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

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

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.


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.

Apple acquired Workflow – The powerful workflow automation tool for iOS

When I was talking about my iPad Pro desktop replacement experiment, I mentioned Workflow, a powerful automation tool I use for tasks of many kinds on the iPad and iPhone. It lets you connect various features of many iOS apps in an easy to use interface that often reminds me of Apple Automator on the Mac, an application that Apple is slowly fading out in my opinion… or at least that is what I thought.

Workflow iOS app
Workflow iOS app

As it turned out, Apple just bought Workflow in March 2017, giving me new hope for more professional capabilities on iOS devices. Right now, the app provides the easiest way to generate workarounds for the various restrictions of many system and third party apps on iOS. For many things that are simple to do on a desktop machine, tasks need to be distributed between several iOS apps and chained together. Doing this manually takes forever, with Workflow it only takes longer than on a desktop machine.

With the acquisition I am hoping for a deeper integration into iOS that would allow for easier usage of workflows within and between apps. Also, I would consider it a good idea to broaden the number of preconfigured workflows to specifically target typical desktop tasks. If Apple is really serious about the iPad as desktop replacement, there is still much left to be done.

So I am looking forward to whatever will happen next.

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.

Music Man Luke III

ricfreak:

New kid on the block…………….Steve Lukather Music Man

Luke III

Music Man Luke III, totally the stuff I’d want if I had any skill …

Also I would love the AMPLIFi TT by line6, a totally kick ass tabletop multi effect with a remote app for iOS or Android. for just 188 €.

AMPLIFi-TT-by-line6

Shot on iPhone 6

Apparently, there is a new showcase of photos taken with iPhone 6 on Apple’s Homepage. According to news at at macrumors.com it is just the beginning of a larger campaign:

“[…] involving 77 photographers, 70 cities and 24 countries. Apple will be featuring photos taken with an iPhone 6 in print media, transit posters and billboards across the world.”
Source: Apple Showcases ‘Shot on iPhone 6’ World Photo Gallery on Homepage

Pull, Merge, Push – Online Music Collaboration

When I tried Composer the other day, I especially liked the approach they took on collaboration between musicians. They really seem to think of it like working with repositories when it comes to managing input from different sources and keeping track of revisions etc.

Online-Music-Collaboration

Source: Online Music Collaboration, https://www.composrapp.com November 16 2014

So maybe there’s is github for musicians in the making, or at least there should be. What they really should do is, is provide an environment to share and collaborate on music/audio data, coming from any digital music production environment such as protools, Logic, Cubase, Ableton or any audio editing solution like Audition etc.

Obviously, it would be necessary to enable playback of any audio format and at least allow basic meta data to be reviewed on any project files from any system to make this a worth while effort. If one for instance could review takes, mixes and things like that with realtime controls to enable/disable revisions to let the differences really stand out… that would be quite a tool for creative professionals.

Update: Apple tried something like this in a limited capacity for videos with Final Cut Pro Server, but it was kind of a flop and the product died after only 3 years…