App Ecosystem Weekly for 9/21/12
It’s September 21st, 2012, and welcome to this week’s issue of The App Ecosystem Weekly. This week we’re going to discuss the iPhone’s iOS 6 update, a new mobile OS by ZTE, legal battles between Samsung and Apple, and the Twitter boycott. If you’re new to Kinvey’s App Ecosystem Weekly, you can follow us on Twitter here or subscribe via RSS here. We publish weekly roundups of the most interesting and thought provoking stories around the app ecosystem, app development, and the rest of the mobile world.
iOS 6: Behind-the-scenes changes
This week, iOS 6 was officially rolled out, and millions upgraded their iPhone’s to the new OS. Many of the user-facing updates have been discussed since WWDC in May, including Facebook integration, Passbook, and Apple Maps (which I’ll delve into further) – but a lot of the critical changes affecting developers specifically are actually happening under the hood.
One of the most prominent differences is the change in the way the App Store sorts apps. Apple changed the algorithm it uses to determine an app’s popularity, now using such possible information as social activity (users can now Facebook “like” an app) and search activity. Instead of category browsing, the App Store now has “Genius”, which is essentially Apple’s search and recommendations filter for apps, just like Google is for websites. This algorithm change has significantly affected App Store rankings- some of the top placeholders in the Top 300 were moved down, being replaced by new apps, just the day after the iOS 6 update. See this chart from BTIG Research that highlights these changes:
What does this mean for developers? Now, you’ll have to focus on “App Store Optimization” (ASO) more than ever before in attempts to land in that Top 25 chart. Being higher on the chart is now even more crucial, as Apple’s new card-browsing style feature in the app store shows fewer apps per screen, making it less likely for users to browse past the first couple pages (again, similar to Google). ASO includes a keyword-rich, engaging app description, list of features, call to action, and unique app icon to clearly distinguish your app from others. Developers should also plan to market their app and aim to get it in front of users by means other than App Store search. Start by making your app social – set up a landing page and Twitter & Facebook accounts to build up and engage a community of fans, and be sure to link to them in the App Store. This in turn will lead to a higher velocity of downloads, more ratings, and then a better likelihood of landing on that chart.
Apple Maps Failure
The once integrated Google Maps has been replaced with Apple Maps in the iOS 6 update, a change that is almost unanimously disliked by users. While the turn-by-turn directions is a step up, the maps themselves are a major downgrade. Not only are the images rather shoddy in some geographic areas, but in certain parts the maps are just incorrect, citing outdated names of landmarks or displaying towns in water. Apple promises to improve the app, but you’d think they’d have actually polished the app a lot more before releasing iOS 6 to the world, or the concerns would have been noticed during the developer beta period. This is the perfect opportunity for Google to release a Google Maps app for iOS 6, which they are reportedly working on now. Check out this rather hilarious tumblr blog of major hiccups users encountered with Apple Maps.
ZTE Announces Partnership with Mozilla to Make Mobile OS
Chinese handset maker ZTE did not want to rely solely on one operating system for their mobile devices. Next quarter, their new mobile OS project is set to roll out in conjunction with Mozilla to compete with Android. The OS will be available on devices as soon as early 2013.
There is much skepticism regarding the uptake of this new OS. Can it compete against Android, Apple, or Windows? Especially seeing as it will be limited to the small, low-end manufacturer, it is unlikely that it will gain much traction. Though ZTE is the fourth-largest global handset maker and the second-largest in China, convincing developers to spend time creating apps for yet another operating system – particularly one that is not projected to do well – will be the primary challenge for ZTE. With their handsets already operating on Android (about 90%) and Windows (about 10%), what will be the draw of making the switch? Perhaps the fact that their handsets are budget-friendly will appeal to financially-conscious consumers, but this hardly seems like enough. Another matter to consider is the complexity that developers face when creating apps for one OS that span multiple devices – Google has let Android become fragmented in this way, and it is a concern for ZTE moving forward.
More Samsung vs. Apple Lawsuits, Opportunity for Windows 8
The iPhone 5 hits stores today, but (big surprise) not all is sunshine and rainbows in the mobile ecosystem. Samsung anticipates accusing Apple of patent infringement over the iPhone 5, in a court case separate from the one that grabbed world-wide attention last month. Samsung believes the new phone infringes on its patents in the same way as earlier models and will extend its accusations as soon as it can analyze the device. The case is scheduled to go on trial in March 2014. In addition to a lawsuit, Samsung’s marketing efforts continue to rag on Apple devotees, portraying them as trend-following robots and Samsung users as smart self-thinkers. Here’s one ad that exemplifies this now-familiar tactic: (embed video)
Samsung’s loss to Apple’s lawsuit last month could positively impact the Windows 8 tablet; CIO’s predict it will climb to the #2 spot in the enterprise tablet market after the iPad. Samsung’s loss may help boost the ranking, but the major contributing factors to the anticipated climb include backward compatibility to Windows 7, an established developer ecosystem, and Microsoft’s advancements in touch-screen technology. Windows 8 will jump from earning 1% of the tablet market to 4% this year, and to a projected 11% in 2016. Windows 8 will officially launch on October 25th.
Developers Declare Independence from Twitter
The Twitter Developer Community has created a Declaration of Twitter Independence to take a stance against the new Twitter API policies, which they believe to be tyrannical and oppressive. The document states: “The signers of this document vow to avoid supporting Twitter as a developer platform until they adopt a more developer friendly policy. This includes directly boycotting any events that Twitter sponsors and not developing apps that consume their API.” It also includes a list of infractions that Twitter has committed against developers, such as limiting the number of users an app can have and disallowing sharing content on external cloud-based services.
The negative sentiment surrounding the API changes isn’t anything new, yet Twitter has still done nothing to about it to make their developer community happy. Dick Costolo, Twitter’s CEO, stood behind the changes saying:
“As our users were starting to adopt Twitter on more than one platform…we realized we have to have a consistent owned and operated experience…There are all these value added services that we’d like you to starting building that our customers and users are going to want.”
Twitter’s stance on the issue is disappointing – it seems to have lost sight of the importance and influence of their developer community. And now that community has stood up and rebelled, quite drastically – boycotting pretty much anything Twitter touches. Do you think this will cause Twitter to make the changes these developers are demanding? Considering the community is collecting signatures for the declaration on Github, they may have no choice – or else fewer developers building on its API.
That’s this week’s App Ecosystem Update, covering mobile technologies, app development, and trends & events in the space. Please follow us on Twitter, subscribe via RSS, and stay tuned for future updates from the Kinvey team!