1.2 million apps. That huge inventory of Apple’s App Store is a source of pride for the company — and a big roadblock for users trying to find the right app or developers trying to find an audience.
This week at its Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco, Apple made a number of announcements intended to make life a bit easier on both sides of app purchasing.
“It’s uncharted territory, with over a million apps,” IDC program director for app development Al Hilwa told VentureBeat. “If you’re going to have a controlled platform by a platform leader,” he added, Apple needs to keep coming up with ways to make it work for developers and users.
On the developers‘ side, apps can now be bundled together, like a group of children’s apps, and then purchased at a discount with a single tap.
Testing software TestFlight, which lets iOS users get invitations to test alpha-stage/stealth apps, will now be available to developers in a free beta phase. The company acquired TestFlight when it bought Burstly a few months ago.
One of the potentially biggest enhancements is that third-party developers can now add extensions to iOS native apps, such as Swype keys for the virtual keyboard. There will also be an update to the iTunes Connect dashboard for managing apps.
And, back in development shops, there will be the new Swift programming language, the new graphics optimization engine Metal, and a buffed-up 2D games engine SpriteKit, plus 3D engine SceneKit will now be available for iOS 8.
“I do read your emails,” CEO Tim Cook told the assembled developers at WWDC.
On the user side, there’s an Explore tab in the iOS 8 App Store, with a view of curated app categories and new sub-categories. Trending Searches have been added; there’s continuous scroll for search results; and users can preview videos of apps.
The lock screen will now show relevant location-based app icons when the place is right, like the Starbucks app icon. Reportedly, relevant location-based icons that you have not yet downloaded will also appear when you are in a relevant location, taking you to the App Store for downloading if you so desire.
Family Sharing will allow as many as six families to share a credit card to buy an app — or e-books, videos, music, or other content — and then share them.
Oh, and Bitcoin appears to becoming part of the App Store environment. Apple has now opened the door to accepting Bitcoin for App Store purchases, as long as there’s compliance with all relevant laws.