The App Store revolutionized software, creating a safer, more unified, more convenient way to get apps onto our devices. So what needs to be revolutionized about the App Store?
Prior to the App Store, anyone who wanted to get software—and it really wasn’t that many people—had to hunt around the web, open accounts on a variety of sites, figure out how to install and uninstall, and even on mobile a basic sticky notes app that crashed the system more times than not could cost you upwards of $40. The App Store changed all that, making software awareness, discovery, purchase, installation, and deletion so easy that almost anyone can and will do it. Yet it’s also led to an environment where people don’t want to pay for apps, making sustainable businesses tough—unless you’re one of the top casino-style games.
So much has been written to canonize and vilify the App Store, so many treatise on how it made software mainstream and how it broke software developers—that I’m always hesitant to add fuel to fire on either extreme.
I’ve already written about the sum of all compromises that has led us to both the heights and depths we’re at now, and how I think a public-facing VP of App Store could both propel it even further and help ensure success for more developers. So now I’d like to turn it over to you, our community. For developers and customers both, if Apple asked you how they could make the App Store better for when iOS 9 launches later the fall, what would you tell them?
If you could “Taylor Swift” Apple into making one major change to App Store, what would it be?
— Rene Ritchie (@reneritchie) June 24, 2015
Earlier today, following a wave of “If only there were someone who could Taylor Swift Apple over the App Store” sentiment on Twitter, I asked pretty much that—if someone could, what should the demand be? The responses varied as much as you’d expect, from the very developer-centric to the very customer-centric, from the incredibly well considered to the utterly random. You can dive into the tweet to see them all, but here’s a synthesis of some of the most interesting and the most common:
- Enable trial/demo periods.
- Allow for upgrade pricing.
- Obliterate Top Charts.
- Create a premium store/put freemium in a separate category.
- Build a social recommendation engine/enable shareable app “playlists”.
- Develop a better, more intuitive App Store search engine.
- Enable purchases via iTunes Preview on the web.
- Allow developers to respond to reviews.
- Commit to 24 hour turn-around for app review.
- Increase the consistency and transparency of App Store review process.
- Reduce Apple’s cut of revenue from 30% to 20% or lower.
Some of these might sound obvious and even easy. Each one, however, will need to be carefully considered.
For example, if you enable trials or demos, how long should the period be? Should it be consistent so customers don’t even have to think about how long they have, or should it be set by developers to suit the type of app? Should the period be absolute or relative, so once you open the app you’re immediately on a timer, or you’re only timed while actually using the app? What happens if the period expires, you don’t buy, but then you download the app a month or a year later? Do you get no repeat trial, a shorter repeat trial, or a new trial altogether?
What happens to customer data when the period expires and no purchase is made? Should the customer lose the data because they didn’t pay, or should developers have to provide an export mechanism? Should Apple pay developers a fee during the trial period so they’re compensated for their work, or should developers contribute some time with their app the way Apple contributes the infrastructure to enable it? If you download a trial through an affiliate link, then go through another affiliate link before buying, who gets the credit? The considerations, while not endless, are involved.
Other platforms have been doing some of these things, in some cases learning and evolving through them, for years. There may not be a need to start from scratch. Yet the implementation details will always need to be well planned, and execution is often more challenging than concept.
So, once again, if you could “Dear Apple…” the App Store, and knew that 17 hours after you asked for it, someone at the highest levels would grant your request, what would it be?
Thanks especially to David Barnard for our multi-year conversations on this issue.