5 Ways Apple has Redeemed Itself with iOS 8

So we’ve been harping on Apple quite a bit when it comes to the App Store, and especially about the Store’s limited app discovery.  Well, it looks like the Apple team has had an ear out for problems to solve as the new iOS 8 on the way is addressing some of the “beefs” we’ve been going on about for a long time.
The big reveal of iOS 8 took place at the Worldwide Developer Conference in San Francisco recently, in which Craig Federighi, Apple’s software chief, showed what the system upgrade can do for both users and developers.
iOS 8 - apple
As developers and publishers, we were keen to see how our existing and future apps will be affected when it comes to App Store Optimization and app marketing.  Optimistically, we can see that changes have been made for the better.  While it seems that Apple is just playing catch-up with Google Play in some respects, they are on the way to redeeming themselves for the difficulties and limitations of the past.
Redemption #1: Search Improvements – Related terms & Categories
For related terms we used to compare Apple to Google Play, which was like comparing apples to oranges.  Google algorithm’s “understanding” that certain terms were related, like dreams and sleep, was seen as a basic standard that Apple was not meeting.  Apple only recognized the exact word, turning up results with only that specific word, “dreams” for example, in the title or keyword field.
This is about to change with Apple’s addition of a “suggested list” of related keywords.  It will include one-word search terms and even… wait for it… long tail keywords!  Finally, some progress.  Keyword optimization strategists will be able to use these suggestions as potential keyword options and as insight into how people are searching.
What’s more, a new App Store tab named “Explore”, located in the center of the bottom store menu, is a new way to browse categories and subcategories, providing another way for apps to be discovered.
iOS 8 - related searches
Redemption #2: Visibility – Trending & Recommendations
Apple is now even taking hints from social media with Twitter-esque “trending” to be added as another “Top” list for app discovery.  It’s unclear exactly what “trending” will be defined as by Apple and how that increased keyword exposure will impact on other Top Charts and search results.  For developers, it will hopefully serve as a way to see valuable search terms, themes and understand the way search terms are being used.  It can hopefully be used as another source of insight into the store and its users.
They have also extended their Editor’s Choice feature to have visibility in search as well as in the dedicated section.  A logo will mark the apps with the distinction in search results.
The extension of App Store search to your device’s Spotlight search is another interesting move.  The device search function previously showed applications, files, folders and emails/texts whose names matched your search criteria.  Now it will also show apps in the app store matching the search terms, though it’s hard to predict how the selection of apps will be made and how large the selection will be.  Context is one element that was mentioned – that’s whether the term shows up elsewhere on your device as well as in the app store.  Ideally this will be another place where users can discover our apps, if we can figure out how to get them listed there.
iOS 8 - spotlight search
Redemption #3 & #4: Conversion & App Store Marketing
What searchers see in the store’s search results has been a source of contention for developers, as we naturally want the best and most number of opportunities to market our apps.  The number of screenshots, the type of screenshots (static or video), how they are shown in the results, and the way users view the list of results all affect an app’s capacity to make an impact.  The current store doesn’t provide the best user experience, nor is it allowing developers to maximize their marketing impact.
Apple has made great strides in redeeming itself here.  What has changed on the search results list is the orientation from horizontal to vertical scrolling as well as the addition of an additional screenshot. The biggest and most exciting change, however, may be the addition of a video trailer available within the screenshot section.
Video previews/trailers – As Google Play already has in place, video trailers are known as a more effective medium than static images/ads, and Apple has jumped on this bandwagon.  This is an excellent marketing opportunity, yet an additional item that developers will need to prepare to keep up with the optimization changes and stay current in the store.
The long-term effects may be worth the effort though, as users can better decide if the app is what they are looking for.  This should have knock on effects of better user retention and a decrease of immediate uninstalls, all good news for developers and their app rankings.  Apple will likely want to highlight these new features so we’re speculating that apps that are using them may have an advantage in ranking.
app review
Scrolling and double screenshots – Scrolling vertically means users can scroll more quickly and potentially lay their eyes on more apps before making their decision.  This may lessen the pressure to be listed within the current super-short “shortlist” of initial visible results – if users are willing to scroll.  The additional screenshot visible in search results (now two shown) adds an extra conversion opportunity but also means that screenshots may need to be adjusted to fit the reduced size – certain screenshots may not be as effective at the smaller size.  How landscape-oriented screenshots will show and where the video previews should be placed in the screenshot order are other points to consider.
Where developers will need to concentrate their efforts here is in immediate attention-grabbing screenshots.  The mini-screenshots in the search results will really need to “pop” to stand out as users are (more) quickly scrolling through.  On one hand there will be less time to attract user attention but on the other hand you have additional items (an additional screenshot) to do so.
scrolling result
Redemption #5: Sales Opportunities
Publishers and developers who are developing portfolios of apps will also have a marketing advantage and another way to cross promote their apps with the introduction of bundles.  Paid apps can be sold together in packages through bundling.  As for free apps offering in-app purchases and other forms of monetization, we don’t know just yet how they will be affected.
The updates are a double-edged sword. There are now additional opportunities to market our apps – great!  But there’s a fair amount of work to be done to prepare and get our apps up to scratch, ready to compete in the new environment.
So while we’ve been giving Apple a hard time recently – even in my ASO book I am open about the issues with Apple – there might be hope for Apple yet.  Only time will tell how these changes will really play out for developers.
One final bad news /good news situation? The changes don’t come out until the fall so you’ll have to live with the current system until then.  Fortunately, that’s just about ample time to get your apps ready for domination in iOS 8.