At the Apple Special Event, held September 12, 2018, Apple announced the latest in its iPhone devices: the iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max and iPhone XR. These new devices boast several enhancements, which app developers will want to make note of as they update their apps and create new ones to fully utilize the capabilities of the new devices.
Additionally, Apple announced changes to the Mac App Store with macOS Mojave, which will be released September 24th.
What Are They?
The new devices are the latest in the iPhone line, following the iPhone X (ten). Apple boasts the XS and XS Max as “the most advanced iPhone we’ve ever created,” thanks to its A12 Bionic chip – a 7 nanometer chip with 6.9 billion transistors, a 4-core GPU, 6-core CPU and a Neural Engine that provides 512 gigabytes of internal storage.
The iPhone XR is similar in many ways, but it’s built from aerospace grade aluminum and uses an edge-to-edge LCD display, which Apple calls a “Liquid Retina” display. It’s the first LCD device that works solely by swiping, rather than using a home button, thanks to haptic touch technology similar to trackpads.
There are several enhancements to the new iPhones that make them stand out from their predecessors. They’re designed with edge-to-edge screens, removing the home button of previous phones for an all-touchscreen design with a Super Retina display. This allows the devices to display more of a single image than devices like the iPhone 8 while being smaller or the same size – the iPhone XS is 5.8 inches diagonally, while the XS Max is 6.5 inches.
The XS and XS Max boast HDR photos with a 60% greater dynamic range for colors, as well as a true depth camera system to provide increased depth in portrait mode photos. It uses an image signal processor and Neural Engine to take photos with intense detail, even while the subject is in motion. The cameras also provide Face ID for biometric protection that recognizes users by face and automatically unlocks the phone for them.
Some of the new features have been announced previously at Apple’s WWDC conference, such as Siri Shortcuts – which enables users to create a specific chain of actions tied to a single Siri request – and the ARKit 2. New information was revealed about the ARKit, including its enhanced surface and object detection, persistent experiences and ability to include multiple users in the same AR experience. This opens up several new opportunities for developers of AR-based mobile games, allowing them to create multi-player games with a shared AR experience.
Furthermore, they offer Dual SIM capabilities, allowing users to use multiple phone numbers on a single device. The phone automatically recognizes which number is being called, allowing users to separate their work and personal numbers or include individual plans for each number on the same device.
How Developers Are Using Them
The enhanced visual and processing capabilities are providing app developers with new opportunities, and Apple demonstrated three apps built for the new iPhone devices at the conference.
Bethesda revealed “Elder Scrolls: Blades,” the latest addition to their popular “Elder Scrolls” series. The graphics and sounds that were once only accessible on home computers and consoles are now available in app form, as the demonstration of the game showed high-definition visuals and stereo sound.
Another game revealed for the new iPhones is “Galaga VR,” which takes the classic arcade game and turns it into a multi-player Augmented Reality game. Several friends can play at once, and their games sync up in real-time to provide the same cooperative experience for all players. With the AR technology, they see the enemy ships appearing on their phones, overlaid onto the world around them, and can see their fellow players shoot at the enemy forces while they play.
Additionally, there are non-game apps utilizing the phones’ new camera functions. “Homecourt” is designed for basketball players, as the camera tracks their motions, the ball and how many shots the players make or miss to analyze their performances. It uses “real time shot science” to follow six metrics for every shot, including the players’ posture and the trajectory of each shot, so players can get an in-depth look at where they’re performing well and where they need to improve.
What Developers Should Consider for Their ASO
Whenever a new device is released, developers need to consider several factors, even if they don’t currently have apps available. The new screen size will impact creatives on the App Store, as the iPhone XS, XS Max and XR devices use edge-to-edge screens that show more of a single image on the screen at once.
The taller but thinner screen size of the iPhone X caused developers difficulty when creating screenshots. These new screens will provide similar problems, and developers should consider how their creatives look on each device when updating them for the new iPhones.
However, developers also have new opportunities from the advancements in technology that the new iPhones present. The improved augmented reality functions and ARKit 2 will allow for new AR games and apps, such as the “Galaga AR” game demonstrated at the conference.
Developers who create calling apps that allow multiple lines or numbers on the same device can utilize the Dual SIM capabilities. It will likely disrupt the market as developers figure out whether to compete with it or find the best way to use the Dual SIM with their apps, but consumers have been asking for dual numbers and lines features for some time, so those that can make the most of it will thrive.
Similarly, photo and selfie apps will want to update to make the most of the enhanced camera. The camera the new phones boasts will provide high-quality pictures, so editing apps that want to compete with the built-in photo editor will have to improve their offerings to keep up with it.
For AR apps, calling apps and photo apps alike, the release of the new phones will create new market opportunities and challenges. They’ll each need to make sure to update their ASO strategies in accordance to the new search trends that come about as a result – users may be searching more for augmented reality apps that make the most of Apple’s ARKit 2 features, so descriptions and keywords will need to be changed accordingly. Searches for photo apps may change as people search for functions the iPhone’s built-in camera doesn’t offer, so developers will need to ensure their ASO focuses on those.
Any app that may be disrupted by the new devices will have to prepare their App Store Optimization to adapt to the changes and come out on top.
Mac App Store Changes
In addition to the new devices, Apple is launching the redesigned macOS App Store on September 24th. The updated store was announced at WWDC and will include several changes and new features. The Mac App Store will make new apps more prominent on the front page, similar to how the iOS App Store is set up, includes app success stories, and new tabs for browsing by theme.
The product pages are also redesigned, including video previews, rankings and reviews placed front and center. A new ratings and reviews API will make leaving feedback easier, so good consumer relations and reputation management will be even more important.
While these changes will not be reflected on the iOS App Store, it’s still important for developers to know. Developers with apps available on the Mac App Store should ensure they continue to follow ASO best practices and see how the changes impact their app store pages.
Every new iPhone device provides something new for developers, whether it’s new opportunities or changes they’ll have to consider for their App Store Optimization strategy. These new devices boast great enhancements, but the new screen sizes will mean developers with apps available on them will have to pay close attention to how their screenshots and creatives appear on each device.
With the new technology, including advancements in Augmented Reality, graphics and processing power, there will be new opportunities for advanced and powerful apps that previous devices simply couldn’t handle. Developers should start preparing now for all the new potential that the upcoming iPhone devices will provide.