App Store Updates Good News For Developers

Apple App Store iOS11

While the hardware got all of the attention, Apple’s updates to the much maligned App Store could offer developers worldwide an opportunity to change the way they interact with users.

At the recent WWDC Apple announced that it will be launching the latest version of its mobile operating system, iOS 11, in September. The new update promises big changes for the iPhone and some major new capabilities for the iPad and iPad Pro.

For many developers however, it is the company’s changes to the Apple App Store which could have the most profound effect. The relationship between developers and the App Store has been a rocky one, with many app creators complaining of limited ways to interact with their users and arbitrary rules which make the App Store a harder place to do business.

In iOS 11 Apple has promised a complete overhaul of discoverability on the App Store, with a new daily landing page, which will highlight a single app, new article-like description pages for each app and how-to guides for more complex apps.

In addition, the App store’s most popular category, games, will be pulled out of the general list and given it’s own tab to let players find the latest titles more easily.

Behind the scenes Apple is also making changing to the way the app store operates and giving developers new ways to interact with users and control how their app appears. These have been long-standing issues for many app creators and have contributed to the Apple App Store’s reputation as being a difficult marketplace for companies without major user acquisition budgets.

Since the last iOS 10 update in March, developers have been able to respond to user reviews directly. This has been a long standing problem for developers where early, buggy versions of an app can lead to very low review scores, which remain part of their overall score, even when fixed (or when the problem was the user).

The update to iOS 11 now offers developers the opportunity to choose whether to keep their existing reviews whenever an app is updated, or push them gracefully into the background.

In the olden days, back in when the App Store was young, app approval from Apple could take weeks and most app updates were major undertakings, so losing the reviews made sense. However, as approvals can now take days or sometimes even hours, the ability to update apps more regularly is something a growing number of developers have been taking advantage of.

From September developers will be able to choose whether to keep their existing reviews, or send them into the semi-retirement of previous versions.

In a market which is widely acknowledged as a difficult place for smaller developers to make an impact, it could be the app store updates that make the biggest difference to app creators around the world.

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