Apple’s new App Store updates: Subscriptions and paid search results placements

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Apple has announced what can be considered the biggest changes to App Store, since its inception back in 2008. Developers can now take advantage of a new subscription model and new ad placement in App Store search results. These changes will be rolled out to all of Apple’s App Store: iOS + Apple Watch, Mac, and Apple TV.

Apple's new App Store updates Subscriptions and paid search results placementsHere’s a summary of all the updates announced by Apple through The Verge and Daring Fireball, via interviews with Phil Schiller.

  • Developers can now take advantage of a new subscription based model for any type of app, rather than only certain categories as it used to be in the past. For the first year of the subscription model, the revenue split between developers and Apple will be the usual 70/30 and after the first year, it will change to 85/15. Subscriptions could be offered in different pricing tiers, different prices for different regions/countries as well as monthly, annual or based on intervals of any number of months. Developers can use more than 200 price points for subscriptions. If a developer changes subscription pricing for an app, users will be notified automatically.
  • Users would be able to share apps with their friends from their iOS home screen using 3D Touch.
  • Review times have reduced substantially. More than 50% apps are approved in less than 24 hours and 90% in 48 hours.
  • Developers can advertise their apps in App Store search results. A second-price auction system will be used for ads. Only one relevant ad, which will be clearly labeled as an ad, will be shown at a time to users in search results. Users younger than 13 years will not see any ads. Developers will only pay for the ads when users tap or click them.
  • App Store will get a better Featured tab and the Categories tab will make a comeback.

These are a lot of changes, some of which have been requested by developers since many years. It is far too early to say if this will give an equal playing ground to all developers or will it give an even bigger advantage to major app developers.

Here are my two cents on ads and subscriptions, the two major changes when compared to the rest:

  • App Store Ads: It is hypocritical of Apple to block ads in Safari but put them in other places in iOS: namely News and now App Store. Apple is also inviting more spam to the App Stores, especially on iOS. Rather than improving their search algorithms, they have decided to monetize the hell out of search. I, for one, am not prepared to see more Clash of Clans ads nonsense on my devices.
  • Subscriptions: for apps like Tweetbot, Reeder and others that I have been using for more than 5 years now, I would like to pay back the developers. But this means a bigger commitment for both sides. I would not like to pay subscription fees in a scenario where an app is not updated for years to match the latest iOS updates. Example: Tweetbot for iPad update. I’m all in for developers earning better through subscriptions and providing even better app support.
  • Mac App Store: Apple has not addressed any of the concerns because of which many developers took their apps down from the Mac App Store. I do not see how these changes till convince such developers to come back.

I find it odd that Apple decided to announce these changes just a few days before WWDC since these changes are related to developers. Let’s assume that this is because Apple has enough exciting announcements in line for the event.