10th App Store Anniversary – Apple’s App Economy

When Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone on January 9, 2007 at Macworld Conference & Expo in San Francisco, no one was expecting the revolutionary effect it would have on most of our lives. Most important component of the Apple led smartphone revolution is undoubtedly the App Store that was introduced in parallel to the iPhone 3G, the second generation iPhone.

When it was opened on July 10 2008, exactly 10 years ago today, it started out with just 500 apps. Unimaginable today, it started very small and yet it was a very inspiring backdrop and integral part of my professional life over the last 10 years.

WWDC 2009 - Apps Wall
WWDC 2009 – Apps Wall

Just one year later at WWDC 2009 more than 50,000 apps were available. At the conference Apple put up a wall of 30″ Cinema Displays (arguably one of the most amazing monitors ever build) and created a wall of apps, showing off all apps that were currently on the app store. As I joined the platform almost instantly after becoming available to developers in Germany, I was happy to see some of my apps on the wall (circled in red in the photo).

Over the years I published 100+ apps, both as a individual developer or as a responsible manager while working in advertising and publishing. With applications ranging from promotional marketing apps, utilities, news and upscale magazine products to travel guides, social networking apps as well as environmental citizen science projects and educational games, I gathered in-depth insights into the app store economy over the course of the last decade.


Growing into an App Economy

Things have come a long way since the first 500 apps on the store. On the first weekend alone, Apple registered 10 million app downloads. Just 2 months later Apple reported 3,000 apps being available on the store and having surpassed 100 million app downloads, the billionth app download was reported on April 24, 2009. So basically, from the very beginning it was clear that this ecosystem was going to be huge.

By opening the iOS platform to third party developers and also lowering the barrier to entry substantially for new developers, Apple paved the way for an incredibly engine of growth. In June 2018 news outlets reported revenues of more than $ 1 billion over the last decade for German developers alone. After ten years and a substantial clean up of unmaintained apps in 2017, the App Store had more than 2,1 million iOS apps in March 2018, and reported a unbelievable record revenue of $ 300 million in purchases on New Year’s Day 2018 alone as well as a total revenue over $ 26.5 billion for developers in 2017.

Number of apps available on App Store from 2008 - 2017
Number of apps available on App Store from 2008 – 2017 – Source: Statista

To put this in perspective, the App Store belongs to Apple’s service business, which is among the fastest growing segments of revenue for Apple. While it might seem tiny compared to the iPhone category, it is larger than the iPad business and the “other” category which consists of Apple TV, Apple Watch and Beats. Despite indications that the App Store growth might be stagnating or trends are moving away from apps towards smart speakers etc., it is pretty clear that Apple has created not only an amazing ecosystem that includes the iPad, Apple TV and the Apple Watch, it is a very vibrant and apparently highly profitable industry to be in.

The industry demand for skilled iOS developers is high as ever and is substantiated by Apple’s initiatives in tertiary education, providing Swift and mobile application development training at universities all over the world with its Everyone Can Code Initiative. Additionally Apple is also operating a dedicated Apple Developer Academy in collaboration with University Federico II in Naples, Italy and offers a 1 year program to both undergraduate and post graduate profiles.


So, what’s next?

At the recent World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC 2018) Apple announced iOS 12 with overall performance improvements and new features such as group FaceTime, Memojis, ARKit 2, Siri shortcuts as well as a new design of Notification Center and new privacy settings. Among the many new things, I especially appreciate Screen Time, a new feature allowing users to track and better understand their iPhone usage. As discussed before, I am convinced that spending less time or at least more conscious time glued to a screen would be highly beneficial.

Among the many other things that I found interesting on a more technical level, I most appreciate Create ML for Core ML 2, a simple to use tool chain to create and train machine learning models on the Mac using Swift and Xcode. Having worked with Core ML on previous projects, I am looking forward to experimenting with it. Also the Wall of Apps during the WWDC keynote was pretty impressive and surely evolved from the 2009 edition.

WWDC 2018 Apps Wall
WWDC 2018 Apps Wall

After 10 years the iOS platform is striving more than ever within its ecosystem of MacOS, WatchOS and tvOS. With more options for cross-platform application development coming in 2019, developers will be able to offer their apps on both desktop and mobile platforms much more easily. Apple categorically denied rumours to integrate macOS and iOS for obvious reasons and instead announced plans to integrate iOS’s UIKit framework into macOS in addition to the existing AppKit framework used on the Mac. The system apps News, Stocks, Voice Memos and Home debut in macOS Mojave during WWDC indicate how cross-platform apps might look like.

With a year-to-year growth of 30%  from 2017 to 2018 in consumer spendings on mobile application stores combined, an industry report by App Annie suggest an estimated growth of 13.9 % from 2017-2022 with speedings of $ 156.47 billion worldwide in 2022. In 2018 alone, the report expects spendings of $ 53 billion on the iOS App Store with China, USA, Japan, South Korea and Germany ranking top 5 by consumer spendings. Also, despite Android outperforming the iOS ecosystem in terms of downloads, iOS is still responsible for 2x as much revenues, unquestionably remaining the most profitable ecosystem. So it’s save to say, the app economy will remain strong for the foreseeable future.


DISCLAIMER: In 2017/2018 I was part of the master class at the Apple Developer Academy, the first program of its kind worldwide with a select group of around 30 people. The Apple Developer Academy is a collaboration between the University of Naples Federico II and Apple Inc. Utilising Challenge-based learning (CBL) as a methodology framework, the program focusses on software engineering, design and business creation with an emphasis on interdisciplinary collaboration and technology driven creativity.

Noise Pollution Made Visible With NoiseGate iOS App

Something to try: NoiseGate is the only iOS application that focuses exclusively on the dangerous impact of noise pollution on health and mental wellbeing. The app was developed by a group of master class students during one of the many challenges at the Apple Developer Academy in Napoli, Italy, and is available for free on the Apple iTunes App Store as the first app published in the 2017/2018 academy alumni. 

noisegate.co


Why Noise Pollution?

To date, noise pollution is one of the most dangerous forms of pollution because it is silent. Most sounds around us are random or unpleasant. That’s why we call it noise and we tend to ignore them. As a recent review published in the European Heart Journal pointed out, the role of noise as an environmental pollutant and its impact on health are increasingly recognized.

Beyond its effects on the auditory system, noise causes discomfort, disturbs sleep and compromises cognitive performance. Furthermore, evidence from epidemiological studies show that environmental noise is associated with an increased incidence of arterial hypertension, myocardial infarction and stroke.

The victims of this form of pollution is practically anyone in any urban environment in the world. The NoiseGate app allows users to be more aware of their noise exposure and to contribute to a better understanding of noise pollution as a common problem.

Users can measure and calculate the actual noise level in their current position and obtain further analysis to make better decisions on how to avoid high noise levels over time. Simultaneously, all users contribute as “citizen scientists” to the creation of a global map of noise level distribution.

noisegate.co - be aware and escape the noise


Using NoiseGate

With an intuitive design and a user friendly interface, it is very easy to analyze the noise level in real time or dig deeper into the knowledge of the problem thanks to the thermal noise maps that allows to view the distribution of noise all over the world. The strong focus on a simple but meaningful user experience, combined with a colorblind-proof design pushes the app far beyond the many applications in the utility and health categories.

In addition, NoiseGate is the “first mover” app in an unexplored segment of the iOS ecosystem that provides a toolset for solving an individual issue and translating it into an awareness community.

 


Created With Love At The Apple Developer Academy 

NoiseGate was created by a group of fellow master class students (Lucas Assis Rodrigues, Rany Azevedo, Maddalena Granata, Giovanni Monaco, Giselle Katics) and myself during one of the various challenges during the master class at Apple Developer Academy 2017/2018 in Napoli, Italy. For more information about the app itself, the data it gathers or some of the media coverage visit noisegate.co.

noisegate.co - team

Research on Policy Making vs. Policy Research published

Building on research I have done in 2016 at UNSW Business School in Sydney, Australia, my case study about the entrepreneurial ecosystem in Sydney and the regional government’s policy initiatives to nurture the high-growth startup economy has been published as a chapter in the book “Economic Gardening – Entrepreneurship, Innovation and Small Business Ecosystems in Regional, Rural and International Development” as part of their SEAANZ Research Book Series.

economic gardening
economic gardening

The case study was first presented as a peer reviewed article at ACERE Conference (Australian Centre for Entrepreneurship Research Exchange) in Melbourne, Australia, in February 2017 and analyses the City of Sydney’s Tech Startup Action Plan a comprehensive document created in collaboration with entrepreneurial ecosystem stakeholders as well as industry consulting entities over a period of at least 5 years. The plan was adopted by Council in June 2016 and builds on premises such as links between entrepreneurship and economic growth:

“Encouraging tech startups will create more jobs, boost Sydney’s economy, strengthen global connections and make the city a more desirable place to live, work and visit. Our tech startups action plan details how we will work with industry and government partners to create an environment that enables technology entrepreneurs to start and grow successful global businesses.”

Source: City of Sydney – Tech Startups

The updated and final version of the paper was now published as “Policy Making Versus Policy Research: The Case of the City of Sydney’s Tech Startups Action Plan” and is also available on Researchgate.

Impression from Naples, Italy

Since October 2017 I am living in Naples, Italy. Located on the Amalfi coast and close to active volcano Vesuvius, Napoli certainly is unique. As I am adapting to the Neapolitan lifestyle, I am feeling more and more at home in this vibrant city that has been around since the second millennium BC. I actually live close to many references to the first port greek sailors from Rhodes established here, called Parthenope.


Christmas is also kind of special around here. Being very traditional, the region excels at decorating the town. Christmas lightings alone are a reason to visit neighbouring cities like Salerno on the Amalfi coast.

Sushi Guide – Sushi Restaurant Reviews

The last time I went to Sushi Ran in Sausalito, I found it more difficult than before to translate Japanese sushi terms on the menu into plain English (or German). Although I spent quite some time at sushi restaurants over the years, I am challenged from time to time by the terminology. So I decided to create my own little Sushi Guide to help me out.

Sushi Guide - Overview Map

Over the past few weeks I experimented with chat bot solutions and developed a Sushi Guide Chat Bot in Facebook Messenger to help people translate sushi terms in real time and to provide additional information about the dish if available (It’s still in beta but drop me a direct message if you interested in checking it out).

As usual, one thing led to another and I started looking through some of my restaurant reviews on this site and all the photos I took during sushi restaurant visits all over the world. So I decided to build a companion website, called sushiguide.me, where I will put all of my sushi restaurant reviews in the future. Also I already collaborated with some fellow sushi aficionados and their reviews with be incorporated as well.


Sushi Guide Features

The website provides an overview map with locations of the sushi restaurants I went to over the years and allows the user to drill down and explore the map. Each pin represents a sushi restaurant and provides address information as well as a link to reviews of the restaurant. Since there are sushi places I or my fellow sushi guide team members have visited quite often, there might be several reviews of one particular restaurant.

The reviews contain a general description of the restaurant, information about the menu options and details about the dishes I ordered during the visit with high resolution photos and both Japanese and English terms for the fish. Also each review will incorporate a review score with the categories atmosphere, menu options, food quality, drink variety and service. This rating scheme might evolve over time, but I think it is a good start.

Sushi Guide - Rating Scheme
Sushi Guide – Rating Scheme

The website will entails a searchable sushi term glossary with translations of Japanese sushi terms in to plain English. The glossary will be kept as up to date as possible and will definitely include everything I came across over the years. The terms in this glossary will of course be integrated into the Sushi Guide Chat Bot.


So if you are into sushi or care about my approach of reviewing restaurants, check out sushiguide.me, join me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and let me know what you think.

I just moved to Naples, Italy

Napoli - view from castel sant' elmo
Napoli – view from castel sant’ elmo

Since the beginning of October 2017, I have been living in Naples, Italy, with my girlfriend. Many people say Rome is Italy’s heart and Napoli is its soul, so I will report back on that. While joining the Apple Developer Academy Master Class, continuing my PhD research and working on some projects remotely, we plan to travel around Campania and the Amalfi coast to make the most out of the trip.

So far I can attest to the many reports of Napoli being busy, loud and somewhat messy while being unique, picturesque and enjoyable at the same time. With sunny days and temperatures around 25° Celsius it is a quite nice place to be in October. As I expect the winter to be pretty mild, I am looking forward to an unique experience over the next few months.

Also, I am pretty sure that I have never eaten any tomatoes quite like those to be found around here. They are called “Pomodorino del Piennolo del Vesuvio” or just Pomodorino Vesuviano, are available at almost every shop one can go to and are just awesome.

Over the next few weeks, I will report back with some more impressions from the Amalfi coast and the area of Campania and might elaborate a little on why I joined the Apple Developer Academy.

Virtual Drumming with Freedrum

I recently received the Freedrum virtual drumming kit, which was one of the most interesting kickstarter campaigns over the last few years for me personally. I was supposed to get it for my birthday and have been waiting for quite some time to try it out.

freedrum


Freedrum sensors as MIDI controlers

Basically Freedrum created motion sensors with bluetooth connectivity that can be attached to drum sticks as well as shoes for tracking hand and foot movement. The sensors are connected via bluetooth to a mobile device, an iPhone 7 in my case. With the corresponding iOS app the sensors can be calibrated and allocated to right and left hand as well as right and left foot. One might also use the Android app, the Windows 10 or the MacOS app instead.

The connected sensors can then be used to control a MIDI instrument in apps such as Garage Band, Logic X Pro, Ableton Live 9, DM1 Drum Machine, Groovebox etc. and utilised to play virtual drum sets. For people traveling a lot this might be a good option to keep on grooving on the road. Although Freedrum advertises the sensors in live band situations, I somewhat doubt that this will be a dominant usage for the devices. Since I am living in an apartment with no option to play a analog or electronic drum set, the sensors are a nice option to keep practising.

Although I was pretty excited in the beginning, the sensors lack functionality and the software still seems to be pretty beta. I am willing to wait a few more months for updates and keep you updated. Until then, you might want to check them out for yourself… In any case, it is an awesome idea.


OneStep 2 Instant Camera introduced by Polaroid Originals

As of September 13th 2017, The Impossible Project is called Polaroid Originals. Apparently the company’s largest shareholder acquired the Polaroid brand and corresponding intellectual property. That seems fitting since the 2008 founded company practically saved Polaroid instant photography.

After Polaroid stopped producing instant film, The Impossible Project stepped up to produce new film material. They acquired a legacy Polaroid factory and developed new instant film materials for vintage Polaroid camera models. In addition to the Impossible Instant Lab (allowing Polaroid instant photos to be produced from digital images with a hardware exposure unit and a corresponding smartphone app), the company introduced a newly designed Impossible I-1 camera in 2016. In September 2017, the rebranded company introduced the Polaroid OneStep 2 instant film camera.

Polaroid Originals OneStep 2


New OneStep Instant Camera Model

Building on the unique original OneStep design by Polaroid, Polaroid Originals created a simple, easy-to-use camera with integrated flash and rechargeable battery. Apart from modern build quality and lens improvements, the battery is the biggest change for most users. Before, the battery was included in every cartridge of instant film, a factor making instant film cartridges more expensive, apart from environmental implications.

Polaroid Originals now offers film cartridges for vintage 600 series, SX-70 series, Spectra series as well as for 8×10 and the newly introduced I-Type cameras. A cartridge of 8 color or black and white instant photos for the I-1 or OneStep 2 costs around 16€ (compared to 18-20 € for vintage Polaroid camera models). That isn’t cheap. Still Polaroid offers a very unique photography experience, that is very much worth the money.

Over the past years, I experimented with every product the Impossible Project came up with and followed the company’s development from their early days on Kickstarter. I am very happy that it turned out to be a sustainable business and am glad that the legacy of Edwin Land lives on in Polaroid Originals.

Some notes on notes

As far as taking notes go, I am not sure what the best setup might be for me. Although I consider the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil to be the best digital option I have used so far, I was still not getting rid of paper based notes. This is a pain more often than not, since it takes a long time to digitise the notes in an efficient way. This might not be necessary in any case or for all notes, but still more often than one might think.

notes

Since I ditched my iPad Pro for a Macbook Pro anyway, I am back to the issue of finding a solution that works for me. Even sticking with paper based notes won’t do the trick because whenever I start to use a notebook, I stop using it at some point due to the technology gap.


There are many options

Since I am deeply committed to the Apple ecosystem (not just emotionally), the Lenovo Love Book is nothing I even want to try. Also, I am not convinced by options such as the Moleskine Smart Writing Set (although I would be willing to try it at a much lower price point), Evernote Notebooks (in collaboration with Moleskine), Livescribe Smart Pen, IRISNotes 3 Smart Pen or even the beautiful but not so feature-rich Augmented Paper by Montblanc (which apparently is utilising Wacom technology).

If only this would work, but it doesn’t. Although the pen seems to work quite well, the Montblanc companion iOS app lacks features to use the product in an efficient way and there is no convenient way to transfer the notes to a desktop machine. There are many other digital note taking options to choose from of course, all of which are not meant for me.


reMarkable

The only thing I really like so far is the reMarkable tablet. It is a sunlight readable, monochrome electronic ink tablet with a canvas display at 226 DPI and a promised latency below 60ms and most importantly paper-like surface friction. It claims to be the solution to all of my problems:

“The paper tablet for people who prefer paper. Here to replace your notebooks, sketchbooks and printouts. Paper-like reading, writing and sketching with digital powers.” Source: reMarkable.com


Compared to an iPad the features are very limited of course. But still it seems to fit my needs in terms of reading and taking notes. Unfortunately, it will be quite pricy with $719 and a limited time offer of $479 until the product’s introduction in fall 2017. Without trying it out for myself I am not willing to take the risk of ordering it right away. 

The team bypassed kickstarter and just offered pre-orders on the product’s website to finance its development, which is why I have doubts whether the reMarkable tablet can actually deliver what it promises. The preliminary reviews are quite good, so I will definitely give it try once it hits local stores.

This might lead to an update on taking notes. We will see.

Update on working with an iPad Pro

Back in November 2016 I wrote about my decision to work with an 9,7″ iPad Pro exclusively. I stopped using any other computer, sold all my Mac equipment and only kept the accompanying Apple Watch and iPhone. I opted for a Logitech CREATE keyboard and the Apple Pencil and hoped that this step might change my entire tech outfit.

iPad Pro and Apple Watch

I kept using this setup for about 9 months and was quite satisfied with the iPad Pro’s performance even under advanced workloads. Over the last months I traveled quite a lot and considered the iPad Pro a tolerable load despite the bulky keyboard enclosure. It truly was a glimpse at the post-pc era and almost felt like I could finally make it happen.

-> tl;dr


Back to the Macbook Pro

Still I decided to sell the iPad Pro and go back to working with a regular Mac. I did a 2 week test run with Apple’s 12″ Macbook (before the hardware update announced during WWDC 2017) and although I really like the form factor and rosé gold option, the performance was rather disappointing. So in the end, I ended up were my journey began, with a 13″ Macbook Pro. So why you ask?

Among the main reasons are things like app switching, sandboxed data silos, drag and drop and more importantly limited functionality in pro apps. During WWDC 2017 Apple announced new features for iOS 11 on the iPad, such as the Files app (potentially solving some of the pain surrounding sandboxing), the new dock and drag and drop implementation. I think these are overdue features and I highly appreciate the effort towards a more pro operating system. Still I think there is a lot to be done in order to make the iPad a true desktop replacement (… unfortunately I might add).


Workflows on the iPad Pro

For one I would have expected that Apple’s acquisition of Workflow would enrich the possibilities for advanced work on the device. But so far, no improvements are in sight… and this is a compromise to begin with. The Workflow app allows the automatisation of long click-through processes, which is all good but the problem is that automation is required for rather simple stuff in order to make up for lost time in comparison to working on a desktop machine.

The more app switching and file manipulation is involved, the longer everything takes. This is not due to the iPad Pro’s computing power (which is amazing), the user input in iOS just takes forever compared to MacOS. This is no issue while surfing the web or writing a blog post but even creating keynote presentations with loads of images and videos from the web takes much longer than it should.

Simplest image editing involves various apps and might even entail several up- and downloads to cloud storage solutions such as iCloud, Dropbox or Google Drive. Not considering data plan implications, this takes forever and more often network issues disrupt the process wether you are using the workflow app or doing it manually.

ACERE 2017 slides


Pro Apps on the iPad Pro

And than there are pro apps… or rather lack thereof. Although the iPad Pro is advertised as a desktop replacement device and surely delivers in terms of computing power, memory and battery life, most developers of 3rd party pro apps are falling short of delivering desktop class functionality to their apps. Also many web based solutions are not working properly in either Chrome or Safari on iOS, making advanced edits difficult (e.g. Google Spreadsheets, Dexter or even WordPress).

The apps I used (or had to use) range from Keynote, Microsoft Office and iMovie to Adobe Creative Cloud Apps, AutoCAD and Omnigroup apps to name a few. All of these lack features they provide on a desktop machine and all of them take much longer for many similar tasks even if their UI is highly optimised for touch interaction and Apple Pencil input.

In addition I had to do some coding over the past few months and got tired of the limited options in iOS apps. Even for little css/js edits I prefer Coda for MacOS over the Coda iOS App, not to speak of my recent efforts with Swift/Xcode for which there are no viable options available for iOS at all.


What will I miss?

The one thing that is definitely faster and more efficient on the iPad Pro is reading and marking up PDFs. Although regular web surfing and watching videos is very comfortable on the iPad while sitting on the sofa or lying in bed, I can live without it. Reading however ist much more comfortable on the iPad and is the most important feature I am about to miss.

ACERE 2017 schedule

I read a lot of documents, ranging from scientific journals and magazine articles to project reports and strategy documents among other things. I really enjoyed Papers for iPad (the best scientific reading and reference managing app I know – with still ample room for improvements I might add) and often used Dropbox in conjunction with Adobe Acrobat or GoodNotes 4. Papers is available for the MacOS as well, so everything is synced but I am still missing the comforts of reading on an iPad.


tl;dr

I am confident to be better off with the Macbook Pro as long as the pro apps do not offer more pro features on iOS. But still I am not sure wether the pain with the Macbook Pro while reading will be so intense over the next few months, that I might have a look at iPads once more down the road.