Phil Schiller: Apple making major changes to the App Store

Not even six months after taking over the App Store, and just five days before the start of the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), Apple’s Senior Vice President of Worldwide Marketing, Phil Schiller sat down on Tuesday to discuss some major changes coming to the App Store this year.

Schiller outlined three areas that his team has been working to improve:

  1. App Review
  2. Business Models
  3. App Discovery/Search Ads

App Review

If you talk to any developer, you will hear a variety of issues they have with the App Store. Some are very specific, while others have been affecting all developers. One of those issues, and one that Schiller’s team focused on, is app review.

App review ensures the products submitted by developers work properly and that they don’t contain any type of code that could adversely affect the consumer. It’s quality control, but it’s also Apple looking out for its customers. It’s an important step in the entire App Store process.

Typically, when a developer submits an app, it gets reviewed by the app review team. They make sure the app adheres to the guidelines that Apple set out for all apps. This process could take up to five days to complete. In the past month or so we’ve seen that time drop to just one day for a lot of apps.

It would be easy to just get rid of that step, but instead of doing that, Schiller’s team focused on why it took so long and fixed it.

“We’re never going to get rid of that [app review] because it matters,” said Schiller.

He said that Apple does about 100,000 app reviews per week and that they’ve developed new processes to make reviews faster, while maintaining the quality that Apple, and its customers, expect.

The end result is that Apple has a sustained rate of reviewing 50% of apps in 24 hours and 90% in 48 hours.

Business Models

In addition to app review, Apple looked at its subscription model and decided to open it up to all product categories. Until now, news apps and other publications were the only products that could really take advantage of the subscription-based business model on the App Store.

This will be a big move for companies that have multiple apps—instead of trying to get customers to subscribe to every app, they can offer a value subscription to all the content they offer.

“Having to subscribe to multiple apps can be very confusing for our customers,” said Eduardo Henrique, co-founder & head of global expansion at PlayKids. “This brings value to customers and it’s easier to communicate what we offer.”

When the new subscription platform is rolled out, Henrique said, “this is our top priority.”

There is more to the new subscription model than just having it across the product categories.

Currently the 70-30 revenue split for subscriptions is the same as regular purchased apps. However, under the new subscription rules, that revenue split will favor the developers more in the second year on individual subscriptions. Developers will get an 85-15 revenue share for all subscribers that have been customers for over a year. This will also affect all existing apps and subscribers, not just new apps.

Developers will be able to choose one of over 200 subscription price points, and they can create territory specific prices, making subscriptions even more flexible. If a developer chooses to increase the subscription price, customers will be notified and they will have to authorize that increase. No customer will ever be charged a higher rate without first authorizing it, explained Schiller.

Customers will also be able to upgrade, downgrade or even side grade subscriptions, if those options are available to them. Developers can also keep current subscriptions at one price, but charge new subscribers a different price.

The options for the new subscription model seem very well thought out.

App Discovery

App discovery is one of those areas that developers and customers have complained about for years. Finding apps is sometimes just a chore, but Apple has some ideas here too.

“We want our customers to have a reason to come to the App Store every day,” said Schiller.

The “Featured” section of the App Store will filter apps you already have installed on your device, so you are only looking at new apps. Apple is also bringing back the Categories tab for the store, allowing users to more easily browse through apps.

One of the ways many of us find apps is through personal recommendations. Apple will now have a Share sheet when you 3D Touch on an app on your home screen that will allow you to share the app on social networks, or with your family and friends. Developers can still use the sharing feature inside the apps, but this is another way for people to directly recommend an app they like.

The biggest change to this section of the App Store is that Apple will be accepting search ads from developers.


Schiller said developers have contacted Apple in the past and offered to pay to be part of App Store Collections and other features of the store, but Apple turned them all down.

“Our store is not for sale—that’s not how we handle things,” said Schiller. “We are only going to do this if we can, first and foremost, respect the user and be fair to developers, especially small developers.”

There will only be one ad on the search results page and it will be clearly marked as an ad, according to Schiller. What’s more, the content of the ad will be exactly the same as the content of the app on the App Store. In other words, no spammy ads. Apple will only accept ads from developers in the App Store—they won’t have any third-party product ads in the store.

Schiller said the ads are done through an auction system for the developers. There are no minimums, and there will be no exclusives, so small developers can get in on the action as well. The ad system will roll out as a beta this summer and Apple will be watching to make sure the system is fair for all developers.

In keeping with its focus on privacy, Apple will not track users and will not share data about users ad clicks with developers. Developers will get reports, but no user data. Apple will also not serve ads to people 13 years old or under, if it can determine that from the device.

Developers will be able to sign-up for the search ad beta and there will be no charge to them during the beta period. When it does go live, after the beta period, it will launch in the U.S. first.

Major changes

These are some major changes from the App Store team—more than we’ve seen in years from Apple. It’s a good sign that Apple is focusing so much attention on making the App Store better for developers and customers. We’ll have to see how it all works out in the coming months, but a focus on making things relevant, fair, and easier to use should pay off for Apple, its developers and the customer.

  • TWF

    It’s a definite start. I think they’ll still need some kind of paid upgrade model at some point, especially for big time apps, but these changes should be welcome.

    • Obsidian71

      Probably not. We’ve been moving to rapid development. subscriptions allow the developer to constantly iterate the product and make it better without having to batch bug fixes and features and sell it at a larger price.

      • rick gregory

        Agreed, but the one issue for me will be whether I get regular updates. I’m not subscribing to an app that doesn’t give me minor updates across the year as needed and major updates at least once per subscription term.

        Even as a customer I’d prefer the option of paying for an upgrade vs a subscription.

        • Agreed but there’s no guarantee of that.

          • rick gregory

            Which is why I’d like the upgrade option. If a developer feels their product is basically complete great – I buy it, we’re done.

            For example I use the Marvin e-reader app. it’s great, but it hasn’t had an update (of any kind) since last August. I’d be pissed if I had to sub to get it but I’d be totally down for paying for the occasional upgrade if the dev only wants to work in it sporadically.

          • Agreed. I don’t like the idea of subscriptions (especially for apps that “die” if you don’t pay up) from companies I don’t know or trust. I have a subscription to Adobe Lightroom because – while I don’t trust them as far as I can throw them – I know they will continually update the app.

          • The Cappy

            It’s not a question of whether you know or trust the devs. It’s a question of whether or not you’re actually paying to support further development, or you’re paying because they’ve got you over the barrel. Apple has just provided the barrel. Upgrade pricing represents an incentive for development, and a freedom for users. Subscription pricing represents an entitlement for devs, and an obligation with little recourse other than stop using an app entirely for users if they think their money is going nowhere. And anybody who can’t see the potential pitfall hasn’t got very much imagination or experience.

          • “It’s not a question of whether you know or trust the devs.” As I made clear in my post, it is for me. I wasn’t speaking for everyone else.

          • rick gregory

            The other issue with apps that die if you don’t pay the sub fee is this… what if the developer goes away? I don’t mean on vacation, I mean they quit the business?

            This is a disaster for customers if you lose the app if you stop paying. On the other hand, if I just don’t get updates… fine.

          • The Cappy

            It then becomes even more important to avoid apps that use proprietary data formats.

      • Umair Itrat

        Subscriptions only make sense if the nature of the app is some continuous service.

        Microsoft and Adobe products were so mature that there were hardly any must-have features every year; so they cheated by switching to a subscription model. Now instead of paying for upgrade for compelling features, a user has to pay for fear of losing access to the use of EXISTING software.

        I find Adobe Elements app much fairer. They release a new version every year and charge $100. But if you want to skip a year or two because that particular new feature isn’t for you, you can do it and your app won’t stop working.

        Remember the outrage at TextExpander subscription? I don’t think $20 per year was a huge asking price. It’s just that the nature of app wasn’t for subscription and it wasn’t fair that the app would stop working if you don’t pay.

        Just like you can’t sell hardware on subscription at ‘subscription’ price. [Magic Keyboard at $30 a year, no outright purchase option and keyboard taken away if you don’t pay even after 5 years]. Usually, expensive hardware are given on rent and at ‘rent’ prices. And for most hardware on rent, an outright purchase option is also available.

        iPhone subscription is brilliant for users because it’s a new phone every year and their investment isn’t wasted as they can purchase it by paying only the differential.

      • The Cappy

        And if an app has a feature you find necessary, but they never update the app meaningfully afterward? What then? You’re stuck paying and paying and paying and paying and paying and paying and paying and paying …

  • App discovery needs to be curated. It feels like there’s too many results from just finding text in the description. Also, is Phil in charge of the Mac App Store, too? That’s the one that needs more fixing.

    • rick gregory

      The problem with human curation is the million app count.

      • I don’t think any of the changes to the approval process apply to apps that have already been approved. Going forward, I’d just like to see them add a component that includes optimizing the description for better search results.

    • Scott Adams

      Yeah I was hoping to hear an announcement at WWDC that was along the lines of a unified App Store across iOS and Mac.

      Maybe next year.

      • Yeah, unified app store would be nice. It might still happen, we’ll find out next week.

  • “Our store is not for sale—that’s not how we handle things.” Except now it is, Phil. This isn’t the thin edge of a wedge, it’s the whole thing.

    • Obsidian71

      I rarely see these type of “sponsored” ads having the products that I like. If your product is good it will be noticed and sell. I’m not looking forward to the dreck that’s inevitably going to float to the top of the search results.

      • Kory Westerhold

        Only “if your product is good it will be noticed and sell” doesn’t really take into account the realities of the App Store, bias in Search, the limitied nature of search in the store.

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  • Obsidian71

    Some developers may be rejoicing but your job just got much more difficult. Say Omnigroup allows you to subscribe to all of their apps for $8 a month. How are many developers going to beat that? Subscriptions are going to help the incumbent developers with a product line and likely hurt the ISV that is crafting one off labor of loves. One thing is for certain …everything is going to change. The new push is going to be keeping those subs on the hook for year 2

    • rick gregory

      I’m not sure that’s a problem. One off labors of love rarely produce sustainable revenues that can serve as the backbone of a company (even a one person company). Like it or not, developers need to also business people if they want to turn an app into a product that supports them.

      Most companies don’t even rely on one product but develop several so they have a portfolio that produces revenue. I get that this is the antithesis of the labor of love approach but it’s what you do if you want to have a sustainable business. People can still do labors of love – they just need to realize that if they don’t plan them out and treat them like part of a business they can’t really expect business-like results.

  • Obsidian71

    Developers should also be able to offer FREE time limited subscriptions. This effectively becomes your 1,2,3 or 4-week demo. If the end user likes the product they become a paid member and all work that’s been done remains. If they elect to forgo on the paid subscription their work is either deleted or watermarked in a way.

    • TWF

      Evidently this is the case – trial length depends on subscription length, but there will be trials.

  • nutmac

    The future of app pricing is subscription. App Store needs to do a better job displaying subscription pricing, however. For instance, “[GET] In-App Purchases” is completely useless. It should display subscription price range (swiping the button should show different price points).

  • rick gregory

    I want one thing that I didn’t see here – let me search for apps that have a Watch app. Or that have a Carplay App. I don’t have Carplay but a good friend does and is frustrated that he can’t go to the app store and look for iOS apps that have a Carplay version too.

    Take Overcast as an example. Marco’s done a great job making it available with iPhone and iPad versions, it has a Watch app and it appears in Carplay. But the notice that it’s both iPhone and iPad compatible is in one place (below the app image), the Watch notice in another (to the right of the icon under the app name) and there’s no indication at all that it works in Carplay. If someone is looking for a podcast player and wants one that works in all of those places they have no way to know if a player does that and worse there’s no way to search for it.

    Faceted search Phil. Please use it.

  • I know subscriptions are inevitable at this point, but I loathe them with a white hot fiery passion. And damn Adobe for doing it so successfully that it proved to the rest of the world it can work for them. Crap crap crap.

  • GFYantiapplezealots

    Sad. The end of an Ad-less Apple experience. Welcome to the world of Android and Google folks.

  • Scott Adams

    My first thought after reading this news: How big is WWDC this year if something like this got pushed to a pre-event PR approach?

  • The Cappy

    Jeez. I want to pay for an app. Then when it’s updated, I can pay an upgrade fee if I find the features compelling. Subscription pricing allows a developer to put a single compelling in their app and never ever ever ever ever make meaningful updates, because who gives a shit? They’ve got their guaranteed revenue stream. I foresee paying a lot more money for apps that aren’t any less stagnant than now. Apple updated Pages aggressively when they charged for years optional updates. The moment they lost that carrot in front of them, they quit updating it meaningfully. Subscription pricing doesn’t change that. It gives hardworking devs a revenue stream, and it gives lazy devs a revenue stream. Upgrade pricing only benefitted the hardworking devs. Apple made a stupid choice on this one.

  • Subscription pricing means the user pays more in the long run.

    • Derek Ledbetter

      I hope so!

      • James Glidewell

        As someone who has spent a few thousand dollars on apps, I’ll state with some certainty that I will go out of my way to avoid subscription apps. I still don’t see how the transition is going to be handled – are apps that I have already bought going to unilaterally be converted over to a subscription? If so, I will be spending quite a bit of time writing rather scathing one-star reviews. If not, then I will just stick with the apps I have, or look for a “pay once” alternative app. Lots of folks who spent money fairly freely on the App Store are going to seriously think twice about subscription apps – sound like a winning strategy – alienate the folks most likely to drop a few bucks on your app… This is going to be a fiasco.

  • DhruvNath

    The thing is quite simple! If a good application with optimum features is available in the market then obviously user will subscribe and buy depends on their need and luxury. further for developing the business related regular or Pro (PAID) application you can follow the link listed below:

  • Anonymous_Coward_86

    Apple should have bought AppViz. Maybe not too late…

  • Cranky Observer

    I don’t know about you guys but I just absolutely need 200-300 entities with which I do business to have a direct line into my wallet from which each extracts $5/month. Really, why should Target sell chairs when they can instead be a “provider of sitting solutions” and charge my credit card $10/month forever, plus $0.10 every time a behind touches the sitting surface?