3 Things Mobile App Developers Can Learn From The Apple Event

September, 13 2017

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Rowan Emslie
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Rowan Emslie

Away from the keynote, the App Store was removed from iTunes. What else went under the radar?

mobile app developers feeling the fear

This screen got a lot of iOS devs very excited

Last night the Apple executives spent a lot of time talking about hardware. A new Apple TV, a new Apple Watch, and three new iPhones.

They did not spend any time talking about the major iOS update coming on September 19th. 

Read more >> Our run down of the forthcoming App Store changes


They didn't even mention that iTunes was going to be streamlined, with the App Store now totally removed from the software. (That one got announced on the Apple Support page).

So, what are the takeaways for mobile app developers?

  1. Apple is going all in on Augmented Reality
  2. Gaming is moving beyong mobile devices
  3. The App Store has been removed from iTunes
Frankly, we didn't get much.

The lack of detail surrounding the major software updates first announced at the World Wide Developer's Conference (WWDC) back in June left the entire mobile ecosystem guessing. As we reported then, overhauling the App Store meant huge changes in app store optimization techniques, not least because it signalled Apple were becoming increasingly editorial in approach.

We are still waiting on details.

Still, let's tackle the three points we did get.

Augmented reality

In a pre-recorded segment, lead Apple designer Jony Ive made the prediction that Apple will become "the world's largest platform for augmented reality."

The clues from the WWDC indicated that AR was going to be Apple's next big bet. They announced ARKit - a toolkit for developers that mainstreams AR into all Apple devices.

At the keynote yesterday, they devoted significant time to showcasing two different AR games: a Warhammer 40ḱ title by Pixel Toys and The Machines, a tabletop strategy game from Directive Games that was demonstrated live on stage.

Add to this the fact that the iPhone presenter made a point of highlighting the increased processing capacity of all the new phones presented - he specifically mentioned '3D games' and 'machine learning apps'.

It's clear that Apple's attention is on next-gen apps that push the envelope.

What can you learn from this? 
When the new App Store comes, it will bring with it a massive emphasis on featured apps, curated by the team at Apple. Expect AR to dominate the featured lists.

Gaming beyond mobile

One of the major presentations during the keynote was of Sky, a new game from thatgamecompany, creators of Journey and Flower.

This is interesting for a couple of reasons (other than looking fun to play).

First of all, this game was announced as part of the Apple TV presentation. Sky will be released for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV - the implication is that Apple sees its role in gaming moving beyond mobile only.

The integration of a family friendly, intuitive and easy to access game like Sky suggests Apple is lining up a new competitor: Nintendo.

Secondly, thatgamecompany are not a mobile game developer. Their previous games came out on PS3, PS4, PSP and PSVita.

Apple has made a big play into traditional gaming here.

We know that games getting highlighted by Apple keynotes do big things for download numbers (see: Monument Valley 2). Apple is making a point to deliver that boost to a new audience of living room based gamers.

What can you learn from this?
Apple appear to be expanding their reach on the gaming market. Games that can translate to the home and offer immersive, multiplayer content are likely to win big from Apple's promotional power.

Streamlining iTunes

While mobile games look set to move to our TVs, apps were removed from iTunes on desktop.

For most people, this is a very welcome move. iTunes has long been derided as a bloated, unintuitive mess.

What can you learn from this?
For developers, it means their apps are even more wedded to mobile than ever. Desktop search results will no longer impact keyword strategies and may see an increased importance on voice search (unless the decline in Siri's popularity continues).

Leaks tell the story

The keynote was billed as an iPhone launch event because the iPhone is still so important to Apple's overall sales, making up more than half of the company's revenue. Total sales have experienced strong and sustained growth in the ten years since Steve Jobs unveiled the very first model.

mobile app developers

This year, one of the major storylines going into the event was all the leaks.

We saw images of new hardware, specs, new features and even pricing information. Benedict Evans described the sheer volume of leaks as 'surprising and unprecedented'.

A reddit user summed up the extent of the leaks during the build up:

"I feel like the september 12 event already happened, with all the leaks i don't think there's anything left for Apple to surprise us with. We already know what the phone looks like, what features it will have and how they will work."

Apple has always had a well-earned reputation for being super secretive. Its employees are bound to strict secrecy policies, internal memos are tracked to identify leakers, and they use code names for all their major projects.

Somehow, this has all changed. We didn't see anything at the keynote that wasn't leaked.

Part of Apple's power has always been in surprising people. The lack of information drew people to watch corporate events with a sense of trepidation and excitement.

All these leaks undermine that brand, just a little.

Away from the bubble of mobile obsessives, of course, this won't matter as long as sales remain strong.

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