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.

Generative Art Created By Your Heart Beat With heart/work iOS App

heart/work iOS app generates original interactive artworks based on unique health information and real time workout data collected on the Apple Watch. Bridging the gap between wellbeing and health data, heart/work creates a new type of data visualisation. It uses meditative breathing exercises, real time heartbeat data and environmental information.

The app was developed by a group of students during one of the many challenges at the Apple Developer Academy in Napoli, Italy. It is available for free on the Apple iTunes App Store with In-App-Purchase premium features.

heart/work icon


Why Generative Art?

Health is not a number. Anyone should be able to easily understand the insights hidden in quantified self data sets. In-depth understanding of medical and biometric data is very complicated. No matter how beautiful charts and numbers are presented, people still have to know which graph should have an upward or downward trajectory and what certain numbers mean in relation to others. Most prominently, the activity rings on the Apple Watch are often referred to as the most engaging activity tracker.  Still, despite providing relevant and most salient information, the rings are limited for an overall perception of wellbeing.

health data vs. wellbeing

With this reference in mind and a rapidly growing global market for mindfulness and meditation apps, heart/work attempts to take a more data driven approach to mediation, while providing a different, more visual and exploratory experience. As the only app on the iOS platform, heart/work is taking heart rate data recorded in real-time on the Apple Watch into account to measure the progression through a guided breathing exercise. The goal is to lower the heart rate during the session, which is claimed to improve the heart rate variability (HRV) and considered to be beneficial to overall health and the ability to deal with everyday stress.

The team developed a visual language to translate the recorded health and exercise data into interactive graphic scenes where visual elements, shapes and colour represent distinct insights derived from the data. These generative artworks are created by the data and human behaviour and provides an immersive and highly personal experience.

heart/work - approach


Using heart/work

The heart/work app’s highly intuitive and user friendly interface design focuses entirely on the breathing exercise, while all required information are collected and computed in background. The strong focus on a meaningful user experience combined with a thoughtful user guide and the immersive artworks created by the app’s algorithms positions heart/work far beyond the many applications in the wellbeing scenario. Every new exercise creates a new and totally unique representation of health and wellbeing.

 

In the unexplored space of generative artwork within the health context, heart/work provides a toolset for both meditation veterans as well as skeptics and novices. It successfully bridges the gap between the perception of wellbeing and health data by translating the information into a visually appealing artwork that is suited to raise awareness for everyone.

To see the immersive and interactive artworks created by heart/work, try the free app yourself. It requires and Apple Watch and access to your HealthKit information as well as location information to work. No personal data is ever stored outside the app.


Created With Love At The Apple Developer Academy

heart/work was created by a group of fellow students (Marco Falanga, Ottavio Gelone, Baldev Ghelani, Giselle Katics, Mikey T. Krieger) and myself during one of the various challenges during the master class at Apple Developer Academy 2017/2018 in Napoli, Italy. It’s totally unique and original visual language for transitionary state of health and wellbeing data fuels an engine for generative artwork that is truly one of its kind. For more information about the app itself, the data it gathers or some of the media coverage visit heartwork.app.

heartwork.app team

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.

How the Apple Watch (somewhat) changed my life

When Tim Cook introduced the Apple Watch, I was very excited and enthusiastic, as any good Apple fanboy should have been. This blind enthusiasm and the desperate need for something new to change the world was not impaired by the watch’s price tag in any way. Since we all know that Apple is working on becoming a luxury brand, everything seemed pretty reasonable for a paradigm shifting, game changing new device that would redefine time itself. For some reason, I opted for a Apple Watch Sport with a 42mm wristband and could resist the urge to choose the stainless steel version for just twice the price.

Trying on the Apple Watch - 4

 

Not much happening with the Apple Watch

Now, after almost 11 month and the recent Apple Watch OS 2.1 updates, things are still pretty slow with the Apple Watch. I am not talking about somewhat disappointing sales figures Apple is not really talking about for some reason (although these numbers seems to be growing and the Apple Watch will be great business in the end), but rather the slow adoption of the ecosystem by third party app developers. Up until today, there is basically no app whatsoever I am using on the Apple Watch apart from Apple’s own system apps. And I feel like I tried them all. Sure, 1Password, Airbnb, Camera+, DriveNow, eBay, Evernote, Foursquare, Lufthansa, Things, Uber, Withings and Yelp have updated their apps for Apple Watch, as did many others. But whatever they are doing, it’s not much. In addition the apps are so slow, it takes them forever to load and any potential advantage over taking out the iPhone and starting the apps gets lost on the way.

Here are a few screenshots of some apps I use on my iPhone. Make up you own mind wether their Apple Watch implementation blows your mind:

 

Still the Apple Watch changed everything for the better…

Although I am deeply disappointed by the Apple Watch ecosystem so far, I am still more than happy with my purchase. Finally I have full body contact with an Apple device. Apart from that, I enjoyed the sketch feature for a few weeks but it wore off pretty fast. What didn’t wore off, however, was how I use the Apple Watch for notifications. And this changed everything for me.

Until before I was constantly checking my iPhone for news updates, message notifications and all that stuff just because of the fear of missing out. I could have deactivated most notifications on my iPhone, but I really like their way of keeping me informed without having to start a bunch of apps. So basically I suffered through buzzing notifications every day for years. Also this led to me (and everyone else for that matter) being constantly on the phone, isolating myself from social interactions in some way.

With the Apple Watch I can basically use a different notification scheme, allowing me to focus only on the most important messages. That means turning most notifications off. Now my iPhone is in silent mode most of the day, not vibrating anymore. Anything that might be of real importance to me will come through to the Apple Watch, everything else just has to wait until I actually use the iPhone.

The results are: I am using the iPhone far less than before and I am not taking it out of my pocket while in meetings ever since. This is a liberating feeling, I can tell you that much. It allows a whole new level of concentration on the moment. In addition I also feel much more calm, since I  filtered out so much noise. It’s a huge improvement over how thing where before. This sounds like a tiny little issue, but in fact it changed my daily routine for good and for the better. This alone was totally worth buying the Apple Watch.

 

… even without wearing it

In addition I might add, that I haven’t worn wrist watches in the past years, although I really like them as a fashion statement. This led to me forgetting to put on the Apple Watch from time to time. Since I arrived in Sydney I left it at home to save my wrist from the otherwise unavoidable tan lines. The most interesting part ist, that although I haven’t worn the Apple Watch in almost 4 weeks now, I didn’t change my iPhone routine. This might be great. So even if things don’t pick up with the Apple Watch in the future, I broke my terrible iPhone habits… hopefully for good.

Apple as a Service – What A Monthly Tech Outfit Subscription Model Could Look Like

Apple - get an all access pass

Source: Apple Music Membership – Apple.com

Apple has indeed changed very much over the years. I don’t want to talk about what happened in the 80ies or 90ies or how Steve Jobs saved the company. I also don’t want to talk about the iPod or the even bigger iPhone and iPad era. Neither do I want to point out how Apple might be changing since Steve Jobs passed away. That has been said and discussed abundantly. Recently I started thinking more and more about Apple’s rapidly growing software and services business with its subscription models.

“Once upon a time, Apple was a hardware company that also maintained a software and media ecosystem since it helped drive purchases of Macs, iPods and more. But over the years, the software and services side of the business has become increasingly important, and CEO Tim Cook even went so far as to state out right that Apple is “not a hardware company.” Not once, but twice.”

Source: Tim Cook Talks Up Apple Software And Service: ” We Are Not A Hardware Company” – techcrunch


 

Subscription Models

Quite obviously, I couldn’t agree more. iTunes, Apps, movie rentals and recent subscription services such as Apple Music are making up for a substantial share of Apple’s revenue. Most interesting are developments with the subscription models, I think. These services provide a steady and projectable revenue stream and might be very appealing in contrast to regular sales, which are more volatile even for Apple.

That’s probably why Apple is experimenting more with subscription based models for a variety of their products. There is iCloud storage, which is becoming more and more affordable, and Apple Music with family options but thats far from it. Apple also introduced a subscription model for the iPhone, the iPhone Upgrade Program, basically allowing customers to get a new iPhone each year for a premium starting at $ 32.41 per month for the smallest iPhone version. Apple is offering up to 0%  financing and leasing models for creative professionals and businesses as well, which could be considered as kind of subscription like as well.

iPhone Upgrade Program

Source: iPhone Upgrade Program – Apple.com


 

Apple Outfit on a Monthly Subscription

Apple could be offering subscription like models for every product they have, converting much of their regular sales revenues into projectable continues revenues. And since we are talking about Apple, they would not be not aiming for a $ 9.99 $ per month target, not even $ 99.99 if you think about it.

Take into consideration my current Apple outfit, which is far from high end compared im my opinion. I use a high end Macbook Pro 13″ Retina, a iPhone 6S 64 GB, an iPad Mini 4 64 GB, an Apple TV 64 GB, an Apple Watch, another moderately pimped Mac Mini, a Thunderbolt Display and some amount of adapters and software in addition to an Apple Music and iCloud storage subscription. Even if I consider yearly updates for the iPhone and updates for the Macbook Pro and everything else every 3 years (which I consider to be very conservative), it amounts to quite some money.

Based on current Apple product pricing (November 2015) in the US, this would amount to $ 9,137.16 over a 3 year period, not considering potential returns from reselling used products. But in fact, this might not be possible in a subscription model if things turn out the way they do with the iPhone Upgrade Program, where you are required to return the iPhone to Apple when receiving the newer version, as far as I understand it.

  • Macbook Pro 13 Retina 3.1 GHz, 16 GB memory, 1 TB flash storage = $ 2,699
  • iPhone 6S 64 GB = $ 649
  • iPhone 6S 64GB Upgrade Program = $ 36.58/month x 36 = $ 1,316.88 (basically 2 additional iPhones)
  • iPad Mini 4 64GB Wifi + Cellular = $ 629
  • Apple TV 64 GB =  $ 199
  • Apple Watch Sport 42mm = $ 399
  • Mac Mini 3.0 GHz, 16 GB memory, 1 TB fusion drive = $ 1,399
  • Thunderbolt Display = $ 999
  • Adapters & Software = $ 200
  • Apple Music Family = $ 14.99/month x 36 = $ 539.64
  • iCloud storage plan 200 GB = $ 2.99 /month x 36 = $ 107.64

This insanely sum would come down to $ 253.81 per month. This is without tax and without any interest for a service offering like this. I would suppose if Apple adds Apple Care and other support coverages, it would be even more. On the other hand, there might be discounts and various other factors, which could reduce sum considerably. Anyway, a conceivable Apple as a Service subscription service might come down to something of a medium 3 digit amount of $$$ per month easily, even with just a moderate Apple outfit. Just consider a creative professional using an upscale iMac or Mac Pro outfit with some additional peripherals.

Taking Apple’s huge profit margin into consideration (up from 1.23% in 2003 to 21.60 % in 2015), Apple might in fact be able to offer services like this for a select group of customers and could provide products in advance, collecting its revenue over the installment of the service.

In any case, it was kind of shocking to sum up the amount of money I spend on Apple products each year. Compared to any other subscriptions I have, this is definitely the most expensive one. But still, I wouldn’t want to miss out on any part of it.

Trying on the Apple Watch

Starting today, the Apple Watch can be preordered online and is available for try-on-sessions in local retail stores with an appointment. Appointments can be made on online or via the Apple Store iOS App since 9:01 AM this morning (April 10 2015).

Apparently things are not as bad as expected, since I got a slot at 11 AM and the store was far from crowded. Looks like the demand is not that crazy after all. I really like the way they chose to display the watch and must admit that trying it on is the most personal shopping experience at Apple’s stores yet. Any edition of the watch just looks great, although one might opt for the pricier versions in terms of variety and style options. But still, the rubber silicon whatever wristbands of the Sport edition feel far better than expected. Anyway, I am hooked and will be preordering today… an Apple Watch Sport in black, I might add.

Apple Watch by Pipes News – Apple Watch Demo

Apple Watch by Pipes News