that NBA-level jump…
Daily % of apps that moved 50 or more places in one hour.
And here’s a direct comparison to last week:
Apps that moved 50 or more positions in one hour.
Then we dove a little deeper into the nature of the changes, taking not only hourly rank movements of 50+, but breaking them down into four groups: 0-50, 51-100, 101-150, and 151+ places. On normal days, 94% of apps see no hourly rank change greater than 50 places. A bit less than 2% see a shift of 51-100 places, and the same for 101-150 and 150+. On Wednesday and Thursday, only about 40% of apps stayed within 50 places, with around 20% seeing a change of 51-100, and likewise for 101-150 and 150+ places. Take a look at the breakdown:
This is what a normal day on the App Store looks like:
Maximum change in rank for 1/25-2/1
This is what Wednesday and Thursday looked like:
Maximum change in rank for 2/3-2/4.
We were puzzled as to why the big movers were distributed relatively uniformly (in that the percent moving 51-100 places ~ 101-150 places ~ 150+ places), rather than showing a more normal distribution, but that’s for another day.
Another peculiarity we found on 2/3 and 2/4 was the average highest hourly rank change per app. That number was consistent around -8 places up until 2/2. On Wednesday and Thursday it jumped dramatically to around +25 places each day. So, though the app store has shown big swings on those two days, an app’s biggest hourly swing is on average 25 places up.
Well that’s it for now, we’ll have some more analysis coming soon.
We recently picked up the following nugget of information from Apple’s iPhone developer news:
You Can Now Choose the Currency For Your
App Store Payments
You can receive App Store payments in the currency of your choice. If you would like to change the currency of your App Store payment, go to the iTunes Connect Contact Us module and select the following pull-down menus:
2. Payment Requirements
3. Wrong bank account currency on iTunes Connect
Up until now we believed Apple avoided handling currency conversions by transferring funds in the region’s currency to the developer’s bank and having the bank do the dirty conversion. This move however, hints that Apple is/will be doing the actual conversion of sales into the target currency before sending it to the developer’s bank.
The big question still remains, when the conversion actually takes place. Some say it happens at the time of the sale while some speculate it happens at the end of the fiscal month. We believe in the latter as it makes more sense from a logistics perspective.
Have any information on the subject? Please share it by leaving a comment.
After being frozen for more than 24 hours, App Stores across the globe are starting to show signs of life. At around 1pm est we started to detect rank changes in most app stores. Unfortunately that’s not very good news.
While some apps rallied, the trend we observed is for paid apps to either decrease in rank dramatically or drop of completely. This was observed in many app stores around the world, US included. While free apps moved as well there is no clear pattern, which at this point is good news.
With the weekend approaching fast, and paid apps declining without cause, this can spell bad news for developers of all sizes. So once again we’re left crossing our fingers and hoping for good…
How’s your app doing?
Yes it is!
Frozen in time, the App Store has not changed in over 24 hours. Our hourly rank updates show that with the exception of 12 and 6pm (est) yesterday, all app ranks remained the same. Those two updates balanced out the ranks so technically there were no changes at all. Kind of strange, wouldn’t you say?
Our guess is that the App Store we see now is coming from an older cached snapshot while Apple takes the time to make necessary repairs that will prevent future upside-down incidents like the one that happened the night before.
With the weekend being the better part of the week (revenue-wise) for most developers, a frozen App Store will be sure to have a major revenue impact for developers. Heading into the weekend, we can do no more than cross our fingers and hope that Apple finishes the needed repairs and unfreezes the App Store.
Stuck up high? down low? or nowhere at all? Feel free to share your frozen experience by commenting.
If you’re an iPhone developer with apps in the app store you want to know when fiscal months start and end so you can estimate your monthly profit. The problem is that Apple hasn’t published an updated fiscal calendar for 2009 – 2010. So, we took it upon ourselves to fill in the blanks and figure it out.
We’ve updated the “profit by region” report to sport these new dates so you don’t have to worry about them. If you’re still curious here’s what we found.
The calendar’s pattern is simple and follows several basic rules:
- Every month starts on a Sunday and ends on a Saturday
- Q1 starts at the end of September
- Every quarter starts with a 5-week month followed by two 4-week months
Putting it all together, here’s a calendar for the remainder of 2009 and all of 2010:
Keep in mind: This is not an official calendar from Apple. Actual calendar might be different as Apple never ceases to surprise.
Lately we’ve seen a lot of chatter from users who want to enable the auto importing capabilities of appFigures but are hesitant to use their main iTunes Connect username and password because it allows full access to their account.
There is a simple solution – use a sub iTunes Connect account with limited access!
It’s very simple, all you have to do is log into your iTC account and create a sub user account with access only to reports. Then link that account to your appFigures account and you’re all done.
Here’s how you create a sub iTunes account:
- Start by logging into your iTunes Connect account and click ‘Manage Users’
- Select ‘Itunes Connect Users’
- Click the ‘Add New User’ button (blue button – top left corner)
- Type in your name and email address (which will become your username)
- Check the ‘Finance’ role checkbox (last on the right) and click ‘Continue’
- Notifications are not required to make appFigures work, so click the ‘Finish’ button and you’re all set.
Keep in mind, we protect the security and privacy of your iTC credentials (and your other data as well) at all times and have many security measures in place to make sure your data remains private.
If you need more help with using sub iTC accounts feel free to contact us directly.