To Apple: An iOS Developer’s Wishlist


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(Update on Jan 27 – There were many great suggestions on the Hacker News page, so I’ve added 6 more wishlist items towards the end of this list. Thank you for all the suggestions.)

At the June 2013 WWDC, Apple announced 50 billion app downloads, 900k apps and $10 billion paid to developers. That’s a lot of developers making a living from the iOS App Store! These developers rely on the Apple platform (App Store and iTunes Connect) for everything – right from publishing an app to growing downloads/sales. It’s given developers (such as us) an opportunity to reach millions of iPhone/iPad users like never before.

Having worked with this ecosystem for a while now, I’ve long wished Apple would fix/better a few things and eagerly watched every WWDC, hoping. Here’s a list:

Better App Store:

  1. Better search – This is what a search for ‘email’ brings up, you can see how most of the apps have nothing to do with email.
  2. Better App Store search

  3. Videos in app listings – Let developers add a short video to the app description, it’s the best way to explain what the app does. This briefly appeared but isn’t available to all developers.

  4. Better review system – Marco Arment speaks about it at length here, the ratings/review system is useless. If I find a typo in the app, do I rate it 1 star? Or are 1 stars only for crashes? It’s impossible to judge leaving a big mess of reviews for every app.

  5. Respond to reviews – Let developers respond to reviews, maybe it was something silly that can easily fixed if we respond, and avoid a 1 star review. We’ve seen it prove to be very effective on the ‘other’ app store.

  6. Don’t reset reviews for updates – Ratings/reviews are reset each time an update goes out and the ‘All Versions’ reviews are hidden. So if I have an app for a year at 5 stars and 1000 reviews, it will suddenly become zero reviews when I publish an update for a bug fix, that hurts a lot.

Data/Analytics:

  1. Reveal the source of download – We need to know where downloads are coming from – App Store Category page or App Store search or Direct link showing referrer. Also, tell developers how far a user went into the listing, so we can better the dropoff.

  2. Better search analytics – What keywords were used to download the app

  3. Device breakup – How many downloads on iPad, iPhone, iPod separately

  4. App deletes/uninstalls – How many users deleted the app and a way of identifying them (an ID or equivalent)

  5. APIs for extraction of data – Let us extract all our data – Reviews, downloads, analytics etc.

Others:

  1. Subscription – Again, Marco speaks about it at length here. Basically, auto-renewing subscription are not available to most apps. Apple is being selective about it, an app like Evernote uses auto-renewing subscription but when we submitted a version of CloudMagic with auto-renewing subscription a year ago, Apple rejected us saying:

  2. Based on product functionality, it would be more appropriate to use the non-renewing subscription In-App Purchase type. The Auto-Renewable Subscription product is best suited for apps that require or feature dynamically or frequently changing content, such as digital periodicals or radio subscriptions.

  3. Trial apps – Give users the ability to try the app before they pay upfront for it. This should come out of the box, developers shouldn’t bother about it.

  4. Set default apps in iOS – Why should all mailto links only open in the stock mail app? Users should be able to set their default email app to CloudMagic Mail to any app they wish, same for Calendar, Browser etc.

Updated suggestions from Hacker News:

  1. Siri API – So that apps can be voice controlled using Siri if developers so wish.

  2. Binary Management – If I bring down a binary, let me make an earlier one live so that downloads continue to happen.

  3. Separate IPAs – It’s no point having iPad retina assets in the iPhone binary. We should be able to make separate binaries for retina / non-retina and iPad / iPhone / iPhone 5.

  4. Beta testing through the store – It’s such a pain distributing the app to beta testers, give us a way to do it easily.

  5. User profiles – so a family can share an iPad without messing around with each others settings/apps/data.

  6. Xcode on Windows / Linux – Would be great to not be tied to a Mac.

I truly believe developers will work much smarter if some of these things are fixed. It’s not like any of us are going to stop making iOS apps, but we’d definitely appreciate some TLC. The ‘other’ app store seems to give a lot more to developers. Comment below if you think of other things that Apple should fix.

-Rishit

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CloudMagic - Award winning email app
6 comments
coolmatescomltd
coolmatescomltd

just one more: i would like a "recent contacts manager" ios app. all it would do is list all recent contacts,enable the user to select multiple contacts and tap a delete icon to delete all the recent contacts they have chosen. why hasnt anyone done this?

joshavant
joshavant

This is conspicuously missing one huge thing... A better device and app provisioning system.


The dev portal got a fresh UI recently, and the new Xcode integrations are nice, but, the process is still agonizingly confusing.

Tony
Tony

"How many users deleted the app and a way of identifying them (an ID or equivalent)" with all the concerns for privacy (often coming from the tech industry who understands its potential), its odd to see developers wanting to get this kind of information.

ketcraig
ketcraig

Basically, turn it into Google Play...

spyder_trap
spyder_trap

Couldn't agree more on all points. Nicely summarized!