$10 Billion Paid to Developers
This is an astounding number. How many businesses have gone from zero to $10B in less than 5 years? And $5B was paid out in the last year alone, which means that the growth is still accelerating.
Apple also mentioned that they have 6 million registered iOS developers. I have a hard time getting my head around this number. Does this mean that 5 million people decided to register as a developer but never managed to ship an app? However, if you are selling a service to app developers, then this number shows that there is a large target audience for your product.
Transfer Apps in the App Store
This is really good news if you ever want to sell one of your apps. Previously there was an unofficial manual process that you could go through with Apple, but now there’s much less friction with iTunes Connect. This opens up new app business opportunities.
93% Are on the Latest iOS Version
Another really nice number. What this means in practice is lower development costs. In the past you typically had to support the current iOS version, plus the prior one. With these numbers it will be difficult to justify that extra cost for such a small market share. The over-the-air iOS update introduced with iOS 5 essentially means that almost all customers update to the most recent release, up to the point permitted by their hardware generation.
With the update to iOS 6, the first generation iPad was left behind. This was a bit controversial at the time since that hardware had been on sale not too long prior. Today I don’t see much reason to keep supporting iOS 5. The main question in my mind is if you should go iOS 7 only at this point.
But your actual circumstances and the devices that your current customers use, need to guide your decision. 7% of 500 million devices is still a very big number.
A lot has already been written about the look of iOS 7. See below for some good articles on this topic.
iOS 7 shows how touch devices have matured. When Apple introduced the first iPhone with one of the first touch user interfaces, people did not have any experience interacting with this type of UI before. Therefore they had to use metaphors that would be familiar. For example: buttons that really looked like old fashioned buttons and behaved like buttons when you pushed them.
With iOS 7 Apple is betting that most of their customers are now used to touch interfaces and are not afraid to explore a little to figure out how an app works. If there is an item in a top corner of the screen, where there used to be buttons, but the item no longer looks exactly like a traditional button, it’s not a stretch to think that this item might do something if you tap on it. Especially if it’s offset with a different color than the content on the screen.
But that’s just the skin appearance changes in iOS 7. The more advanced changes in iOS 7 are much deeper than that. One example is the new, much more consistent layering in the UI. Most people will not consciously notice this, but subconsciously it will provide much better clues to where you are in the OS and inside an app.
With the extensive UI changes in iOS 7 it is not a small matter to do update an existing app to iOS 7. To to a good job of this you have to change your thinking: Start with your content as the star of your app, then add the chrome and navigation only as needed around the content. You should really make an effort to re-imagine the UI to make a great iOS 7 app, one that makes intelligent use of all the new features and capabilities.
When you have finished your re-imagined iOS 7 UI design, you can then port it back to iOS 6 (if you still have to support this). Of course this will significantly increase the cost of your project. Not only do you have to make changes for iOS 7, but also make changes to your existing iOS design.
Another important and deep change is the new multitasking model. Previously only certain types of apps were allowed to run in the background. With iOS 7 the OS will observe the behavior of apps to determine if and when they might benefit from running in the background. The canonical example is that you check the news in an app the first thing when you wake up in the morning. iOS will learn this and can wake up the app 5 minutes before you wake up, so that the app may start downloading data with the goal of having updated data available when you yourself launch the app a few minutes later. This is a great compromise between user experience and battery life. And it avoids the problems of letting any app run unfettered in the background at any time it wants.
More multitasking options opens up the possibility for new types of apps that were not allowed previously.
In iOS 7 apps update automatically without user intervention. This is a great convenience for customers and it can also be a benefit to you as an app developer because more of our customers will be running the latest version of your app. But this can also be a curse. You really, really don’t want to push out a bad update to the App Store. Because very quickly that update will be automatically pushed out and installed onto all of your customers’ devices. Good thing that the latest version of Xcode has improved unit testing features. You do have unit tests for your apps, right?
This is a really good time to be an iOS consultant or freelance developer. Customers are going to need a lot of help in adapting their old apps for iOS 7.
I think the transition to iOS 7 will separate the pros from the amateurs and the cheapskates in the App Store. Creating great iOS 7 apps will require experimentation and a lot of iteration to get right. This is difficult to do on a fixed budget and without passion for your app.
App Store Improvements
Finding popular apps near me is a new feature in iOS 7. This is a step in the right direction along the lines I outlined last week. It will be great specifically for apps that have a geographic home, e.g. city tours, language apps, local events.
A lot of the app store content is displayed in the App Store app as HTML. So hopefully they can add more, different ways to discover apps in the App Store without waiting for a whole new iOS release.
More Car Integrations
This is an oddball on the list. But maybe you can think of some new app ideas for your car. I don’t know what you need to build apps that integrate with a car. Maybe you need to be a member of the MFI program.
iWork for iCloud
iWork for iCloud looks amazing and the rich documents you can create and edit in your browser certainly puts Google Docs to shame. But iCloud is still just personal. That means you can edit and sync a document on all your Apple devices, but you cannot collaborate with other people on the documents.
To be a serious contender in cloud services, Apple needs to have a solution for collaboration between individuals and inside companies. But for this year I would be happy to see just the basic, existing iCloud services just work. All the time.
If you look at the App Store, a significant portion of the most downloaded apps are games. If you look at the APIs available to developers there are very few specifically designed for gaming. You wouldn’t think that iOS is such a popular gaming platform. (A fellow attendee and hard core game developer, whispered in my ear that Apple used to have a real bias against gaming.) With iOS 7 there are several new APIs that will be great for gaming, and gaming has been emphasized several times. There is even a production quality source code example for a graphical multiplayer game available to developers to use as a starting point for their own game development. Or use it as is. I expect that we’ll soon see several slightly reskinned versions of this code on the App Store.
What We Did Not See
No new platforms, i.e. iWatch or Apple TV SDK, were announced. While this was disappointing, all the new stuff in iOS 7 will keep us busy for quite a while. And given how much overtime Apple engineers must have worked on this release (and will continue to work to refine it over the next few months), I don’t see how they could possibly also have created a brand new software platform.
Get Featured by Apple
Apple likes to feature apps that showcase new technologies. With the release of iOS 7 this is a golden opportunity to increase your chances of being featured by Apple. Take a look at your existing apps, and your long list of app ideas, and see if you can make great use of some of the new APIs.