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Swift, Material Design, Wearables and More – Google I/O and WWDC

The experts on Apptentive’s Mobile Team provide answers to your questions about from between app development to successfully marketing your app. Got a question? Ask it in our comment section below or on Twitter using #MobileTeam. In each post we’ll highlight a different topic where the Mobile Team will share their insight and experience.

This week we asked the Mobile Team:
What are you most excited about from Apple’s WWDC 2014 or Google I/O and why?

Rod Burns
The introduction of new language Swift has got iOS developers very excited. I don’t know many developers who particularly enjoy using Objective-C and Swift will make developing for iOS easier and quicker for developers. The language is more akin to web programming languages like JavaScript and Go, where Objective-C is more old school like C++. There are still a lot of web developers who are making the move over to mobile and this is an important move for Apple to continue to attract developers to their platform.

Rod Burns - WIP

Chiu-Ki Chan
I am very excited to see the new Material design. It literally adds a new dimension to the UI – elevation. Elevation determines the size of shadows, and leads to very natural animations. Another great addition is color accents. Developers no longer need to customize every single widget to brand the app. Just specify a color palette in the theme, and voila, the whole app is tinted accordingly. Material design comes with a comprehensive guide on the thinking behind the design, implementation dos and don’ts, and lots of visual examples. It looks beautiful.

Google I/O is stuffed with announcements beyond Material design, and believe it or not, the next thing that got me excited was Cardboard. Yup, it is a piece of cardboard, with lens, magnets and NFC tag. Add a phone, and you get a virtual reality viewer. The magnets are especially ingenious: one magnet is inside the box, to hold the outside magnet within a groove. Pull the outside one down, and the magnetometer on the phone detects the change in magnetic field to trigger a button event. This is how you select an item on the phone while it is trapped inside the cardboard box. Clever, isn’t it? I don’t really have any particular use for a VR viewer, but Cardboard is really fun!

Chiu-Ki Chan -Square Island

Dan Counsell
There were so many great new API’s announced at WWDC 2014, it really opens up so many new opportunities for developers. I can already see us taking advantage of Handoff and App Extensions in both Clear and Ember. For example, we could now write a widget for Notification Centre that shows your most recent tasks from Clear – This is something users have been asking for and we’ve never been able to offer before.

As a user I’m probably most looking forward to the new cleaner look in OS X Yosemite. I’m also very excited for HomeKit and HealthKit, the possibilities for both of these are mind blowing.

Dan Counsell - DanCounsell.com

Ben Johnson
Apple’s new Continuity features of OS X Yosemite and iOS are extremely exciting. The free interchange of information between Mobile, Tablet, Desktop, and TV only further bolsters Apple’s position as a truly unique cross platform ecosystem. There are some fantastic new use cases that will come out of this and we’re really looking forward to including some of this advanced functionality in our apps to make software even easier to use.

Ben Johnson – Raizlabs

Mike Lee
The keynote announcements from these events are always a mix of exciting and scary. New things are exciting! Doubly so for developers and others working in technology, because new things change our direction, for better or for worse. That’s the scary part, because you don’t know.

Even now, a month later, with the new ideas in grasp, and the new betas installed, I’m not sure. It takes time to see how things pan out. Exciting! Scary!

We make technology because we get bored and dissatisfied with the old stuff, because we like the challenge of being kept on our toes, of not knowing whether we’re getting in on the ground floor, or wasting our time while the competition laps us.

Mike Lee – The New Lemurs

Kyle Richter
Apple has begun to make great strides towards unifying iOS and Mac not just from a design standpoint but with functionality like Handoff and Continuity. This feels like a level of maturity on both platforms that will usher in a new wave of exciting use cases. Thinking of all your technology as a single continuous device is definitely where the future is heading and it is very refreshing to see a company like Apple getting behind that drive.

Kyle Richter – Empirical Development

Dan Shapiro
The Wear products are fascinating. It’s most of the value of Google Glass, but delivered in a way that harmonizes with social norms instead of disrupting them. I’m wearing one now and it’s still a little too intrusive, but unlike Glass, that’s a software problem, not a hardware one.

Dan Shapiro – DanShapiro.com

Michele Titolo
There were a lot of awesome things announced during WWDC. iOS 8 is really a developer release. But the thing I’m most excited about is the changes we are starting to see from Apple; they are starting to open up more. We don’t have a WWDC-specific NDA this year. The Developer Forums will be index by search engines. When we are more free to talk and write about the new frameworks and APIs, everyone wins.

Michele Titolo – Michele.io

Conor Winders
From a pure developer perspective, Apple’s announcement of the Swift programming language is one of the most exciting things to happen the platform in years. The opportunity for existing and new developers who learn the language is immense. Apple might be talking a big game about supporting Objective-C and C long term but there should be no doubt that the future of the platform is Swift. Already we have seen a number of the new features of iOS and Xcode tied intrinsically to Swift.

In theory, a new language built from the ground up for iOS and the associated hardware is an incredibly powerful proposition. Apple will be able to do things that nobody else can even dream of, and we as developers have the chance to take that journey with them. From a more realistic perspective of course, we won’t really get to use Swift in anger for a year or two anyway, but it sure will be fun when we can.

Conor Winders – Redwind Software

What excites you the most from this year’s WWDC and Google I/O? Share your questions and comments below or by using #MobileTeam on Twitter.


IMG_20141015_171854

Apple’s WWDC 2014 – Recommendations and Events

Apple Events WWDC 2014Apple’s World Wide Developer Conference is an amazing time to learn, connect, and enjoy San Francisco with the developer community.

For anyone who will be in San Francisco attending WWDC or the amazing AltConf that is held alongside (we’d go to San Francisco just for AltConf), we have a few recommendations of how
you can make the most of your time in SF and also a list of the after party events each day of WWDC – skip to the list of WWDC after parties and events.

Cocktails

Yes, you’ll be drinking for free at parties this week. But, should you enjoy paying for a delicious beer you can’t find anywhere else or a well made custom cocktail, try one of these places out:

Burritos

They deserve their own classification, they’re that important to SF’s developers. Just a few suggestions, we don’t intend to start any great burrito debates:

Coffeeshops away from the mess

  • Blue Bottle – venture to the Ferry Building
  • Ritual – hanging out in the Mission is always fun
  • The Grove – great cozy/homey shop with delicious food

You have to try the seafood

Some other favorites

Want to meet us at one of the places above? Hit us up on twitter – @apptentive

WWDC 2014 Evening Events

*Some events may already be full or have a wait list.

Sunday, June 1st

sf/MacIndie 2014 – Jillians from 5-9
sfMacIndie is for independent Mac and iOS developers, designers, WWDC and AltConf attendees and anyone else who’s interested. It will be a great opportunity to connect and network!

 iBeacon Adventure @ WWDC 2014 – 8pm to Wednesday Night at 8pm
We are hosting a scavenger hunt adventure! We are going to be using iBeacons and Bluetooth Low Energy (CoreBluetooth) around Union Square and South of Market during the conference. Open to all WWDC attendees at no cost and with no registration requirement.


Monday, June 2nd

NativeX Happy Hour – Novela from 5-8
Mingle and enjoy cocktails after a long day at WWDC in one of San Francisco’s most unique bars.

Xamarin’s WWDC 2014 Party – Temple from 6-9
Join Xamarin for drinks, meet other mobile developers, show off your apps and discuss the latest Apple announcements.  Even if you’re not attending WWDC, you and your friends are welcome.

TapSense WWDC Party – Jillians from 6-9
Join TapSense to learn about their 10 Million Dollar RTB Fund for app publishers. There will be food, drinks, pool, and for the second year in a row, hot apple pie.

CocoaPods 3rd WWDC Meetup – Twilio Offices from 7-10
CocoaPods is working with the Alt Conference to have a great opening event to the WWDC week: The CocoaPodsAlt State of the Union. You should come along.

5by5 WWDC Meetup – New Relic  from 8-10
Hang out with fellow listeners and meet the hosts of your favorite 5by5.tv podcasts while enjoying free food and drinks at New Relic’s beautiful San Francisco office.

Crashlytics + Twitter at WWDC – Jones from 9-1
This year they’ve “kicked things up a notch” to celebrate the amazing apps being built – go hang with many of the world’s top mobile app developers, and tons of awesome Crashlytics customers


Tuesday, June 3rd

Millennial Media Green Apple Party – The W from 5-8
Join Millennial Media on June 3rd for our Green Apple Party at the W Hotel San Francisco, where we’ll have the entire 2nd floor bar and reception area reserved for our key partners! Food, cocktails, music and other surprises await — don’t miss this event!

WWDC Reception @Sqaure – Square, Inc from 6-8
Have dinner + drinks along with tech talks, followed by networking.

Foursquare WWDC Event – Foursquare SF form 6:30-9
Foursquare’s lead iOS developer, Brian Dorfman, will share some internal iOS frameworks and discuss open source projects written by the team. Food and drinks provided.

Open House at Layer – Layer HQ from 6:30-9:30
Expect drinks, great eats and exceptional company in our new Mission District space. Meet the Layer team, hang out with other developers and take in the sunset over the Sutro skyline.

Yelp WWDC 2014 After Party – Yelp HQ from 6:30-9:30
Drinks and Hors D’oeuvres!

Sketch Meetup at WWDC – The Factory from 7-9
Come to say hi the people behind Sketch, everyone’s new favorite tool for digital design. We’re in town for WWDC, so we thought it’d be nice to see to give everyone an opportunity to put a face to some of the people behind Sketch.

AltBeard Bash WWDC 2014 – Children’s Creativity Museum at Moscone 7-10
Join Jim Dalrymple and AltConf at the Children’s Creativity Museum at Moscone on June 3 from 7:00 – 10:00 pm for a few drinks and enjoy music from the Amazing Embarrassonic Human Karaoke Machine. Be prepared to sing!

Crittercism & Localytics WWDC Party – 111 Minna Gallery from 7-11
Take a breather and enjoy some drinks and apps (appetizers) on Crittercism and Localytics.


Wednesday, June 4th

Firebase + Pebble WWDC Happy Hour – Firebase HQ 3.0 from 6-8:30
Join us for a happy hour during WWDC to learn more about the two APIs!

Pocket Gamer Mobile Mixer WWDC – Vessel from 6-9
It’s all things Apple on as the Pocket Gamer Mobile Mixer comes to town for WWDC! Find out from our all star panel best kept secrets on how to top the charts with your iOS app, then party all night long to the sounds of the legendary REY.VS.  Drinks, bites, beats and more!

WWDCGirls Fundraising Party – New Relic from 6:30-9
Please join WWDCGirls in a happy hour benefitting the non-profit App Camp For Girls. Meet and mingle, all with the aim of supporting this great cause. Refreshments and light bites will be provided

James Dempsey and the Breakpoints – 50 Mason Social House from 7-10
Come enjoy an evening of humorous and informative songs about Apple development technologies performed live by James Dempsey and the Breakpoints.

HP IDOL OnDemand Innovation Party – Local Edition from 7-10
We’ll have old school arcade games like Pac-Man, Asteroids, Tetris, and more, plenty of grub, an open bar with specialty cocktails and craft beers, a flipbook booth, a candy bar, plus amazing prizes like 2 VIP tickets to Outside Lands, an Oculus Rift Dev Kit, Arduino sets, and much more!


Thursday, June 5th

Apple Bash – Yerba Buena Gardens from 6-9
Revel in a one-of-a-kind experience with exceptional music, great food and drinks, and the cheerful company of new friends.

If we missed any events that you know about and think should be added to the list, let us know. To keep the schedule of events in your pocket download the Party List app  (Only available for iOS).

Have a great WWDC!


App Marketing

App Marketing Conversations: Platform Rule Changes, What Do They Mean

What do Apple and Facebook platform changes mean for mobile apps?

In this installment of App Marketing Conversations we take a look at recent changes to Apple and Facebook’s platforms. Apple has made changes to the terms on IDFA (ID for Advertiser), which allows anyone from analytic companies and advertisers to track companies between apps. Apple is banning apps who use IFDA for tracking purposes without displaying ads.

Facebook has shut down advertising partners who were doing attribution tracking and holding onto data too long. There are a lot of questions around both of these issues and we break down the changes and what they mean for you.

Take a look at the video from this week’s App Marketing Conversations to learn more.






App Marketing

App Marketing Conversations: Holiday 2013 Recap

2013 Holiday Trends for Mobile Consumers – Sales Data Showing Rise in Mobile Commerce

In this installment of App Marketing Conversations we talked about consumer trends during the holiday season and the growth of mobile commerce. After the holidays, IBM released shopping data around how people are spending money with mobile devices. Mobile commerce is taking a larger percentage of online sales each year and companies not seeing increases through mobile devices should be focusing more heavily on mobile. Android continues to own the mobile market, but consumers with Apple devices are spending more money.

Take a look at the video from this week’s App Marketing Conversations to learn more.

 

Robi: Good morning and welcome to another installment of “App Marketing Conversations.” As always, I’m joined by Ryan Morel of Game House, and Ian Sefferman of MobileDevHQ. And I’m Robi Ganguly from Apptentive. Happy New Year.

So, in the previous installments, we’ve been sort of talking about what happened over the holidays, and stats that have come out. We want to do a little bit of a deeper dive on some stuff from IBM. They had a lot of shopping data around how people were spending money using mobile devices.

So, a couple things to highlight. They said they represented about 17 percent of all online sales, and that was growth of 46 percent over last year. So, mobile’s share of online sales grew tremendously, even though online sales themselves as a total bucket were growing really pretty healthily as well.

And then, sort of not surprising, Apple was much larger than Android. So, I think that the numbers are basically that Apple represented something like 12, 13 percent of the total, and Android was about 2 1/2 , 3 percent. And then, more importantly, the dollars spent from Apple devices were a whole lot more than Android.

$115 to, I think the number is $83 for Android in some of their studies. And then, if you cut the numbers up different ways, you come out with different absolute numbers. But in general, consumers with Apple devices were spending a lot more money than people with Android devices.

So, as you look as this stuff, Ryan, what do you take from it that’s most interesting?

Ryan: The thing that I think is most interesting goes back to our other topics about saturation not really mattering, in terms of where the growth of the market is going to be. I find Android and like this really sucks. But I also go “Well, there’s a lot of opportunity here,” right, because I still own the market from a pure market share percentage. So, they have a lot of room to operate and grow.

If I’m Apple, I’m really excited because I can now go build meaningful businesses around retail and commerce that Android can’t right. So, you can go into retailers and say, “Hey, I represent 15 percent of your mobile sales, or your total online sales. Let’s do some interesting things, if I leak in kind of all this other commerce-structure stuff that we can do that no one else can. And that kind of just creates the ecosystem login and platform login. That I think it will be hard for everybody to compete with.

Robi: Yes.

Ryan: So I think – yes, that’s what I think is really interesting.

Robi: Got it, and what about for you? Is it the same thing, or is there something else?

Ian: Yeah, and I mean I agree with everything he said there. That the one thing that stuck out to me originally when I heard the stat was, I think 16 percent was the number, right, for overall percentage of online sales. Is thinking about who that is actually out sized for. Who is doing more than 16 percent?

And it wouldn’t surprise me to see like an eBay doing much more than 16 percent on mobile. I think eBay has done pretty well with mobile, especially if you were to add in PayPal. That, sort of to me, is not online sales.

Ryan: Yes.

Ryan: Thinking about that type of world. Obviously, the newer folks have done tremendously well. Fab, I think, most of the, depending on how you define Fab, is doing well right now. But Fab has done tremendously well on mobile.

Shopping app 1-ILO seems to be killing it in the App Store. So, not just the fact that overall, it’s at 16 percent. But the fact that there are pockets where it’s even higher is incredible to me.

Robi: Right, right, and I think, again, in every one of our segments, we’ve brought up Amazon, I think. The stats on Amazon’s mobile are really extraordinary. So, that’s another place where people are buying really quite a bit of stuff from Amazon directly through their mobile apps.

I did a number of times did this holiday season. It’s like, “Oh, this is something I’m going to buy. I’ll just do it now as I’m waiting for the bus.” Super convenient.

So, yeah. I think the overall number hides the extraordinary success some of the people are having underneath the covers. And that means, for an app marketer, you should be wondering why you’re below 16 or 17 percent if you are. What are you doing to actually boost that up and take advantage?

So, what we can give advice to marketers around using the mobile device to stay engaged with these customers, and get them to spend $120 with you?

Ryan: I don’t know whether I am the right person to be giving advice on any of that. But one of the other things that I read, which I found quite interesting was that, especially for clothing, people are two or three times more likely to buy using Touch-based devices versus PC.

Because for something about touching the shirt, or the pants, or whatever makes you more likely to buy it.

Ian: There’s a tactile, like the zooming of the images. That makes a lot of sense.

Ryan: The point I’m trying to make there is if you’re not making a mobile-optimized experience, either from a Web perspective, or even just an app perspective, and you’re trying to sell clothes, or things that people kind of touch, and feel as part of the experience with the actual product, you’re doing yourself a disservice. You need to do that now! Or a year ago, probably.

Ian: Yes. I think the two things that I think of when I think what advice marketers can pull from this first, is along that line which is…I mean not the vast majority, but a large percentage of eCommerce is through very small, independent, kind of crappy-looking websites, and things like that. And obviously, individually, they don’t make up a lot, but collectively they make up a good amount.

If those folks–and I think a wide margin of those folks have not yet implemented any sort of app strategy or mobile strategy at all. If they don’t, it’s going to be killed by the folks who do and come in with that. So, for them, I think they have to do it.

And then, the other piece of the puzzle is, I think, eCommerce, perhaps better than anybody else on the Web, has always done a great job of personalization, of targeting, of things like that. And whether that’s e-mail, or whether that’s the recommendation of a website, whatever it is.

And I think that stuff has to transfer to a mobile-focused orientation. Like, you have to port that to mobile in a way that’s friendly to mobile as well.

Robi: Yeah, absolutely. And in some ways, it’s easier on mobile. At least with phones, you can generally be assured that it’s one person using that device. Tablets have more sharing for sure. But like on PC, that assumption isn’t always there.

So, you get a lot of work to get people to register, and get them to log in on websites. And I think to a large extent, apps have less of that on the phone as a requirement. I still see a lot of apps that ask me to register the first time, and I think that that is generally kind of crazy.

Because to start with the assumption that that person is the owner of that phone. And if you want them to log in, show them some value later on. But you can personalize, already, just from having them use your app without them logging in and registering.
So, I think there’s a lot more opportunity on mobile to do that well.

It also seems like, because we were in the previous segment talking about television ads. Some of these premier brands that have been doing TV ads for years, if not decades, should be thinking about using those ads to engage their shopping base through the advertisement to get their app, to start spending money there.

Did you see…because we were talking about this, did you see any of these mainstream retailers talking about their apps?

Ian: Yeah, I think a lot have. And Macy’s has a lot of TV ads it’s just another app. Home Depot actually has a good amount of ads about their app as well.

It feels like there’s a solid traction there. And I know Target does a lot of ins, like part of Target’s app strategy is to really just be a companion to the in-store experience. So, they’re certainly doing some of that. Yes, I think a good amount are doing it.

Robi: Anything else we should cover on this topic? I think the general point is, thanks to IBM and their data, really quickly, lots of sales are happening through mobile devices. And if you were one of the companies that’s not seeing 15, 16, 17 percent of your online sales coming through mobile, it probably means, not the market hasn’t gotten there it’s just that you haven’t. You probably want to focus more on your mobile efforts and they’re best.

Ryan: It’s a little bit like SEO strategy and being held heavily reliant on Google search for your business. Because if you didn’t do it you were screwed. And we’re kind of almost at the point with mobile where, if you’re not doing it you’re screwed. You have to do it.

I think the numbers that I would like to see are what are the average sales for people on PC? If the average iOS user was spending $100, and Android was spending $80, or whatever it was. What is the average PC user spending? Because that’s…I’d be interesting to see that.

Ian: Yes. I don’t know if that 16 percent is percent of online sales revenue, or online sales numbers.

Ryan: Yes, because if it’s revenue and it’s 8 percent of numbers, then it’s like, “This is a totally different story than the one we thought.”

Robi: Yes. Good questions for sure. And if I find some of those answers, I’ll put them on the post. Great, well thanks for tuning in, be sure to “Like” this and share it. And check out the other installments this week and Happy New Year.

Ian: Thanks.

Ryan: Thanks.

Apptentive logo

Apple Buys Burstly – Alternatives to TestFlight for Mobile Apps

apple_testflight

Last Friday, Apple acquired Burstly, the owner of mobile app testing platform, TestFlight. While the details of the acquisition are not yet clear, we know that TestFlight will be ending Android support in March and will no longer be providing the SDK to new customers.

Apple’s lack of distribution and beta testing support for iOS apps is well-known and this acquisition strongly suggests that they are addressing ways to expand on these services for iOS developers in a more affordable way than their current enterprise developer program.

TestFlight filled an important role allowing companies and developers to distribute their mobile applications to beta testers before releasing them in an app store. Being able to put your app into the actual hands of a person and hearing what they have to say is crucial to finding bugs and polishing the usability of an app. Distributing your app and getting feedback is something that every app should do before being submitted to an app store.

With TestFlight heading out of commission for new customers and Android, here are alternatives to distributing your app and getting the feedback you need before submitting your app to the app store.

App Distribution – HockeyApp, Installr, TestFairy

HockeyApp is a platform similar to TestFlight for distributing your beta apps. It is available for Android, Windows, iOS, and Mac OSX applications and on their lowest plan ($10/month) you are able to distribute up to 5 apps to an unlimited amount of people. Furthermore, by integrating their open-source SDK you can receive crash reports and detailed analytics around the devices using your beta app.

Another solution is Ubertesters, which allows you to distribute and test across Android, iOS, and Windows. The Ubertesters platform has an array of tools for a mobile product managers to have full control over the testing process and managing beta testers.

Another relatively new option for iOS app developers is Installr (still in beta).  Installr syncs with the Apple Developer Portal to keep devices and profiles up to date (no more manually registering devices), making it incredibly simple for you distribute your apps to your beta testers.  Android support is in the works and is planned to be ready by the time TestFlight ends it’s Android support.

For Android, TestFairy is positioning itself to be a strong alternative to TestFlight. The distribution process is simple and straight forward and the detailed analytics give you a large amount of insight into what’s going on with your app on each of your various devices.

Feedback – Apptentive

Distributing your app only solves half of the problem. The other is soliciting and managing the feedback you receive. While Apptentive is most commonly implemented in apps that are live in the app store, we have many customers that starting using us to receive and manage feedback while testing their apps. We have two great ways to get feedback from your beta testers and all of it can be implemented for free.

1. Use in-app surveys to ask your beta testers specific questions. Our mobile surveys can be called with the press of a button or triggered by specific behavior taken by your beta testers. If you know you’ll want feedback after they complete level 3 or view X amount of pages, you can have a survey ready and waiting to gather their feedback. Based on the answers you receive, you can update and modify your questions without releasing a new version of your app.

Surveys

2. Include a “Contact Us” or “Send Feedback” button in your app. By placing a button in your app, beta testers can quickly send feedback and include a screenshot with Apptentive’s  in-app feedback tools. If you have questions regarding the feedback, you can easily respond to your tester and have a conversation to get to the bottom of any problem, all through the app.

Apptentive’s conversation management dashboard is perfect for organizing and managing the feedback you receive from your beta testers. All of these tools are free to use, easy to implement, and perfect for learning what final touches are needed before submitting your app to the app stores. Start getting feedback for your beta app and sign up for a free account.

App Marketing

App Marketing Conversations: Q4 & Holiday Planning

The holidays are almost here and App Marketers have to prioritize!

In this installment of App Marketing Conversations we talked about the upcoming holiday season and how important it is to prioritize your marketing activities in order to make the most of the influx of new customers. With less than 6 weeks to Christmas, it’s important to plan for how you’re going to attract brand new customers, learn about how they’re different from your existing base and understand how to keep them. In addition, if you haven’t created your ad and marketing plan for the holidays and determined your absolute drop dead ship date, you’re already behind the ball. Take a look at the video from this week’s App Marketing Conversations to find out more specifics.

The Transcript:
Robi: Hello and welcome to another App Marketing Conversations. I’m Robi
Ganguly from Apptentive. As always, I’m joined by Ryan Morel from
Gamehouse, and Ian Sefferman from MobileDevHQ. We’re missing Darwin.
Ian: That’s right.Robi: But, you know.

Ian: It’s a good thing.

Ryan: Darwin’s in the corner.

Robi: For those who checked out last week’s segments, you might have
noticed that Darwin was acting up a little bit. We want to talk about Q4,
so we’re wrapping up Q3, here. And we know that many marketers out there
are thinking about how to close out the year, and Q4 is historically big
for many companies, especially retail, travel.

As you’re thinking about Q4, and we’ve had a number of years of experience
in the app ecosystem. I think there are some lessons for how to plan around
this, and how to time your product launches. So, we thought we’d share some
tips and tricks and get into that a little bit.

And then take comments and questions, so we can dig in more over the course
of the quarter.

So let’s start off, number one piece of advice that you would give to your
app marketers thinking about their Q4 planning?

Ian: If you haven’t started planning yet, it’s already too late. Like get
on the stick. Right. Q4 needs to happen early November, not late December.
Timing is everything, and having that strategy ready is gold.

Robi: What about you?

Ryan: Yes. So I think my biggest piece of advice would depend on the
company size, is not only make sure you have it planned early, but make
sure you’re starting it early. So you’re optimizing around that probably
two weeks before Christmas for two things. One, velocity of your ranking,
so that when the App Store shuts down, which it inevitably will, you’re at
the right spot. And that your user retention monetization metrics are
right.

Ian: And this is something that is really interesting, which is about the
ranking. Because I’ve always found it really weird that they shut down
rankings. Like I just never understood it. But Apple has been playing with
their rankings a pretty good amount, recently, leading me to think that
they might actually be getting ready for some sort of big change that
they’ve never done in Q4.

And it’s almost like, “Okay, well, I don’t understand what Apple’s going to
do. How do I manage around that?” And it’s like, start getting those
download velocity, ensure you have that engagement and retention, ensure
you have the right ratings, ensure your reviews look good. And like get all
of the first order priorities right, and then let the rest take care of
itself when it does, whenever it does happen, right.

Ryan: Yes.

Ian: I just have this vague sense that they’re going to change something
during Q4 this year.

Robi: Well, so…

Ryan: Prediction time.

Robi: The idea that they’ve been shifting more and more about their
rankings recently, I think underscores the fact that the historic shut down
of the App Store has indicated that it’s been highly manual, right? That
the way that they think about rankings, the way that they think about
reviews, all that stuff’s intertwined and dependent upon people. And so, if
they’re shifting a lot of the rankings, maybe they’ll be moving some of
that optimization more to their computers, which you would sort of expect,
right. It’s actually a little odd how manual it is.

So, if you assume that, then your point really is an important one.
Foundationally, we know that there are things that will matter, regardless
of whatever the algorithm ends of being. The core things that matter:
download velocity, retention, app ratings, and customer reviews. What else,
foundationally, should people be thinking about, that you think maybe
they’re not planning around as much?

Ryan: I think product launch timing is really important. So, I mean, you’re
going to see like certain developers are planning to launch their games in
early December, late November, whatever it may be. And those developers
have existing relationships with Apple and can negotiate placement, right.

There was news, unconfirmed comments this week, that Apple had either paid
PopCap, probably not, more likely, guaranteed placement for them to do IOS
exclusive. Like that stuff happens. So, if you’re not one of those people
who can get that type of promotion from Apple, you need to be watching
beforehand. The last thing you want to do is launch your title at the same
time that EA launches Battlefield on IOS or something like that. You’re
just going to get drowned out.

Robi: Rule of thumb. Would you say launch title by the first week of
December, or launch it before Thanksgiving?

Ryan: I mean this is just my opinion, I would do like early November.

Robi: Okay.

Ryan: Give you a chance to see what’s happening, drive some downloads, make
an update before Thanksgiving. Because Thanksgiving is also probably the
second busiest weekend on the App Store. Then see what happens right after
Thanksgiving; one more update, and then you punt. Cross your fingers.

Robi: Right.

Ryan: Because Christmas, I mean, it can’t be underscored how profitable
Christmas and the four days after it are. It’s unbelievable.

Robi: I find it really interesting; it’s not exactly Black Friday, you
know. And this isn’t the retail sector. But it is very much a meaningful
portion of the year in discovery for a lot of consumers, and then, by
extension, app marketers.

Ryan: Yes.

Ian: Huge.

Robi: So let’s talk a little bit more about the IOS7 aspect of this. Does
that matter, if you were thinking about the Q4 and IOS7 is sort of nice to
have? Are you crazy? Should you be pulling that in and saying, “I have to
be supporting IOS7 by the time?”

Ryan: Yes. So I think one of the, this is a guess. I’m totally making this
up; maybe this isn’t true. So what happens around the holidays? People get
together, and people talk and share things about what they’re interested
in. So AirDrop becomes really interesting, right.

So, if you’re not supporting IOS7, I’m not sure that AirDrop will work for
you, but it seems like a kind of no-brainer, right now. But the kids
sitting around on Christmas morning, or afterwards, whatever, are sharing
games via AirDrop. You have to be supporting it.

Ian: Yes, I agree with that. I think another reason why is, if you want any
hope of Apple featuring you, right, like if you care about that at all,
they simply won’t do it unless you’re optimized with their latest stuff.
They don’t give a sh** about you.

Robi: Yes. So we’ve been talking quite a bit about the App Store, as it
pertains to, Apple’s App Store. What about the Google Play Store? Same
foundational stuff? Same dynamics? Or are there differences that marketers
should be taking into account as they think about their Android releases?

Ian: I mean certainly like I don’t see the same rush to get things in. I
mean, you don’t have the shut down the same way. You can continue to do it.
But I think all of the things that we’re talking about foundationally, that
all sits on the same premise of have your ducks in a row; make sure you’re
aligned for this massive jump. That the jump isn’t going to be the same;
consumer demand isn’t going to be the same.

Ryan: Yes, I think that’s right. I have one more question for you. Like, if
you’re a new developer, because we’ve consistently heard that ratings are
an increasingly important thing. You don’t have a lot of volume. How can
you get that initial set of ratings? And how can you manage around that?

Robi: Well, I think there are two things. And one that is very much
underestimated, and very much why we’re talking about Q4 planning now, is
timing. You just, you have to be out there for a period of time, especially
if you’re new.

It’s not just going to explode, right, like you have to give yourself room
for people to download your app, use it, start interacting. And potentially
rating it if they’re happy, and if they’re not happy, finding out really
quickly. So that takes time. You can’t really force that stuff. Even if you
were to buy a lot of downloads. As we know, we’ve talked about it a lot,
it’s not necessarily going to be translated into consumers who are going to
be using it on a regular basis. Which means those are not consumers who are
going to rate you well. So that’s sort of one thing.

The second is that, if you do have other titles, and you’re sort of new in
this space, you could do some stuff with your existing audience that will
move people over to your newest apps. And that’s an asset you could do. And
I would say, sort of begging, pleading to get to your first 20 or 30
ratings, if you’re really brand new, is important. And people can do that.
We find, it’s better to get people outside of your network to do that. You
know, if you have to resort to asking your friends and family to go down on
your app and rate it because you have no attraction, nobody’s rated it,
then that will work, too.

Ryan: Yes. After how many, we’re maybe getting off-topic here, but you see
a lot of games or apps ask for ratings like almost right away, that’s
probably bad?

Robi: Our data says that’s horrible.

Ryan: Okay.

Robi: People hate that. They don’t go and rate it; they don’t take action
on it. But then they’ll also go and complain.

Ryan: Yes.

Robi: And say, “I haven’t even used your service; I haven’t used your app
at all. Why would I do that?” So we often find, and suggest to people using
our tools, to be conservative, and then sort of ramp it up more
aggressively as you get data and we report to people on the outcomes around
that.

So like a conservative estimate for a lot of apps is after it’s been on a
device for ten days, and it’s been used five to ten times, that seems like
it’s at least an indication that that person has made some commitment to
that experiment with your app to get to places that are, you know,
successful for them.

And then, what’s really important is to think about what’s unique to your
app as a success metrics. If you’re a utility, and people can actually use
you to like set up like a calendar invite, or something like that, that’s
probably aligned with them really adopting your app, as opposed to just
kind of poking around.

Ryan: Right.

Robi: So, last thoughts on Q4. We’ll come back to this, but last piece of
advice for marketers, as they’re planning?

Ian: You know my last piece of advice that we haven’t talked about is
actually get out of the marketing room and make sure your engineering is
also on track with this. Especially if you have any services in the Cloud,
make sure your infrastructure is ready.

Robi: That’s great advice.

Ryan: Yes, so, I would potentially think about pre-paying. Or you know,
negotiating now around any advertising revenue. So, especially at, well,
like this week, in the next couple of days, because we’re at the end of Q3,
people are maybe running deals and they will be happy to sandbag a little
bit. So you might be able to get some pre-paid discounts on advertising.
But I would be getting that set up now.

Robi: Yes. And I think that you should really think seriously about doing
an audit, right. How is your app, how are your teams doing in term of App
Store optimizations? How is your download velocity looking? How are your
ratings or reviews looking? How is sentiment inside your app around
customer satisfaction?

If you’re not aware of that, you can do an audit early on, to also tell
yourself and your team where you need to be by the end of November, if you
really want to be ready.

Great, well, be sure to like this, share with your friends, and check out
the other segments this week. Thanks.

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apptentive-device

3 Ways to Rank Higher in the Apple App Store

Rank Higher in App Stores

It’s common knowledge at this point that ranking higher in the App Store is a key ingredient to accelerating your app business’s growth. However, with more than 1,000 apps being launched every day, ranking highly is a daunting task. Smaller or independent developers lament the current state of affairs, sure that they can’t hope to compete with companies who have large advertising budgets or pay-per-install campaigns. Fortunately, paying for installs is not the only way to climb up the rankings. Here are three key strategies to ranking higher that don’t require a huge investment to implement.  Here’s how you can compete with the big boys and not break the budget:

1. Engagement & Retention

Apple has been experimenting with the app store ranking algorithm and there have been rumors that increasing engagement and retention statistics will play a part in increasing your ranking directly. Regardless of these rumors,  improving your engagement and retention will still have an indirect effect on your ranking.

The obvious path to more engaged customers is to make an app that people love. The hard part is creating an app that people love, because it doesn’t just happen on the first release. You need to discover what customers care about and iterate quickly. How do you do that? By engaging in conversations with your customers, soliciting feedback, and listening to what they have to say. Your early fans are an incredible resource for learning how to create an app that more and more people will love.

People who love using your app can’t help but talk about it. Customers who use an app often and love it will share it with their friends. Word-of-mouth is the second largest driver for mobile app discovery. Face to face sharing is far more effective than a “like” or a tweet. Engage with your customers to learn what drives them back to your app and iterate from there.

2.  App Store Optimization

App store optimization is a powerful yet often overlooked weapon to rank higher as app store search is the number one discovery method for mobile apps. There are two important steps to ASO: optimizing your keywords and tracking your competitors. Using ASO to rank higher is a relatively simple process that requires time and patience instead of money.

The most important key performance indicator to track are your keywords. Apps that incorporate a keyword into their title rank on average 10% higher. Working keywords into your title and app description can make the largest immediate impact to ranking higher for specific search terms. Track your rankings for specific keywords over time and you’ll begin to see which keywords are more effective for bringing in downloads.

Tracking your competitors ranking for keywords can take more time than tracking your own, but understanding the keywords your competitors are placing an emphasis on will give you a competitive edge. Gathering intelligence on what keywords your competitors are using allows you to either try to rank higher than them on those keywords or choose to target other words altogether. Here’s a more in depth post we wrote on ASO.

3. Improve and Increase Your Ratings & Reviews

Ratings & reviews affect your ranking and can influence the decision to download your app. Building an app that people love is HARD work, and your efforts should be acknowledged. You have an audience that may use your app everyday, loves it, but still never takes the time to give you a review. It’s your job to go out there and proactively reach out and lead your customers to action. Sometimes all it takes to increase your ratings and reviews is a simple question asked in the right way and at the right time.

You’re most likely missing out on a huge opportunity to both improve and increase your ratings & reviews. However, you’re not alone in this struggle to get more ratings and reviews from your customers. Apps with customer bases of all sizes, even the big boys, experience this same problem. Download our customer story  to see how Urbanspoon reached 5 stars in the app store and increased their daily reviews by over 1,000%.

See how Urbanspoon:

  • Moved up the Apple App Store rankings
  • Improved to be a 5-star mobile app
  • Increased daily reviews by over 1000%
  • Consistently receives quality feedback

Get the Story:

360iDev Logo

Talks from 360iDev 2013: The iOS Developer Conference

360iDev, one of the best and most comprehensive iOS developer conferences in the world, occurred this past week in Colorado.

360iDev Logo

The sessions were all extremely insightful, teaching both beginner and veteran iOS developers something new. The content of the conference covered the whole spectrum – from highly technical down to business and marketing.

The presentations from 360iDev are amazing resources for developers and we wanted to share them with the developer community. Here is a collection of the talks that are publicly available.

The Presentations:

Topic: Animating Responsibly
Speaker: Mark Pospesel 

Topic: Putting the Custom in Custom Controls
Speaker: Mark Pospesel

Topic: Gratuitous Animations: How Subtlety in User Experience Design can Impress Your Users and Apple
Speaker: Ben Johnson

Topic: Design Patterns for Mobile Apps
Speaker: Saul Mora

Topic: Intro to Android for iOS Developers
Speaker: Chiu-Ki Chan

Topic: Effective Use of Open Source Software
Speaker: Ash Furrow

Topic: Do Scary Things
Speaker: Samuel Goodwin

Topic: Achieving Zen with Auto Layout
Speaker: Justin Williams

Topic: Amaze Your Users with Augmented Reality
Speaker: Colin Cornaby

Topic: Tales from Indie Tech Support
Speaker: Josh Michaels

Topic: Effective Strategies for Dropping Out
Speaker: Josh Michaels

Topic: Push.IO Party App Post Mortem
Speaker: Joe Pezzillo

Topic: Ten Terrible Tribulations of Core Data
Speaker: Kendall Gelner

Topic: Understand and Control Sockets with NSStream
Speaker: Thomson Comer

Topic: API Jones and the WireFrame of Doom
Speaker: Michele Titolo

Topic: AirPlay: Creating Apps with (Spilt) Personality
Speaker: Jay Thrash

Topic: The Video Streaming on iOS: The Gory Details
Speaker: James Jennings

Topic: Take the Red Pill – Writing Apps for the Real World
Speaker: Carl Brown

Topic: Stronger, Better, Faster with Instruments and Debugging
Speaker: Kyle Richter

Topic: Living Off the Grid with UICollectionView 
Speaker: Jay Thrash

Topic: Kick Those Bad Reviews with Automated UI Testing
Speaker: Robert Shoemate and Anthony Rinaldi

Photos from 360iDev (more presentations below):

Topic: How To Break Your Mobile Apps Before I Do
Speaker: Nick Arnott

Topic: Automate Everything: Continuous Integration for iOS and Mac
Speaker: Brian Partridge

Topic: Apps that Can See: Getting Data from CoreImage to Computer Vision
Speaker: Carl Brown

Topic: Hacking iBooks and EPUB with JavaScript!
Speaker: Jim McKeeth

Topic: Parallactic Collection Views
Speaker: Rene Cacheaux

Topic: The Art of Customer UI Controls
Speaker: Sam Davies

Topic: Let Animation Be Your Guide
Speaker: Rusty Mitchell 

Topic: Bring Your App to Life with UIKit Dynamics
Speaker: Chris Parrish

Topic: Idea to App Store
Speaker: Janine Ohmer

Topic: Provisioning Profiles like a Pro
Speaker: Jay Graves

Topic: Augmented Reality Geolocation Math
Speaker:  Dalmo Cirne

Topic: Dynamic Audio for Apps and Games
Speaker: Tony Hillerson

Topic: Thread Safely! Techniques for Safe Concurrent Programming
Speaker: Joe Keeley

Topic: Swizzle Sticks – An Introduction to the Objectinve-C Runtime
Speaker: Matthew Henderson

Topic: Pebble Smart Watch and iOS SDK Overview
Speaker: Matthew Morey

Topic: Lessons Learned, From Freelancer to Merger
Speaker: Ben Reubenstein

Topic: Customer Support – Building App for the Long Haul
Speaker: Joe Cieplinski

Topic: CyCript: JavaScript Debug Console for Native Apps
Speaker: Jay Freeman

Topic: Unity for iOS Developers
Speaker: Nathan Eror

Topic: Kickstarter to Launch: Galcon 2
Speaker: Phil Hassey

Topic: Clients from Hell… and How to Deal With Them
Speaker: Andria Jensen

Topic: Why and How to Use SQLite without CoreData
Speaker: Brent Simmons

Other:

Here are all of the recordings available from the conference

A podcast by Ash Furrow for iOS beginners and newcomers: http://springboardshow.com

There were many other amazing talks at the conference and as more become available we will add them to the list. Thank you to John WilkerNicole Wilker, and the whole 360iDev community for an amazing conference.

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App Store Rankings

Ratings to Affect Apple App Store Rankings

The rumor is that Apple is tweaking the app store algorithm to include ratings. According to app marketing firm Fiksu, starting in July there has been a noticeable shift up the ranking charts for apps averaging 4 stars and higher while apps that are rated 3 stars or less are dropping.

App Store Rankings

There are also reports that Apple is experimenting with engagement as another factor for rankings. According to a post from TechCrunch, new user engagement (i.e. time spent per session, number of sessions per week, etc.) is increasingly affecting category rankings.

Engagement Affecting App Ranking

All in all, Apple seems to be experimenting with creating an app store ecosystem that places quality apps at the top instead of just the apps that get downloaded the most. Including ratings in the ranking algorithm places Apple down the path for rewarding apps based on quality by gauging engagement and retention levels.

We are all aware that there are services available for gaming the download system and we must assume there will be instances of buying ratings as well. One argument is that adding ratings into the algorithm will damage the ecosystem further as apps with mid to low-level budgets will get pushed further into obscurity as ratings increase for apps that have the budget.

It may well be the case that apps will buy ratings to try and move up the rankings, but I am sure (I hope) that Apple will invest time and effort into catching apps that use black-hat tactics to increase their ratings. Even with the potential for apps to try and game the charts, including ratings into the algorithm is a necessary step forward to having the best quality apps reach the top charts.

With ratings (and engagement) becoming  factors that will affect Apple App Store rankings, here are 5 tips to get better ratings for your mobile app.

5 Tips for Better App Ratings

 

 

  1. Learn which customers love your app and which ones do not. If you ask every customer to rate your app how many ratings will end up negative? Negative reviews will no longer just dissuade new customers from downloading your app, but also lower your rankings. With Apptentive you can talk to unhappy customers to gather feedback about what could be improved while guiding happy customers to the app store.
  2. Ask for ratings at the right time and in the right place. There is a right time and place for everything and this holds true when asking for ratings. As a general rule, don’t ask for a rating the first time a customer uses an app. Let them experience the app before being prompted. Also, try to avoid prompting customers while they are busy interacting with the app. For example, prompt a customer after they finish the checkout process and not when they add an item to the cart.
  3. Give your customers a voice. By making it easy for your customers to contact you in-app, frustrated customers will vent to you about your app instead of leaving a negative review in the app store. This gives you the opportunity to solve a problem, create a happy customer, and then ask politely for a rating.
  4. Respond with respect. Always respond with “thank you” to any message received from one of your customers. Whether a customer complains about a problem or suggests a feature for the hundredth time, responding respectfully and courteously can disarm an upset customer. This gives you the opportunity to providing amazing service and “wow” the customer with your support and attention to their problem. Giving them a great experience can often lead to a positive review later on.
  5. Ask after each new version release. With the current reports surrounding the changes in the Apple App Store there is a belief that ratings of the most recent version of an app will harbor the most weight. New ratings and reviews from your loyal community could become very valuable if this new system is put in place. If so, be sure to ask your community for ratings after each release, but remember to not over do it or spam your customer base.

How do you feel about ratings being included in the Apple App Store ranking algorithm? Share your thoughts and leave a comment below.

iOS7AppStoreChanges

iOS 7 Apple App Store – Changes and A Missed Opportunity

The Apple App Store has undergone a few changes with the release of iOS 7. The new design is overhaul for the entire OS, but those hoping for changes to the App Store structure will be disappointed. Before we get into the discoverability issue that has long plagued developers in the Apple App store, let’s take a look at the changes.

The Changes

First off, Apple replaced the “Genius” tab with the “Near Me” tab. Unfortunately, this new tab looks to be less useful than the tab it replaced. It is unlikely that anyone will want to download an app simply based off of what people are using near them. And if you aren’t near anyone the function is completely useless.

iOS 7 Apple App Store

Another new feature is the “Wish List.” You now have the ability place paid apps that you can’t afford or that you want to take a closer look at later on your “Wish List” for easy organization. In general, I find it highly unlikely that this feature will be used very often. How often is that $0.99 price tag too much to afford if you actually want to install the app?

Apple App Store Wish List

The “Top Charts” have reverted back to the standard vertical scrolling it had before iOS 6. The transition back makes sense. More applications are visible at a time and displaying the ratings and number of reviews gives people an easy way to gauge the quality of an app.

Apple App Store Top Charts

The most major change in the Apple App Store on iOS 7 is the ability to have automatic updates for your mobile apps. For consumers who hate red badges this update takes care of that, but from a company standpoint one of the only touch points with the entire mobile customer base has been taken away.

In general, the changes in the iOS 7 App Store are small and failed to address the discoverability dilemma that the majority of app developers and publishers face.

Missed Opportunity

A redesign to the app store ecosystem could have solved many problems. To begin with, the “Top Chart”s lists should be done away with as they hurt both the consumer and developer alike. As John August said,

These lists — a sidebar in iTunes, a tab on the App Store — show what’s downloaded the most. But let’s not mistake downloads for popularity. These are apps that people may have downloaded, used once, then deleted. What you really want is a list that shows what apps that people like you are using and enjoying.

Once an app makes it on to one of these lists it is likely to stay there by virtue of just being there. Through different scams and gaming the system, subpar apps manage to get hundreds of thousands of downloads, get deleted, but stay on top of the list, while quality apps that people enjoy for extended periods of time may continually struggle to reach new audiences.

With the current app store lists the download metric is too heavily rewarded. This is driving a breed of apps where the download is more important than retention or long term engagement. As Marco Arment stated,

Developers will optimize for whatever factor is being rewarded. The “top” list simply rewards developers for getting as many people as possible to buy or download the app once. There’s no reason to optimize for longer-term satisfaction or higher engagement after purchase.

It’s time for new categories. I want to see games listed by the average length per session or utility apps categorized by the percentage of people still using them 6 months later. Nick Dalton has a couple of other great examples on possible categories such as “Longterm Relationships,” which is what we help enable at Apptentive.

There are multitudes of quality apps available, but only a few of them are ever seen or gain traction. The current lists keep the top on top and keep the revolving door spinning too fast for anyone else to get in. Perhaps a new organized App Store will be something to look forward to in iOS 8. A store that places an emphasis on quality, gets rid of the current business model, and allows more app developers to be successful in the marketplace.

What are your thoughts on the Apple App Store “Top Charts” and other features. Will Apple makes changes to better support app developers or is the current organization of the app store the way Apple wants it to be?


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iOS7Updates

Automatic App Updates on iOS 7 Will Hurt App Retention

Automatic app updates are one of the many new Apple App Store changes being introduced in Apple’s new operating system iOS 7.

For the consumers who hate the red badges it’s your lucky day. With automatic updates you will never see the pesky red badge on the App Store icon again.

For companies with mobile apps, these automatic app updates are a mixed bag. From the positive perspective, you no longer need to worry about whether or not customers have updated to the latest version of their app. No more complaints or bad reviews about bugs that have been fixed in a newer available version.

Automatic Updates iOS 7

Apps now automatically update each day.

As great as it is to have your software update automatically, it comes at a costly price. The automatic updates take away one of the only touch points that companies have with their entire mobile customer base.

Communication

Since the beginning of the Apple App Store, communicating with mobile customers has been difficult. In the Apple App Store you are not able to respond to reviews, negative or positive. In a marketplace where customer communication and customer support are paramount to success, not having access to your customers is incredibly detrimental.

Even with the barrier that is inherit in the Apple App Store, companies were able to, until now, have a micro connection with their customers through manual app updates. A badge would alert the customer that an app had a newer version available to be installed. Navigating to the app store you actively saw what app(s) were going to be updated. Even if it was only for a second you thought about that particular app, and for many people that would lead them back for at least one more session.

Since Apple doesn’t otherwise provide developers with a way to communicate directly with their customers that indirect mechanism [manual updates] served an important role – Matt Henderson

You are still able to see the updates with iOS 7 if you navigate to the app store to look, but after using iOS 7 for  a couple months now, I have never looked. It just doesn’t occur to me to look after being consistently reminded for the past 5 years, and I strongly believe most customers will behave the same.

These updates provided valuable notifications that an app had been updated. It showed the customer that the app was being improved, that there was a team somewhere spending time and effort into improving the experience.

But why is this a problem?

Retention

Retention is one of the most difficult problems facing every mobile app. 60% of apps are deleted only ONE MONTH after being downloaded. At 6 months, 90% of apps get deleted, and only 4% of customers will be using an app they installed a year ago.

Churn rates are incredibly high and taking away a notification that serves as a reminder will only increase these numbers.

The best way to improve retention is through communication.

Losing a key mechanism to reminding your audience that your app exists somewhere on their phone will have two outcomes.

  1. Nothing will be done and customer retention will plummet even further.
  2. Customer communication will become a higher priority for app developers. If you’re looking for a great way to communicate with your customers, inside your app, take a look at this post about Message Center.

Many companies do not place much importance on communication and developing customer relationships, but it can’t be ignored. Without automatic updates you need to be more proactive in connecting with your mobile customers than ever before.

We are a few short months away from having the majority of the iOS population on iOS 7. If you haven’t thought about how to better communicate with your app customers now is the time to begin.

For those out there facing this new dilemma, do you have plans to find a new touch point with your customers? If not, why not? Share your thoughts below.


Android and iOS Apps

How to Build App Quality into Your App Lifecycle

Whether you’re just starting out or you have numerous apps in the market, it’s important to be aware of how much quality can differentiate your product in the marketplace. In the increasingly competitive app ecosystem, quality really is key, as only 16% of people say they will try a failing app more than twice. Not to mention the fact there are over a million other apps in the various markets out there for your customers to choose from.

Over 1 Million Apps Avaiable

It’s a competitive space, but it’s certainly possible to give yourself an edge. There are three key areas where quality control can be engineered into your app: testing, crash reporting, and feedback management. In this article you’ll get a high-level overview of each category, some examples of tools and services available, and why that specific area is important in building a quality experience for your customers.

Testing and Test Automation

If you’re using Test Driven Development, Behavior Driven Development, or any number of other strategies, you’re likely familiar with unit testing. This is a way of engineering code with testing in mind. For Android, JUnit is the weapon of choice, which goes very well with the free tool, Robolectric, an open-source project for running Android unit tests in a headless environment. This is great because it’s very fast (way faster than the notoriously slow Android emulator). For iOS, OCUnit is a popular choice, and, because the simulator uses hardware acceleration, it’s fast enough out of the box to run without the aid of a Robolectric-like harness.

Functional tests, tests that exercise basic functionality and flows within an app, are prime candidates for automation. Given the thousands of device models on the market, manually running such tests is a daunting task, especially because these types of tests are most valuable when run on real, physical hardware. Tools like Robotium, a library that integrates with JUnit, and Calabash, a cross-platform framework, help make writing automated, scalable test scripts easy that can be run on emulators, simulators, and real hardware.

Thousands of active device models

A popular strategy is to run tests locally on emulators and simulators, then run them on local devices with tools like Spoon, and then run those same tests on hundreds of devices hosted by services like AppThwack. Rather than spend time building automation harnesses, device labs, and other necessary components of an end-to-end test environment, services like AppThwack remove the burden by providing cloud-based device labs for rapid, parallel test automation execution.

Exploratory and UX testing is very important as well, and this is where humans excel. A good strategy is to automate your mundane tests so your time can be spent exploring new functionality, conducting labs where you can observe real people as they interact with your app, and so on. Having a human touch is paramount in measuring how an app actually feels from a customer perspective.

Keeping Track of Errors

Let’s face it. No matter how well you code and how much you test, we all write bad code, meaning some errors are bound to make it through. In fact, with the speed of today’s development only getting faster and the increasing adoption of agile development practices, it’s necessary now more than ever to engineer in anticipation of unexpected errors.

There are numerous tools for tracking crash reports in the wild for both Android and iOS. For Android, ACRA is a popular free option. There are commercial services available that support multiple platforms and add bells and whistles to crash reporting, such as pattern identification, tracking issues over time, and analyzing performance metrics, but at their core the biggest value of any crash reporting library is to provide insight into how your app is behaving once it’s in the market.

Once you know how and where your app is crashing, you can more quickly fix the reported issues, avoiding uninstalls and bad reviews. While it’s best to capture bugs before customers encounter them, at least you won’t be in the dark until someone decides to tell you about a problem. For every one complaint you receive there are 26 others you don’t, which should emphasize just how important this step is.

Managing Feedback

What’s more accurate, your own impression of how your app performs or your customers’? The answer is obvious, but time and time again we, as developers, assume we know best. Your customers’ feedback should guide your decisions, whether that means acknowledging their comments and consciously dismissing them, or restructuring your app so it better fits their needs.

The obvious question, then, is how do you interact with your customers so you get valuable information while not seeming needy, overbearing, or paranoid? It’s important to form dialogs with your customers and encourage them to communicate with you, rather than create a confrontational relationship that leaves you both unhappy.

Services such as Apptentive do the work for you, inserting feedback prompts into your app in a way that gathers pertinent information and, ideally, avoids the most damaging form of feedback: poor reviews on the market.

In Closing

By keeping these three categories in mind, building app quality into the app lifecycle should be a clear strategy going forward. Coding with testing in mind (unit tests) and automating tests that make sense (functional and performance tests), tracking app performance (crash reporting), and managing feedback (customer dialogs) will all help differentiate your app in the market. With more than a 1.5 million apps on the various platforms, that kind of positive differentiation can’t hurt.

Trent Peterson is a founder at AppThwack, a fully automated service that helps developers and QA teams test their Android, web, and iOS apps on 100s of real devices in minutes, gathering high-level results, low-level logs, pixel-perfect screenshots, and performance trends along the way. You can keep up with Trent and AppThwack on Google+ and Twitter.

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