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Ads, discovery, subscriptions: big changes coming to the App Store

Just a few days before Apple kicks off its yearly Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), it has announced a suite of changes to the App Store including paid adverts, improved app discovery, alternate subscription models and a host of improvements for developers.

App discovery

Apple SVP Phil Schiller took control of the App Store late last year, and we can now see the direction he plans to take it. Perhaps most importantly for both users and developers is app discovery: the App Store has been criticized in the past for making it very difficult for new apps to gain traction, short of being featured by the App Store editors. The difficulty in finding interesting apps may also be part of the reason that most users download precisely zero apps per month.

To address this Apple is bringing back the old Categories tab in the App Store, filtering out apps you already have installed to make room for fresh ones, and updating the Featured section more than once a week. Most importantly of all will be the addition of paid adverts. Those who aren’t fond of ads, don’t worry: you will see just the one, relevant ad after each search query on the App Store, and it will be clearly labeled as such. No personal data will be shared with advertisers and under 13s won’t see them at all. There will be “no minimums and no exclusives in order to make it accessible to smaller developers as well,” which is good news for the little guy.

Subscription changes

We’re also due a change to Apple’s age-old business models. Previously, only news and magazine-style publications could take advantage of Apple’s baked-in subscriptions. These changes will mean that apps from any category will be eligible for subscriptions, and Schiller promises that subscription management will be easier with more choice over upgrading, downgrading and changing subs.

Developers will also see more income from long-time subscribers, with Apple’s infamous 30% revenue cut dropping to 15% for each subscriber who stays longer than a year. Perhaps this will encourage Amazon to finally make Prime Video available on the Apple TV?

Developer improvements

Apple has also already started to speed up the app review process. When developers submit an app – or an app update – to the App Store, they have to wait for Apple to check the app is suitable for sale, that it doesn’t break any development guidelines or contain any malicious code or inappropriate content. This process used to take a long time and was often a source of irritation for developers, but now Apple has a “sustained rate of reviewing 50% of apps in 24 hours, and 90% in 48 hours.” Good news for users, as it means updates, improvements and bug fixes to apps can be released much quicker.

It all looks like a series of steps in the right direction for the App Store, and hopefully this will be a good sign of things to come under the guidance of Phil Schiller. The changes will roll out over the next few months – keep an eye out!