Tag Archives: App Store

App Store Turns 10

Apple’s App Store Turns 10 – How Has it Changed?

Ten years ago, Apple launched its App Store and reshaped the way we use mobile devices. Suffice to say, the app ecosystem has changed significantly in that time, and the app economy is on track to be worth over 6 billion by 2021. With ten years behind us and an infinite future ahead, it’s time to look back and see how the world of apps has changed.

How it Started

When the Apple App Store first launched, it had a mere 500 apps available. Several apps that do still exist today were just a shadow of what they would one day become, such as Facebook’s minimalist newsfeed. Other apps that are commonplace today, such as Twitter – which didn’t release its app until 2010 – didn’t even exist then. Many of the websites and mobile services that users are so used to having readily available had yet to create apps.

Many of the first apps available were simply experiments of the iPhone’s functionality or an avenue for brief amusement. Take iBeer and Lightsaber Unleashed: these were ranked in the App Store’s Top 10 while only filling the screen with beer or creating lightsaber sound effects. In fact, there was a novelty app called “I Am Rich,” priced at $999.99, which consisted solely of a glowing red button that boasted about how rich the user is.

Lightsabers Unleashed

Suffice to say, the app environment was a very different beast in its early days.

How it Has Grown

Today the App Store hosts over 2 million apps, a significant increase from its original 500. The saying “There’s an app for that” is truer than ever. We use apps to check on our homes during vacation, to order food, to buy movie tickets, connect remotely with friends and colleagues all over the world, and of course, for games.

Previously top-rated apps have shifted dramatically as well. Novelty apps are a thing of the past, and new tools and social networks have risen. Man apps relied on existing services and were simply a convenient mobile extension. Today, entire businesses, games and services are built with the App Store at their core. Few would have predicted that we’d be using apps to ask for rides from strangers, but now we have ride-sharing apps like Uber. Meanwhile, apps like Koi Pond no longer exist as the app economy has moved on.

Notably, Facebook has managed to remain relevant and constantly update throughout all these years, consistently maintaining a spot in the top 10 free apps. That is due in large part to its updating and adapting to the changing app environment. Other apps, including mobile games like Angry Birds, have managed to remain popular and relevant by becoming a brand and releasing new versions and spinoffs while improving.

How Times Have Changed

Technology has advanced since the early days of the App Store, and apps have grown with it. The Internet of Things (IoT) allows us to be more connected to everything, Augmented Reality (AR) has become more accessible and businesses of all sizes are learning the benefits of having an app.

App Store Growth

Furthermore, we’re seeing shifts in the demographics and markets. Mobile games dominate the app market at 17% of all existing apps, followed by business, utilities and entertainment. Free apps, which once consisted of only 25% of the apps on the store, are now widely available, with 89% of existing apps available for free.

Most importantly, apps have become a part of our lives. Users constantly wanting something to make their lives easier drives growth and demand, causing the number of apps readily available to the market to increase. Now, we have popular businesses at our finger tips, which has led to those not utilizing apps to be at a severe disadvantage.

So much has grown and changed in the ten years since the Apple App Store first launched, from the kinds of apps used to the technology behind them. One thing has remained constant throughout all the change, though: an app is only useful if users download it. For that, App Store Optimization is and will always be key to an app’s success. With ASO, you can keep up with the changes and developments in the App Store and app ecosystem to remain relevant no matter how times change.

Want to know what mobile trends 2017 holds in store?

Mobile Trends 2017 – What will Hit in Q1?

The New Year is here, and with it comes a whole new batch of trends to stay on top of.

With regards to mobile trends 2017 has the potential to be a unique year. Last fall Apple shook up the world of mobile in a major way by shortening their Title field and introducing Search Ads. This quarter, expect app developers to refine their technique when it comes to mastering the new App Store ecosystem.

Look out for these trends in Q1 2017:

Search Ads Get Refined 

As the year moves on, more and more app developers will begin to discover what performs best for Search Ads. Look for major developers to hit Search Ads even harder in an attempt to expand their search footprint into any relevant keywords.

Similarly, as more developers begin to target wider swaths of Search Ads, they will also refine how to best convert users from Search Ads.

As the New Year begins, make it a priority to learn the best practices for landing and converting from Search Ads.

Services Continue to Grow 

App Store Services picked up major traction in 2016. Expect that trend to continue as 2017 winds on.

Service subscriptions have traditionally been confined to service-based apps like Netflix and Spotify. However, games like Boom Beach have also experimented with subscription plans, showing that recurring payments can be molded to work in a number of formats.

Services have been popular for Apple, too. Service revenue grew by 24% in the fourth fiscal quarter of 2016. Earlier, Apple had announced they would be offering successful Service subscriptions a more favorable revenue split of 85-15, as opposed to the usual 70-30. In order to qualify for the new split, developers would simply need to maintain a user’s subscription for one year consistently.

Superbowl LI Drives Sports Searches

Sports apps will have a field day with February’s Superbowl LI. News apps, fantasy apps and football games stand to benefit the most directly. If your app is relevant for “football”-related terms, update your metadata and creative to reflect this.

Cards, Dates and Flowers Go In Demand 

The first major holiday of 2017, Valentine’s Day will be accompanied by a surge in searches for dating, events, shopping and gift apps.

Whether your app offers gifts for couples, flowers for the parents or in-person meetup opportunities for everyone else, you can capitalize on Valentine’s Day by including relevant keywords and expanding upon them in your description and creative.

Following Valentine’s Day, some apps may want to look ahead to Easter. While the holiday falls in early Q2, apps that offer relevant services (flowers, gift baskets, candy, etc.) will want to pivot towards Easter sooner than that. Change out your Valentine’s Day marketing language and keywords for Easter by early Spring.

While gift apps will have a field day, games can get in on the holiday fun too. The later winter to early spring season is often a popular time for game developers to run special events, like last year’s Angry Birds Epic mini-campaign. This event introduced a miniaturized version of a standard Angry Birds Epic campaign for Valentine’s Day, featuring new levels, special items and more.

If your app can be positioned as relevant for winter and spring holidays, be sure to have your metadata and creative updated in advance so that you have already begun indexing by the holiday.

App store services are on the rise

App Store Services & Subscriptions on the Rise

Subscription-based services are growing on the App Store, and Apple has made no secret of their wish for more developers to start offering them. In an October earnings call, CEO Tim Cook detailed the company’s record-breaking Services growth in the fourth quarter front and center.

“We’re thrilled with the customer response to iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus and Apple Watch Series 2, as well as the incredible momentum of our Services business, where revenue grew 24 percent to set another all-time record.”

Those Service revenues contributed to “a new record [in operating cash flow] for the September quarter” according to CFO Luca Maestri.

In other words, App Store Services are here to stay, and they’re only going to become more commonplace as the market matures.

The success of Services on the App Store has already led Apple to incentivize their inclusion in apps. Earlier this year, Apple announced they would begin taking a smaller revenue split from Service subscriptions as long as customers maintained their subscription for over a year. After one year of consistent subscription, the traditional 70-30 revenue split will lower to 85-15, incentivizing more developers to offer quality subscriptions through their apps.

Some developers are already taking advantage of the change. Major services like Netflix and Spotify are no doubt anticipating the benefits of a massive increase in revenue from a loyal subscriber base.

However, subscriptions are no longer limited to services. Just look at Supercell’s Extra Builders service for Boom Beach. To quote their app description as of this writing, “Extra Builders is a monthly subscription service that allows you to build or upgrade two buildings at the same time. Extra Builders cost 2.99 USD/month (or local equivalent”.

At a low cost of $2.99/month, it’s a relatively harmless buy for hardcore fans of the game that offers a real, tangible in-game benefit. Expect to see much more of this spreading to games in the future as developers attempt to incentivize users to start up a subscription in addition to (or even in place of) paying for individual in-app purchases.

It’s not hard to see subscription-based shopping networks, dating apps and other services flourishing as Apple continues to incentivize subscription purchases, too.

As the App Store continues to mature, consider the market your app services and how your app can best approach monetization. If a subscription makes sense for your app, it could open you up to a growing new alternate revenue source.

Get to Know Your App Market

Get to Know Your App Market

Like many things in mobile and digital marketing, the mobile app market moves fast. While the very top of the app stores are consistently dominated by mobile-first games and apps – and those with large web user bases migrating to mobile – the top 100 overall and top charts in each category are dynamic. Regularly reviewing the mobile app stores – specifically Apple’s App Store and Google Play – can provide insights and ideas for improved user interfaces (UI), user experience (UX), monetization and more. Below is a starting point. You may develop your own process for reviewing the app market as makes sense for your app or portfolio. To help illustrate a topic we’ll take the perspective of a publisher of a photo-sharing app.

Top Free Apps

Even if the top 10-20 spots on the free app charts stay remarkably consistent, there is always that 1-2 apps that either shot up out of nowhere, are new or have found their audience and jump into the top 10 or 20. For example, the makers of Candy Crush have their newest app in the top 10 on google play – Blossom Blast. top-free-android-apps Knowing the latest Candy Crush title is in the top of the free charts in unlikely to lead to some obvious action for your app. What is actionable is watching which social networks are rising, or looking for new tools from existing networks (like Facebook Messenger). A new social network may affect how users can share their photos in your (hypothetical) app. The top free app charts is a quick and easy way to get a snapshot of the mobile app market.

Top Grossing Apps (overall and by category)

This is where it gets fun. The “Top Free” charts are interesting, but which apps are making money? It is important to remember here, that top grossing refers to in-app purchases (or paid apps), and does not take into account advertising revenues, web-based subscriptions, or purchases made outside of the app store (the Amazon app for example). Review the top grossing charts for overall and by categories related to your app as a monetization method in an unrelated app may spark ideas for your app. With a photo app, understanding the basics of game monetization/gamification is probably all that is needed, and our research of the top grossing can skip most games. The top 100 grossing is mostly games, so if nothing relevant jumps out, move right into the top grossing for your app’s category. Note that top grossing by category is only available in the Apple App Store. apple-app-store-top-grossing-photo No matter how your app monetizes, it is important to understand how other apps that share a category (and likely a user base) monetize their apps.

Competitive and Related Apps

You probably have a specific awareness of your top competition in the app stores, and a general knowledge of those apps that compete with your app for specific search terms. In fact, a regular review of competitors and related apps is likely (or should be!) part  of your app store optimization process. A competitor’s move up the app store may be related to specific features released in its latest version.  That is to say – category rankings and keyword rankings are trailing indicators of an app’s performance. Create a routine for reviewing your top competitors’ mobile app offerings, new features and recent reviews. photo-apps-google-play Gummicube clients can access category and keyword competitors, their trends up or down the charts and ratings and reviews from their app’s dashboard.

Trending Keywords

Apple started displaying “trending searches” in the search tab of the mobile app store – which is interesting by often not very relevant. IMG_0380 Gummicube has our own index of app store data, across Google Play and Apple’s App Store. This data provides mobile app publishers and marketers access to trending searches overall, trending searches by category and trending searches related to a specific search term. Trending keywords analysis should be part of every app store optimization process. Monitoring keywords and trending keywords provides early visibility to new competitors.

Mobile app market research in practice

Once you have a routine for these basics, adding review mining, competitor ad campaigns, competitor SDKs used in their app etc.. can provide further insights. Monitoring the app stores, and zeroing in the changes that are important to you and your app is made much easier with software. Take a look at how Gummicube uses app store data for research, app store optimization and user acquisition by requesting a demo here.

App Icons – 4 Questions to Guide Your App Icon Design

App icons.  They are the first thing potential users see when they open the app store.

Curated app selections from “Best New Apps” and “Shopping Essentials” on Apple’s App Store to Google Play’s “New and Updated” are 80% icons.

App icons are how users find your app on their device once they have it installed.

Notifications include app icons which provide an immediate visual cue for identifying the sender.

A mobile app icon helps convert app listing views to installs and users, and helps to retain these users.

How do we make sure we have an app icon that drives results?

Here are 4 questions to ask about your app icon:

Does it help tell the story and sell the unique features of your app?

Part of developing an app store optimization strategy is identifying your app’s most essential and differentiating features.  Does the app icon help to illustrate or support what’s special about your app?

Here are some good examples for calculator apps (I’m using the desktop view of the App Store as it is easier to see all of the icons):


I didn’t realize this was “a thing” until creating this post, but apparently there are hidden picture/file apps that appear to be calculators, but open to the hidden files when the correct password is entered.

Sneaky!  And also represented well by the icons.

Users can instantly determine which calculator apps are these vaults, or are for tipping or converting units of measurement.

If your screenshots are feature-focused (they should be), an icon that aligns reduces confusion and reinforces the main features of your app.

Note:  If you have a brand that is readily identifiable by your target market – you should absolutely incorporate it.

Hotels.com, Kayak, Facebook and Tweetbot (for example) don’t need to be feature forward in their app icon because those who are familiar with their brands already understand the features and benefits (at least as well as what could be communicated in an app icon).

Under Armour does both – for their brand specific apps, they use their logo. In apps that serve a specific purpose – the add the logo to the feature-forward icon.


Does it align with your target audience?

Features and benefits don’t exist in a bubble, features provide benefits to someone and that someone is your target market.

Age, gender, location, language, and the subject of the app all should have an impact on the app icon design.

A good starting point is reviewing competitive and complimentary apps used by your target audience.

Once a few design directions are established, testing icon designs with a focus group made up of your target market is ideal.

Who better to test an icon’s impact on specific actions, and receive qualitative feedback from than who you are trying to reach?

Focus groups provide a tool for testing bigger variations in app icon designs without negatively affecting actual results in the app store.

Once an app and app icon are published and live, Google provides a tool for A/B testing called experiments – where small adjustments can make a big difference.

Does it stand out against its search competition?

Using the keywords and phrases you are targeting in your ASO efforts, compare your app icon with other in those results.

Does it look the same as the others?  Does it stand out in any way?

Are you following Google and Apple design guidelines?

Both Apple and Google provide style guides for icons or for the desired user experience in general.

Stray too far from their recommended approach and you risk being passed over for featured spots or other manually curated lists.

Google’s style guide is here. Apple’s is in the developer portal.

Other tips:

  • remove the standard gloss that Apple adds
  • keep it simple – icons are small
  • keep it consistent with your app screenshots

Want some mobile app icon inspiration?