There are millions of apps available on the App Store. How many of these do you use? Of those, which ones launched in the past year? Here’s how Apple could improve the App Store, perhaps as early as next month at the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC).
Has the App Store Flatlined?
On Tuesday, Forbes published an interesting post entitled, “It’s Harder Than Ever to Launch a Hit App.” In the piece, Erin Griffith explains how launching an app with staying power on the App Store and Google Play isn’t all that easy in 2016.
How bad have things become for app developers? The top 1 percent of monetizing publishers account for 94 percent of U.S. App Store revenue.
Why is this happening? Way back in 2014, venture capitalist Fred Wilson coined the term “app constellation.” Wilson contends that mobile technology has reached a saturation point where the consolidation of economics has happened. In other words, it’s getting harder to create something new.
Look at your iPhone home screen. Which non-native apps are on your main screen? Perhaps Facebook, Instagram, maybe Spotify? The first Angry Birds game? Are any of the apps new, and if they are, do you honestly think you’ll be using them six months from now (TRUMP’S WALL, anyone?)
So what could Apple do to improve the App Store? We’ve got some ideas.
3 Ways to Improve the App Store
Curb in-app purchases
As any parent knows, in-app purchases are terrible on the wallet. Those “free” games are anything but, thanks to the coins, virtual currency, and powerups. Developers share the blame for the onslaught of in-app purchase options in many of the most popular App Store titles. But ultimately, Apple plays the biggest role here.
Apple requires that app updates are free. This requirement sounds great on the surface. However, once an app has been around awhile, getting new buyers becomes more difficult.
Where do developers turn? In-app purchases and advertising mostly. Sometimes, like in the recent case of Day One, developers will stick a “classic” label on a long-published app and then release a new one.
In-app purchases are never going away. However, there are new options Apple could use to entice developers to move in another direction. One of these could be app subscriptions, which would require users to re-up for another year of access. When introducing an app with a subscription, developers would be barred from releasing a “free” version or include in-app purchases.
Another idea: a try before you buy option. Allow users to try an app for a set number of days for free. When the trial ends, the user is automatically charged for the app, unless they delete it before that date.
One final thought: Give developers an incentive not to release a “free” app. For example, instead of giving developers 70 percent on each app purchase, increase this number to 80 percent for these items.
Thinning the herd
Apple’s app approval process is legendary thanks to its archaic rules and sometimes long response time. Despite this, thousands of news apps are approved each year.
Whether an app is actually good is subjective, of course. However, analytics can tell us whether the public at large actually finds an app worth downloading.
Moving forward, Apple should automatically remove apps that aren’t passing muster. They could base this removal on many factors, including when the app was last updated, whether it supports late-generation iOS versions, and ultimately, whether a certain number of users are downloading the app after so much time on the market.
Such a policy would keep the App Store fresh and give developers a reason to keep innovating.
Apple Music curation
In 2015, Cupertino introduced Apple Music. In doing so, it also introduced curated playlists. These lists come from a range of stakeholders, including musical groups, publications, and individuals. An app curation section should also be considered.
These curated lists could be developed by everyday app users, tech sites (such as AppAdvice), and other outside groups. Coupled with the existing top apps lists and home page promotion, the App Store would be much more diverse when it comes to discovery. In doing so, developers would have a much better chance of having their apps uncovered.
Hopefully, we’ll hear about some App Store changes next month at WWDC. The annual keynote address is on Monday, June 13. Stay tuned.
What changes would you like to see on the App Store?