Under the Radar

Under the Radar 43: Pending An Apple Release


  welcome to under the radar a show about

  independent iOS app development I'm

  Marco Arment and I'm David Smith under

  the radar is never longer than 30

  minutes so let's get started

  so as we are recording this we are about

  a week away from the see you on the

  seventh event which is expected to be

  sort of like the big fall Apple event

  they used to be pretty typical that

  Apple would do a couple of events in the

  fall they seem to be moving to just one

  so like next week the seventh is gonna

  be kind of the kind of it probably this

  year and so well the actual like

  speculations about what's gonna be

  announced and those types of things are

  mostly Hardware related so we're not

  going to probably talk too much about

  that but it seems like a good time to

  talk through sort of the concepts of

  what to expect what to prepare for and

  what to think about going into next week

  because it'll probably happen at least

  this is just based on the a past history

  hopefully predicting a few future

  results is the well Davi you know the

  actual announcement I think it's at

  10:00 a.m. Pacific next Wednesday and

  they'll announce all the things and that

  sometime a few hours after that they

  will release all the the GM's of

  everything so it'll be the you know the

  GM of iOS watch Oh a Ciara TV OS those

  will all go out so we can you know

  download them and do all of our final

  tests and checks and all those kinds of

  things for hopefully all the app updates

  that we've been working on and we'll

  guess we'll have the opportunity to work

  on that and then sometime probably that

  night it always drives me a little bit

  crazy because I live on the East Coast

  and so all of these things are happening

  west coast times and so the opening of

  iTunes Connect to submit new binaries

  built with the new stuff will sort of

  open you know sometime late that night

  usually I'm trying to think last year it

  may have been something like 10 p.m. my

  time something like that it opened up

  and so that point you know you can build

  your new app and you can submit it to

  the App Store because usually the new OS

  updates will be will be released to the

  public about a week later so in this

  case that'll be around the 14th

  and in anticipation of the iPhones and

  any new hardware that's coming out

  launching probably the following Friday

  so they usually typically in the last

  few years they've staged it so that iOS

  really updates comment first those wat

  over-the-air to all the existing iPhones

  in the world and then the iPhones will

  launch a few days later and ideally your

  app will be ready to go on day one on

  the plus side that's probably easier

  this year than it's ever been because

  app reviews so fast now that before when

  app review length was about a week if

  you didn't submit in that first wave of

  people you know so when they open up

  they open up the floodgates at say you

  know 10:00 p.m. on Wednesday if you

  weren't in that first wave you may

  actually not be ready to go usually they

  do a great job they would try as hard as

  they could you kind of got the

  impression that during that week app

  review is like all hands on deck but

  still it was always important to try and

  be in there really soon so that you were

  ready on day one whereas this year it's

  if you have reviews are gonna take a day

  or two you may even be able to get a

  couple of rejection approval cycles

  through in that time but that's sort of

  when I'm expecting for next week does

  that make sense to you based on past

  experience yeah I mean that's that's the

  most likely to happen for sure I mean

  one thing that that is worth observing

  this time is this is going to be the

  first big rush of submissions since the

  app review delay dropped suspiciously

  from one week to less than one day so

  it'll be interesting to see like if you

  know basically how much the influx of

  submissions affect that time whether it

  really makes it spike back up to maybe a

  week or maybe it you know it doesn't

  keep itself nice and nice and fast the

  way it has been for these last few

  months also I think it'll be interesting

  to see what the rejection controversy of

  the year will be you know like every

  every year like you know every time

  there's a new version of iOS that adds

  new capabilities the whole bunch people

  try to take advantage of those and some

  of some of the things people try to do

  Apple decides that's not within what we

  what we had in mind or that's not the

  kind of thing we want to allow and so

  even if there wasn't necessarily a rule

  that explicitly prohibited it during

  development before oftentimes new rules

  be created and established during this

  initial fall rush because you know it

  usually you know it's not like it's not

  usually like evil or anything it's

  usually just like Apple didn't realize

  that oh you know what we didn't think

  about that thing that you just did with

  this new ability we had and we don't

  want you to do that but inevitably this

  always causes lots of grief for all the

  people involved at the developer Apple

  and all of us who read about it and

  complain about it because ultimately

  that these are all really messy policies

  and messy problems that are that are

  hard to get right on all sides and so I

  think it'll be to see what that will be

  there's a lot of new stuff available

  that you can play with now a lot of new

  apps and app capabilities you can do all

  the entire messages app store to me it's


  I am really curious to what happens

  there I'm also really curious to see

  whether there will be a big rush of iOS

  10 apps on day one or for day one

  because it seems to me and this this

  could just be like anecdotal or the

  people I hang around with or whatever

  else you know they this is based on

  nothing except my own intuition and

  anecdotes but it does seem to me that

  there is less of a push to get your

  stuff out there on day one recently as

  the App Store economy become as we

  discussed last episode as the economy

  becomes a lot more challenging and a lot

  of Indies just have bowed out or have

  had to take consulting work to pay a lot

  of the bills and a lot of you know

  there's they're basically like there's

  less I think there's less upside now to

  rushing your stuff out and being there

  on day one for new platforms new

  capabilities new iOS versions things

  like that because the app market has

  cooled down so much for people like us

  but I don't I mean you know better than

  I because you you you are almost always

  out there on day one with with new stuff

  have you do you think it's still worth

  getting out there on day one and do you

  do you expect a lot of people will or is

  it is it either not worth it or can

  people not really afford to spend that

  much time on it I think so it is always

  yeah I've done a lot of getting ready

  for day one and this

  my plan is I originally had been hoping

  to have my next new app ready for day

  one it doesn't look like that's gonna

  happen but instead I'm just gonna have

  updates for iOS 10 watch OS 3 for my

  main apps will be ready on day one you

  know they're essentially ready now I'm

  in the final stages of testing and I've

  been focused on that and I think though

  that makes a lot of sense that if you

  have an existing product that has a new

  capability that it can take advantage of

  to be ready on day one that's like it's

  a surgery or you're in a doubly good

  situation there on the one side like in

  this case for a lot of my apps watch OS

  3 is the big new thing and it's so great

  for me because my apps

  Akin's really take advantage of that and

  B's a lot better so this you know a lot

  of my apps are going to be switching to

  they're gonna require still require iOS

  9 but they're going to require iOS or

  watch OS 3 because what reversed 3 is

  just so much better and so I'm looking

  forward to just dropping support for

  watch OS 2 and plowing ahead there and

  they'll be better for developers and

  then I think also it's it's it's also

  beneficial to you because if you have an

  existing app especially one with a

  reason you know any kind of existing

  audience following whatever and you do

  an update that takes advantage of the

  new stuff I think it's easier to get on

  Apple's radar for being featured or

  being in that group of you know things

  like or even not from Apple and just

  from the press like it's easier to kind

  of get it get that little boost of

  attention but other than that like it is

  a I think there was a time when trying

  to fight for that do that day one like

  being the first to do something maybe

  booth mattered more but I will certainly

  say I don't think it matters nearly as

  much as it used to to be in that first

  wave of things because in general it's

  so difficult and the volume of apps

  coming out in the App Store is so high

  that in some ways it's worse to be in

  that first real wave like this is always

  the tension that I've always felt when I

  come and I come towards the end of the

  summer is on there's the upside of being

  in that first wave is like there's that

  there's a built-in audience looking for

  new stuff both on Apple and their


  team as well as in the press as well as

  customers like penis a I got a brand new

  phone I wonder what I can do it can do

  this cool new thing great I want to take

  advantage of that but I'm the downside

  you're competing against all the people

  trying to take advantage of that

  built-in audience at the same time and

  so you're like via the focus that you

  could get on yourself is so much more

  diluted that even if you are ready and

  you are in that first wave and you do

  get some attention from some other

  things you're going to be sharing that

  with you know tens or 20 of the other

  apps like you're gonna be one of the you

  know here's the ten new apps for iOS 10

  you need to be aware of like the you're

  in a slideshow you're being you know

  you're in that slideshow on the verge or

  something you're not whereas if you wait

  a couple months and you release your new

  app in November say you may actually

  just get attention on your own in a way

  that is probably a bit more constructive

  especially when you know as like this is

  a really busy time for that for the

  press in general and so they're not

  quite as much looking for articles to

  write like if you do it later when new

  things are a bit slower in the news

  cycle and you're just you know it's it's

  nice for them to have something

  interesting to write about like that has

  a great benefit too and there's always

  been a tension there's always been that

  the tension between if you're in that

  like that new group it's like you're

  your potential is bigger perhaps but

  you're the risk of getting lost in the

  noise I think is also higher and I think

  so in general like the fact that I'm

  know I'm gonna miss day one with my next

  app like I there's a time when I'd

  probably be worried about that at this

  point I'm not really worried I'm like

  that's fine it'll just I'll release it

  sometime this fall when it's ready and

  go from there and I'm not too worried

  about being ready on day one except for

  you know from the for the iOS updates

  that I have now and obviously if you

  have an app update that is necessary you

  know so if your app doesn't work

  correctly on the new platform or a

  situation like that you obviously want

  to be ready on day one so that you don't

  have the situation where everyone

  installs iOS 10 and your app stops

  working like it starts crashing on

  launch or something like you want to be

  ready on day one if that were the case

  but in general you can just kind of take

  it easy at this point I'd say and the

  good thing about that ladder

  to about like if your app actually

  doesn't work on ten you probably know

  that already because that probably

  happened during the beta period and so

  many people are in the betas these days

  that you can generally be sure that if

  your app if the if the previous version

  build of your app like if the you know

  building with the Iowa's nine SDK but

  happened but running it on iOS 10 if

  that has worked during the betas it'll

  probably work during the GM so you can

  be reasonably assured of that you know

  most of the time but you know I too have

  have faced a similar dilemma of like do

  you want to join the rush do you want to

  compete in the rush and you know try to

  catch that big wave early on and

  ultimately I I don't know how big the

  wave is like the the idea here is that

  you are competing with all these other

  you know attention-grabbing

  sources here and all these other apps

  that are vying for features and press

  reviews and everything else the whole

  idea here is you're competing for that

  in order to get that that massive wave

  of people and that the wave is the

  assumption is that the wave is big

  enough that it's worth it but I'm not

  sure the wave is big enough these like

  what I what I've seen over the last you

  know well heck over the entire App Store

  basically is you know they're they're

  obviously years where iPhone and iPad

  growth is better than others and also

  the market has had fewer and fewer new

  customers I think over time or at least

  recently that you know it's seen that

  there's a lot of the a lot of the iPhone

  and iPad sales are selling to people who

  already had them who were just upgrading

  basically people who already had Apple

  IDs who might have probably already

  heard of and bought or not bought your

  apps and so what I've seen over time is

  you know it major holidays like

  Christmas and major new iPhone and iPad

  releases used to cause big spikes in my

  sales or and or downloads and over time

  the size of those spikes has actually

  decreased that in recent years those

  spikes aren't actually that substantial

  and so maybe the right calculus here is

  to not compete for this big wave with

  all with everybody else because the wave

  isn't that big anymore or at least it's

  not big enough to make it worth all the

  competition and fighting for all the


  and so free personally I mean this could

  all just be wishful thinking because I'm

  not gonna be ready on day one either

  not even close I have done I've done

  only a very small part of the work on

  overcast 3.0 so far and it's most likely

  going to be a spring release not a fall

  release if I had to take a guess now but

  I you know I I think that's ultimately

  not that bad of a thing because as you

  said like there's so many people vying

  for the tension on day zero of the new

  release and the new phones being

  released that like I as a user as a

  person who loves apps and reads blogs

  about apps and stuff I get overwhelmed

  with all the announcements that are made

  and I usually end up forgetting more

  than half of them and I have to imagine

  that happens a lot a lot of other people

  too because there's just so much that

  happens during this time so much is

  released that you know you could score

  big and get a lot of attention from it

  but I think it's much more based on luck

  at that point than the rest of the year

  when there's less competition per day

  for attention and you have generally a

  better chance of being noticed and I

  think there's something to be said to

  for its the looking at what you're

  trying to build an understanding if the

  if it is truly a new I guess so I'm

  thinking about a little bit of the

  history with one of my half speedometer

  plus plus which is a step counter and I

  remember quite specifically how that app

  came to be because it was one of those

  cases where being there on day one

  turned out to be perhaps not essential

  but very important for the way that it

  gained traction and so several years ago

  when the Apple first added a motion

  coprocessor to the iPhone that we'd gone

  through all the way through the summer

  like in WDC and there are no sign in any

  of the SDKs or in the GM or and the

  betas or anything about to this new

  capability there's going to come out at

  the new phone and at the event

  Phyllis Trillo gets on the stage and

  says hey it has this motion processor

  that can count steps and that evening or

  I guess a few hours after the event your

  Apple updates the new GM's and I go into

  the beta diffs and there's this new

  class cm pedometer and it was a way of

  measuring and tracking steps and at this

  point there's no hardware that

  cysts that can do that the simulator

  doesn't do it and I was like you know

  but I think this is kind of cool I'd

  like to make a pedometer using this API

  and so I spent the next week without a

  heart without any hardware working on a

  version of this aware version of the app

  that ultimately would become phenomenal

  plus plus and you know I remember I that

  you know that iPhone launch I stayed up

  at in you know told like oh it's not

  quite over night I got up maybe at like

  2:00 or 3:00 in the morning I went to

  line up at my local Apple store I went I

  got an iPhone I ran back to my office I

  plugged you know plugged it in checked

  this app that I've been working entirely

  theoretically the past week on made sure

  that it worked as soon as it showed any

  kind of step counting I just submitted

  to the App Store and hope for the best

  and it turned out that was a big big

  boon for that particular app because

  there were no apps at all that could

  today were taking advantage of the m7

  chip at that time and so when people in

  the press when people who had just

  bought these new phones we're looking to

  see if it what like what is this new

  thing and how does it work I was able to

  be an app that you know people could go

  and try and so it was important to be in

  that first wave because there was this

  pent-up to sort of demand for that that

  being in not if I had released the same

  app a few months later there wouldn't

  have been nearly that same sort of

  initial interest and so that was a new

  Scituate like something completely new

  and something that being there on being

  the first sort of mattered whereas a lot

  of updates are a lot of apps that if

  you're doing something that wasn't

  completely impossible before you know if

  you're doing if you were doing it's just

  an update to an existing app or it's an

  app in an existing category that takes

  advantage perhaps of the new stuff but

  isn't completely new and revolutionary

  then you know waiting probably doesn't

  matter as much but I'm definitely you

  know every year I will go to the event

  or go to the event I'll watch the event

  next week and one of the things I will

  turn always be paying attention to it's

  like is there something new that they're

  announcing here that hasn't been in the

  betas that is going to magically appear

  next Wednesday and is there an

  opportunity there and if there is like

  maybe I'll chase after it but if it's

  not in that category

  where you have something very specific

  that is it wasn't possible before it's

  probably fine to just let it go

  yeah I'm curious to think like what you

  know for for what we have heard in the

  rumor mill about these new iPhones and

  possibly new watches I wonder like what

  what kinds of things might that be that

  that become available next week that we

  don't know about yet and you know

  according to the rumor mill like I think

  the the rumored dual camera or dual lens

  camera on the on the big phone the the

  plus size phone that might be something

  interesting you know lots of people use

  their phones as a camera that's a really

  big business dealing with camera apps

  and photo processing and everything else

  so anything that is enabled by a a

  substantially better camera might be a

  really new category to go into later but

  of course there's gonna be lots of

  competition in the head but and even

  there like the tricky thing is whatever

  that new capability that camera has the

  built-in Apple camera will probably be

  able to do it exactly yes I think that's

  the thing where it gets really

  interesting is finding an opportunity

  where there's a new capability that

  Apple isn't themselves addressing at all

  like that like that intersection is

  where really interesting app

  opportunities exist and and of course

  and and the watch also like you know if

  if the watch hardware comes out as

  rumored sometime soon who knows and if

  the rumors are true that it has Hardware

  GPS and maybe some other upgrades like

  would that also enabled new stuff looks

  like maybe it's it's tricky because like

  so many of these things I think about

  you know with the watch and GPS and

  maybe I'm just not creative enough but

  it's a tricky thing to imagine a totally

  new thing that you could do with that

  like it's useful for the watch to have

  GPS but because it requires your iPhone

  to be near to it to do anything with the

  data unless you're doing a sort of

  retrospectively it you your iPhones had

  a GPS in it since the 3G I think or

  something like that doesn't so it's not

  a brand new totally you know new

  capability and so it's tricky to imagine

  what that would be it's it's like it

  will probably make existing apps better

  and those kinds of changes are ones that

  are think are less

  exciting from a like new category

  perspective you know even like you're

  saying with the camera like there's lots

  of camera existing camera apps and so

  even if you took advantage of the new

  dual camera system in some amazing and

  awesome and cool way you're right you're

  going into a set ready saturated market

  it's not a new market that didn't exist

  before where suddenly rather than

  competing against thousands of apps

  you're competing against ten apps you

  know that would be exciting that would

  be interesting but if you're if it's

  just something that has been done before

  but it's just now better that's a that's

  a harder sell I think that's a fair

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  supporting this show okay so I guess one

  of the thing that it seems like it made

  sense for us to dive into is if you have

  decided to you know join the rush and be

  in there in the in the sort of the wild

  craze to being on day one there's an

  interesting aspect to that that I don't

  think is very well documented just sort

  of generally and so it seemed worth

  talking about and that's the process

  that goes into being featured by Apple

  so this is you know I guess in many ways

  the goal or at least it's a nice

  confirmation that the work you've been

  doing is you know is is good is

  worthwhile is perhaps gonna have some

  success is you know when you submit your

  application to the App Store and you

  then get an email back from Apple saying

  your app is being considered for

  promotion which I remember you know I

  the first time I got one of those I mean

  it's like dancing around my office like

  that is so cool too because up until

  that point so much for your development

  process has been in fairly isolated or

  lonely like you've got or like you've

  shown it to your friends but obviously

  they're gonna be nice to you because

  they're your friends but Apple has no

  interest in being nice to you in that

  regard like if your app isn't good

  they're not gonna feature it and so it's

  really cool to get that external

  validation when you get an email and the

  way that process typically works is

  you'll get an email back and it'll say

  you know hey your app is being you know

  considered for promotion and within the

  App Store and they need some things from

  you and it's important to probably

  emphasize that they say considered for

  promotion it's anything anything that

  any interactions you have it you have

  with Apple in this sort of process are

  entirely there's no guarantees that they

  may or may not end up actually featuring

  you it's just going to depend on what

  makes sense what you give back to them

  you know like a lot of times I get the

  impression that there's different you

  know they're trying to put together

  different campaigns or collections of

  apps on their end and if they don't get

  enough of apps in one

  Gouri or just they decide to go another

  way maybe they'll just sort of you that

  that particular promotion that they were

  thinking about may not ever run what

  they'll ask you for is essentially that

  banner that you see in the app store so

  if you open up the App Store right now

  on your phone and go to any category or

  the featured pages you'll see like the

  not not the app icon display the kind of

  the bigger rectangles just that you know

  usually have the apps name and some kind

  of artwork associated with it and

  essentially Apple is just asking you to

  make that that banner for you and so if

  you get one of these emails and you get

  that you know get that artwork usually

  it said based they'll give you say

  something along the lines of you know

  you have a couple of days to get back to

  them I would definitely encourage you to

  work hard to get something back to them

  it's one of the it's definitely I

  wouldn't push it in terms of if they say

  they need it by next Thursday I'd get it

  to them next Wednesday you know you want

  to be responsive and doing everything

  you can on there on your end because I

  imagine you're not the only one they're

  sending that email to and so anything

  you can do to make their life easier

  it's going to just increase the chances

  that you're gonna end up being featured

  you know that much more but you know you

  put together this big PSD file you'll

  send it back to them and then you wait

  and if the waiting part is definitely

  always a little bit disconcerting like I

  you often find you know someone else

  will tell you that your app is being

  featured because you just never know

  when it's gonna happen there's not a lot

  of visibility into that and they don't

  tell you and if they choose it like they

  like no one tells you unless you notice

  it or someone else exactly they like you

  there's no it's not no it's not like a

  conversation you're having it's very you

  get the email that says give us this

  thing and you upload the thing into

  iTunes Connect and then you just wait

  yeah yeah it used to be FTP servers and

  before there was email attachments at

  one time like it the system has gotten a

  lot better over the years so a couple

  things number one most at metrics

  services things like app figures or the

  one I use they will usually have a way

  to track whether you're featured so you

  don't have to be checking every store in

  every country with every category and

  every page so you usually like vailable

  they lovely attract that which is nice


  Apple will occasionally request things

  for their social media accounts and you

  and I have both had this happen that so

  that that's like the app store account

  on on Twitter and I believe is also on

  on Facebook and the requirements are

  pretty different for those than for the

  regular promotional artwork they have a

  lot of restrictions on them that

  basically mean that you will probably

  have to make something brand new just

  for that often times you will have to go

  to a designer just for that or license

  new a new stock photo or something like

  that that's one of the ones I did those

  are probably not worth it in my

  experience so far it so basically these

  these artwork requests it is almost

  always worth responding to them

  completely and quickly but it is not

  probably worth having to go like hire a

  designer for a whole lot more time or

  buy new assets or create all new assets

  if it's gonna be a lot of time or

  expense to you because the chances of

  you getting featured are already not

  probably above 50% and the chances you

  getting featured in a place that drives

  enough downloads to matter is pretty low

  as well and so you know keep it you know

  keep your head straight when you get

  these requests don't go totally nuts

  trying to serve them with like the most

  amazing stuff in the world because you

  know it the possible upside usually is

  fairly small and and the the ones that

  had the larger upsides like the big a

  star banners are actually the easiest

  ones to make you don't go nuts yeah and

  I think that's very fair to say that I

  think it's important to you anytime you

  get an opportunity I mean this it

  applies probably to a lot of you know

  press publications as things as well but

  in general like if you have an

  opportunity to someone's asking for

  assets from you to help them promote to

  you like that's pretty much a good thing

  and yeah I wouldn't go crazy like

  whenever I get the the social media ones

  that ask for things like I just got a

  you know a stock photo site I'll find a

  relevant image you know formatted in the

  way they need it and send it off and

  it's yeah it's a cut maybe a couple

  hours work you could imagine going down

  the road of doing a lot of heavy work

  there but it's probably not going to pay

  off because the difference between an

  amazing featured banner a

  just a basic future banner it's probably

  relatively small in terms of traffic and

  like you said I mean that the social

  ones I found have some impact may be on

  on downloads but not very much there's

  just not not new there's something not

  nearly as powerful as you know being

  promoted in the App Store which is an

  app someone has launched because they're

  looking for an app and then they'll see

  a promotion for an app so they're ready

  in the I want an app oh look here's an

  app oh let me get this app it's always

  gonna be more powerful than you know

  someone's on Twitter looking at the news

  or on Facebook looking at you know like

  pictures from their friends and then

  they see and you know something about an

  app but this is never gonna be as

  compelling so I wouldn't worry about it

  quite as much exactly yeah so keep your

  head on straight don't get your hopes up

  too far but respond quickly it sounds

  about right

  all right that's all the time we have

  for this week thank you everybody for

  listening and we will talk to you next

  week bye