16 Apple WWDC updates that are awesome for mobile app developers
Apple’s World-Wide Developer Conference was bigger than usual this year, with huge hardware announcements such as the most expensive Mac in history — yes, more than the 20th Anniversary Mac (and if you remember that, you’re old) — and massive platform updates like Sign in with Apple. In addition, Apple updated and/or announced not three, not four, but a record FIVE operating systems at WWDC.
Count them: iOS, MacOS, watchOS, tvOS, and the new iPadOS.
In all those updates there are plenty of goodies for mobile app developers and publishers that should expand your markets, boost your installs, make development easier, and ultimately … make you more money.
Here’s the top 16 that I saw:
1: Watch OS grows up
Watch OS now has its very own app store. That means it’s easier for people to find and use apps for their Apple Watch, but also means a bigger total addressable market for Apple Watch apps.
Because Apple Watch is no longer tied to iOS devices. Android users and others can buy an Apple Watch and immediately get full functionality, which should increase the number of people in the ecosystem.
Building, distributing, and monetizing Apple Watch apps has been challenging, but the device’s bigger screens in recent models and this new increased opportunity should lead to improvements.
2: AppleTV just became more relevant
Apple TV will now enable third-party controllers from Xbox and PlayStation. That’s a really big deal, and signals that as Apple is getting ready to release Apple Arcade, it’s also preparing to take the fight beyond mobile and to consoles.
It’s relatively easy to port apps from iOS to tvOS, so your existing iPhone and iPad games could also benefit from adding iPadOS deployments, with good options for controlling them beyond what was previously available.
Those controllers will also work for iPad and iPhone, which enables some very interesting options for multiplatform games like Fortnite.
3: Smaller app downloads and updates
App installs will now be 50% smaller, while app updates should be around 60% smaller, Apple says.
That’s a big deal, because app publishers should see higher conversion rates. Smaller apps mean more instant experiences: tap to install, and use it (almost) instantly. That’s especially important for apps that were previously too large to install over cellular networks.
Now they’re more likely to be able to be used right away. That’s important, because if a user doesn’t open an app right away, they might forget about it tomorrow. And that would just add to the total of zombie apps.
4: 2X faster app launches
Faster is always better, right?
This is especially relevant for big games, or apps running on devices with older hardware. I know I’ve started an app when I had 60 seconds to kill … only to stop the load because the start-up took too long.
That’s a bad experience, and it kills retention, engagement, and monetization.
5: Sign-in with Apple
Yes, you’re worried that you HAVE to implement it, and that it has to be above the other options. But, now you’ve got a simple way to get sign-ups instantly, and in a privacy-safe way.
Now you just have to keep working on engagement … and maybe, eventually connect to those users in other ways as well. Because one challenge will be that you’re not getting a user’s actual email address.
The sign-up boost you receive via easy and safe “social” sign-in should help compensate for that, and if you can connect other identifiers as well later, you may very well build a more robust understanding of your user or customer, with multiple ways to connect with them.
6: Less phone spam
Phone spam jumped 3X to 85 billion calls last year.
Every annoying thing on a iOS device is bad for you … but now people can send them straight to voicemail. The upshot: more time for your apps.
7: Desktop-class apps in iPadOS
Files, mice, keyboard shortcuts, faster app switching, running multiple instances of one app simultaneously … it’s almost like Apple wants us to use an iPad instead of a laptop.
In some cases, Apple does.
The iPad — especially the iPad Pro — is getting close to a desktop/laptop experience, and that means more opportunities for app developers. Especially, of course, in productivity and utility apps.
8: Catalyst: iPadOS to MacOS
Not only is iPad getting desktop-class apps, Apple is creating a simple way to bring your iPad apps to a Mac desktop. Not every app will work, of course. If you need a gyroscope, accelerometer, or other mobile-specific hardware or software, this isn’t immediately relevant.
But there are 100 million active Mac users — a not insignificant market — and over a million iPad apps. Some of those apps should be able to find good homes on a Mac.
9: Sidecar makes iPads more relevant
Tablets were not sexy over the last few years.
Sales were down (except for Apple and Huawei) and people weren’t quite sure they had room in their lives for a mid-sized device as phones grew larger. But Apple’s new Sidecar tech enables using an iPad as a second screen for your Mac.
That should boost sales, use cases, and, ultimately, app installs.
10: More privacy for kids
If parents think their kids’ apps are spying on them, they’ll be more likely to limit app usage as well as device usage. Apple’s killing third-party analytics and advertising for apps in the Kids category, which presents monetization challenges, but increases privacy and security.
For monetization: consider subscriptions.
You’ll need parental approval, clearly, but it offers a strong revenue stream in the absence of ad-based monetization.
11: Take those apps for a (test) drive
Apple CarPlay now allows third-party developers to use Siri. That’s huge, making your apps safer in driving environments. It also looks nicer, which can’t hurt.
And a massive plus: opening a new app on the connected phone won’t immediately change the CarPlay app as well. Persistence is good.
12: Merging real and physical: ARKit gets big updates
Apple added motion capture and people occlusion to ARKit, simultaneously making the virtual more real and the real more virtual. In addition, RealityKit now helps you create photorealistic renderings of digital assets. The result is more realistic animations as they obey the laws of physics (if you choose).
There’s also a new Reality Composer for Mac, iPad, and iPhone.
Sadly, this is not as powerful as Thanos’ reality infinity stone, but it should help you develop augmented reality experiences better, faster, and easier.
13: Swift: new frameworks for faster work
Apple’s new automatic functions for things like interface layout, dark mode, accessibility support, and more should make app development faster and easier.
Building an interface now doesn’t require writing code: graphically assembling the user interface builds the code in the background. Edit the code, and the UI changes automatically, and vice versa. In addition, animations are also easier to create, and you can automatically support landscape/vertical screen orientation changes.
Faster builds mean you’re faster to market with less cost.
14: Dark mode
I’ve stopped using apps because they were too bright at night. Now you can enable dark mode in your apps and not contribute to literally burning holes in people’s eyes.
Happy (and healthy) users mean opportunities for engagement, retention, and monetization … and therefore happy (and healthy) publishers.
15: Smarter batter charging
Apple’s now charging a plugged-in-overnight phone to 80%, then topping up to 100% just before you get up. That saves all the endless 100% to 95% to 100% charging cycles, and saves battery.
Why do you care?
Better battery life means gamers aren’t afraid to pull out their phones for a quick game later in the day on their commute home. And that’s good for you.
16: Low data mode
Your users in countries with limited and expensive cellular plans pay more and get less than customers in the U.S., Europe, Japan, Korea, or other countries with comprehensive and ubiquitous mobile ecosystems.
Low data mode helps them enjoy your apps while not suffering from ballooning data rates. And the small apps sizes (see #3 above) helps too, if they don’t have as much storage space on their phones.)
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There’s almost certainly more from WWDC that I missed. What else are you looking forward to in iOS 13 or other Apple platforms that is good for developers and publishers?