developers

Google gives Android developers new tools to make money from users who won’t pay

Posted by | Android, android apps, app stores, Apps, developers, Google, Google Play, monetization, revenue, TC | No Comments

Google today is introducing a new way for Android developers to generate revenue from their mobile applications. And no, it’s not subscription-related. Instead, the company is launching a new monetization option for apps called “Rewarded Products.” This will allow non-paying app users to contribute to an app’s revenue stream by sacrificing their time, but not their money. The first product will be rewarded video, where users can opt to watch a video ad in exchange for in-game currency, virtual goods or other benefits.

The feature may make developers happy, but it remains to be seen how users react. Reception will depend on how the videos are introduced in the app.

Even in Google’s example of the rewarded product in action — meant to showcase a best-design practice, one would think — the video interrupts gameplay between levels with a full-screen takeover. This is not a scenario users would respond well to unless this was presented as the only way to play a popular, previously paid-only game for free, perhaps.Rewarded video has worked for some apps where users have come to expect a free product. That could include free-to-play games or other services where subscribing is an option, not a requirement.

For example, Pandora’s music streaming service was free and ad-supported for years, as it was radio-only. After it introduced tiers offering on-demand streaming to compete with Spotify, it rolled out a rewarded video product — so to speak — of its own. Today, Pandora listeners can choose to watch a video ad to access on-demand music for a session as an alternative to paying a monthly subscription.

Android app developers, of course, are already using advertisements to supplement, or as a means of, monetization, but this launch creates an official Google Play “product.” This makes implementation easier on developers and gives Google a way to compete with third parties offering something similar.

Rewarded products can be added to any app using the Google Play Billing Library or AIDL interface with only a few additional API calls, the company says. It won’t require an SDK.

The launch comes at a time when Apple has been seeing success with subscriptions, which it has fully embraced, pushed and sometimes even let run amok. Subscriptions are now one of the biggest factors, outside of games, in app store revenue growth.

But Android users, historically, have been more averse to paying for apps than those on iOS. Apple’s store has even seen nearly double that of Google Play in terms of revenue — despite having far fewer downloads. That means Android developers will not be able to tap into the subscription craze at the same scale as their iOS counterparts. And it means cross-platform developers may further prioritize building for iOS, as a result.

Rewarded products offer those developers an alternative path to monetization on a platform where that’s often been more difficult, outside of running ads.

Google says the rewarded video product is launching into open beta, and is available in the Play Console for developers.

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iOS developers will soon be able to offer discounts to their existing and lapsed subscribers

Posted by | Apple, Apps, developers, iOS, iOS apps, Mobile, mobile app developers, subscriptions, tvos | No Comments

As subscriptions continue to grow into a sizable revenue stream for mobile app developers, Apple has had to make adjustments to its guidelines, rules and even its tools for subscription management in recent weeks. It issued stricter guidelines around how subscriptions are to be presented to consumers, and it made the setting for canceling existing subscriptions more accessible. Now, Apple is rolling out new tools for developers that will help them retain their current customers and win back lapsed subscribers.

The company announced on Friday that apps with auto-renewable subscriptions will soon be able to offer their subscriptions at a discounted price for a specific period, as a means of growing and retaining their customer base. This will give the developers more control over their subscription pricing than was available before.

Until the change, developers could only make introductory offers to entice consumers to sign up for the first time. For example, developers could lure customers with a one-time introductory price, offer a free trial or offer a discounted rate for a specific period of time before the subscription converted to the full price.

But these offers could only be made to first-time customers. The new promotional offers will allow developers to cut similar deals for existing subscribers or to win back the business from those who used to pay for the subscription but had canceled.

While the new promotional offers allow for the same sort of discounts as introductory offers, they’re more flexible in terms of how they’re used.

With introductory offers, developers were allowed one offer per subscription, per territory. With promotional offers, developers can activate up to 10 offers per subscription. This allows them to test which ones work best for their customers, instead of having to pick just one.

And developers are in control of when an offer displays to a customer, in which territories and how many offers a customer can redeem.

In addition, while introductory offers may display in the App Store when promoted, the promotional offers will not. That means developers can use business logic that targets winning back their most valuable customers with offers that may be better from those shown to others — and no one would be the wiser. It also means developers can offer different deals to lapsed customers — like maybe a discounted subscription — compared with promos meant to retain current subscribers.

Developers will also be able to use receipt validation tools to find subscribers who turned off auto-renewal, which allows them to target those customers with new offers before their subscription lapses. They may also decide to target those who cancel during the free trial with different offers than those who cancel after using a paid subscription for a time.

As an end-user looking to save money, these changes mean it may be worth toggling off your subscriptions from time to time to see if you’re offered a better deal to resubscribe.

Developers were alerted to the new features last week, but the offers themselves aren’t yet publicly available.

To create the offers, developers have to download the latest Xcode 10.2 beta and will need to implement the new StoreKit APIs. They can then test their offers on the latest beta version of iOS 12.2, macOS 10.14.4 and tvOS 12.2. Apple said the offers will be made available to the public “soon.”

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Apple’s iOS update makes it easier to get to your subscriptions

Posted by | app-store, Apple, Apps, developers, iOS, Mobile, subscriptions | No Comments

Apple has made a small but important change to iOS that will allow users an easier way to manage their app subscriptions. In the latest release of the mobile operating system (iOS 12.1.4 and 12.2 beta), the company has relocated the “Manage Subscriptions” setting so it’s only one click away when you tap on your profile in the App Store, instead of being buried more deeply within the settings.

This may seem like a minor change, but it was a much-needed one.

As more mobile apps have adopted subscriptions as a means of generating revenue, it’s become critical to ensure consumers know how to turn off their subscriptions. And, based on a reading of many angry App Store app reviews, many people don’t know how to do this. Most assume they should reach out to the developer to have their subscription disabled — after all, it’s the developer who’s charging them.

It’s not really the customer’s fault for being unaware of how the process works, as Apple had made getting to the subscription management screen far more difficult than it should be.

In iOS Settings, for example, you would have to click iTunes & App Store –> Apple ID: –> View Apple ID –> then scroll all the way to the bottom of the screen to find the hidden setting.

In the iOS App Store app, it was a bit simpler.

You would first have to tap your profile icon on the top right of the Home page, then your Apple ID, then scroll down to the bottom of the page again.

By comparison, Google Play put subscriptions in its top-level navigation with no scrolling or extra clicks required.

With the iOS update, when you now tap your profile icon in the App Store, “Manage Subscriptions” is right there — and it’s accessible without scrolling. That’s a huge help in making this critical feature more accessible.

Unfortunately, Apple hasn’t made a similar change to simplify the path to subscription management in iOS’s main Settings.

The change was first spotted by MacStories Editor-in-Chief Federico Viticci, who shared a screenshot on Twitter.

Apple recently made a change (seems iOS 12.1.4 and 12.2 beta) to make it easier to manage subscriptions for iOS apps.

Now you just need to open the App Store, tap your profile, and choose ‘Manage Subscriptions’. pic.twitter.com/4PtxvAQjTm

— Federico Viticci (@viticci) February 13, 2019

Subscriptions are now one of the main driving forces behind the increase in consumer spending on iPhone.

A recent Sensor Tower report said that iPhone users in the U.S. on average spent $79 on apps in 2018, up 36 percent from last year. Much of that is due to mobile gaming, as always, but subscription-based apps are now playing a large role.

Unfortunately, not all developers have been playing by the rules. Many app makers were using misleading tactics to force users to subscribe — like hiding the true costs, using confusing buttons and user interfaces or suggesting they join a free trial that ends up only lasting three days.

Apple later updated its App Store guidelines to further spell out what is and is not allowed.

But making the rules and enforcing them are two different matters. In the meantime, being able to figure out which subscriptions you have and turning off those you don’t want needed to be simpler.

Also related to this is the fact that Apple is preparing to launch some new subscriptions of its own — presumably, its long-awaited streaming video service and perhaps the news subscription service as well — at a press event in March.

The update to subscriptions appears to be rolled out worldwide for those on the latest version of iOS.

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Square launches its in-app payments SDK

Posted by | Developer, developers, in-app payments, Mobile, payments, sdk, Square | No Comments

Square today announced the launch of its in-app payments SDK that allows developers to build Square-powered payments right into their mobile apps. While Square remains best known for its offline payments solutions that grace virtually ever independent coffee shop and quirky corner store, the company has long offered APIs for taking online payments on the web and for working with its reader hardware.

Today’s launch expands the company’s reach into mobile apps, an area where it faces stiff competition from the likes of Stripe, Adyen and others. Square, however, argues that this launch puts it ahead of the competition, given that it now offers a complete online and offline payments solution.“With the introduction of in-app mobile payments to the Square platform, developers now have a complete, omnichannel payments solution for all their payment needs,” said Square developer lead Carl Perry in today’s announcement. “From software to hardware to services, Square offers a complete payments experience all in one cohesive open platform. Even better, developers and sellers can manage all their payments across in-store, mobile and online all in one place.”

The SDK is available for Android, iOS and Flutter, Google’s toolkit for building cross-platform applications. For now, only developers in the United States, Canada, U.K., Australia and Japan will be able to use it, though. The app provides a default payments flow, but developers can also customize it to match their apps and needs. Using this service, mobile app developers will be able to take payments through the usual credit and debit cards, as well as Apple Pay and Google Pay.

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App Store Review guidelines hint that users will soon be able to gift in-app purchases, not just apps

Posted by | app-store, Apple, Apps, developers, gifting, in-app purchase, iOS apps, Mobile, subscriptions | No Comments

Apple will allow iOS users to gift in-app purchases, not just paid apps, according to a change to the company’s App Store Review Guidelines spotted this week. This means developers may soon have the tools to allow users to purchase virtual goods or even subscriptions through their app, which can then be gifted to others.

The changes to the company’s App Store guidelines were first discovered on Wednesday by MacRumors, which confirmed both the prior and current wording as follows:

Before: “Apps should not directly or indirectly enable gifting of in-app purchase content, features, or consumable items to others.” 

After: “Apps may enable gifting of items that are eligible for in-app purchase to others. Such gifts may only be refunded to the original purchaser and may not be exchanged.”

It’s unclear at this time how the change will be implemented, from the developer’s side. It’s likely Apple will soon share more information with its developer community to inform them of how to get started.

The move makes a lot of sense, given the App Store’s larger shift away from paid apps toward in-app purchases and more recently, subscriptions, as a way for developers to monetize their businesses.

Gamers would often like to receive in-app currency or other virtual goods as gifts. Meanwhile, subscriptions have become so popular they’re expected to contribute heavily to both iOS and Android app stores’ growth next year. Combined, the app stores are forecast to pass $122 billion in consumer spending in 2019, according to App Annie.

However, some subset of apps have been abusing subscriptions by making it difficult for consumers to even use their “free” app without committing to a subscription, or tricking users into free trials that convert in just days, among other things. Apple will need to get a good handle on the bad actors before rolling out in-app gifting of subscriptions more broadly.

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Android developers can now force users to update their apps

Posted by | Android, Developer, developers, Google | No Comments

At its Android Dev Summit, Google today announced a number of new tools and features for developers that write apps for its mobile operating system. Some of those are no surprise, including support for the latest release of the Kotlin language, which is becoming increasingly popular in the Android developer ecosystem, as well as new features for the Android Jetpack tools and APIs, as well as the Android Studio IDE. The biggest surprise, though, is likely the launch of the In-app Updates API.

While the name doesn’t exactly make it sound like a break-through feature, it’s actually a big deal. With this new API, developers now get two new ways to push users to update their app.

“This is something that developers have asked us for a long time is — say you own an app and you want to make sure the user is running the latest version,” Google senior director for Android product management and developer relations Stephanie Saad Cuthbertson told me. “This is something developers really fret.”

Say you shipped your application with a major bug (it happens…) and want to make sure that every user upgrades immediately; you will soon be able to show them a full-screen blocking message that will be displayed when they first start the app again and while the update is applied. That’s obviously only meant for major bugs. The second option allows for more flexibility and allows the user to continue using the app while the update is downloaded. Developers can fully customize these update flows.

Right now, the new updates API is in early testing with a few partners and the plan is to open it to more developers soon.

As Cuthbertson stressed, the team’s focus in recent years has been on giving developers what they want. The poster child for that, she noted, is the Kotlin languages. “It wasn’t a Google-designed language and maybe not the obvious choice — but it really was the best choice,” she told me. “When you look at the past several years, you can really see an investment that started with the IDE. It’s actually only five years old and since then, we’ve been building it out, completely based on developer feedback.”

Today, the company announced that 46 percent of professional developers now use Kotlin and more than 118,000 new Kotlin projects were started in Android Studio in the last month alone (and that’s just from users who opt in to share metrics with Google), so that investment is definitely paying off.

One thing developers have lately been complaining about, though, is that build times in Android Studio have slowed down. “What we saw internally was that build times are getting faster, but what we heard from developers externally is that they are getting slower,” Cuthbertson said. “So we started benchmarking, both internally in controlled circumstances, but also for anybody who opted in, we started benchmarking the whole ecosystem.” What the team found was that Gradle, the core of the Android Studio build system, is getting a lot faster, but the system and platform you build on also has a major impact. Cuthbertson noted that the Spectre and Meltdown fixes had a major impact on Windows and Linux users, for example, as do custom plugins. So going forward, the team is building new profiling and analysis tools to allow developers to get more insights into their build times and Google will build more of its own plugins to accelerate performance.

Most of this isn’t in the current Android Studio 3.3 beta yet (and beta 3 of version 3.3 is launching today, too), but one thing Android Studio users will likely be happy to hear is that Chrome OS will get official support for the IDE early next year, using Chrome OS’s new ability to run Linux applications.

Other updates the company announced today are new Jetpack Architecture Component libraries for Navigation and Work Manager, making it easier for developers to add Android’s navigation principles into their apps and perform background tasks without having to write a lot of boilerplate code. Android App Bundles, which allow developers to modularize their applications and ship parts of them on demand, are also getting some updates, as are Instant Apps, which users can run without installing them. Using web URLs for Instant Apps is now optional and building them in Android Studio has become easier.

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Apple’s new iOS 12 beta fixes the annoying ‘please update’ bug

Posted by | Apple, beta, bug, developers, iOS, iOS 12, Mobile, TC | No Comments

iOS 12 beta testers have been plagued with a frustrating bug that continually pops up messages alerting them that a new iOS update is available when, in fact, it’s not. Apple has now fixed this bug, which is patched in the latest iOS 12 betas rolling out now, we understand.

The bug first made headlines on Thursday, when a number of iOS 12 beta testers – including developers and those on the public beta program – began to complain on social media about the problem. All users were seeing a pop-up message that read, “A new iOS version is now available. Please update from the iOS 12 beta.”  

Users could close this window with a tap, but the same pop-up would reappear at regular intervals. There was nothing to be done about it, because the message itself was wrong – there was no new beta available for download at the time.

A new iOS update is now available. Please update from the iOS 12 beta.

A new iOS update is now available. Please update from the iOS 12 beta.

A new iOS update is now available. Please update from the iOS 12 beta.

A new iOS update is now availab

— Nick Abouzeid (@nickabouzeid) August 31, 2018

All of my devices: “A new iOS update is now available. Please update”

Narrator: “A new version, in fact, was not available.”

— Ish (@ishabazz) August 31, 2018

While it’s true that beta versions of software can have glitches and bugs, the iOS 12 beta has been, arguably, one of the most stable to date. For many people, the bug was one of the first times they had a serious issue with running the beta software.

Some had figured out yesterday that you could adjust the system date and time to turn off the non-stop notifications, but this was bad advice. Messing around with the system clock can introduce a host of other issues, like missing calendar appointments or reminders, for example.

Apple was aware of the issue, and has thankfully introduced a fix before the long holiday weekend here in the U.S.

The fix is available in both the new developer beta and the public beta, out now.

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Apple will require all apps to have a privacy policy as of October 3

Posted by | app-store, Apple, Apps, developers, Mobile, Policy, privacy | No Comments

Apple is cracking down on apps that don’t communicate to users how their personal data is used, secured or shared. In an announcement posted to developers through the App Store Connect portal, Apple says that all apps, including those still in testing, will be required to have a privacy policy as of October 3, 2018.

Allowing apps without privacy policies is something of an obvious hole that Apple should have already plugged, given its generally protective nature over user data. But the change is even more critical now that Europe’s GDPR regulations have gone into effect. Though the app makers themselves would be ultimately responsible for their customers’ data, Apple, as the platform where those apps are hosted, has some responsibility here, too.

Platforms today are being held accountable for the behavior of their apps, and the data misuse that may occur as a result of their own policies around those apps.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, for example, was dragged before the U.S. Senate about the Cambridge Analytica scandal, where data from 87 million Facebook users was inappropriately obtained by way of Facebook apps.

Apple’s new requirement, therefore, provides the company with a layer of protection – any app that falls through the cracks going forward will be able to be held accountable by way of its own privacy policy and the statements it contains.

Apple also notes that the privacy policy’s link or text cannot be changed until the developer submits a new version of their app. It seems there’s still a bit of loophole here, though – if developers add a link pointing to an external webpage, they can change what the webpage says at any time after their app is approved.

The new policy will be required for all apps and app updates across the App Store as well as through the TestFlight testing platform as of October 3, says Apple.

What’s not clear is if Apple itself will be reviewing all the privacy policies themselves as part of this change, in order to reject apps with questionable data use policies or user protections. If it does, App Store review times could increase, unless the company hires more staff.

Apple has already taken a stance on apps it finds questionable, like Facebook’s data-sucking VPN app Onavo, which it kicked out of the App Store earlier this month. The app had been live for years, however, and its App Store text did disclose the data it collected was shared with Facebook. The fact that Apple only booted it now seems to indicate it will take a tougher stance on apps which are designed to collect user data as one of their primary functions going forward.

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6 million users had installed third-party Twitter clients

Posted by | APIs, Apps, developers, Mobile, TC, Twitter | No Comments

Twitter tried to downplay the impact deactivating its legacy APIs would have on its community and the third-party Twitter clients preferred by many power users by saying that “less than 1%” of Twitter developers were using these old APIs. Twitter is correct in its characterization of the size of this developer base, but it’s overlooking millions of third-party app users in the process. According to data from Sensor Tower, six million App Store and Google Play users installed the top five third-party Twitter clients between January 2014 and July 2018.

Over the past year, these top third-party apps were downloaded 500,000 times.

This data is largely free of reinstalls, the firm also said.

The top third-party Twitter apps users installed over the past three-and-a-half years have included: Twitterrific, Echofon, TweetCaster, Tweetbot and Ubersocial.

Of course, some portion of those users may have since switched to Twitter’s native app for iOS or Android, or they may run both a third-party app and Twitter’s own app in parallel.

Even if only some of these six million users remain, they represent a small, vocal and — in some cases, prominent — user base. It’s one that is very upset right now, too. And for a company that just posted a loss of one million users during its last earnings, it seems odd that Twitter would not figure out a way to accommodate this crowd, or even bring them on board its new API platform to make money from them.

Twitter, apparently, was weighing data and facts, not user sentiment and public perception, when it made this decision. But some things have more value than numbers on a spreadsheet. They are part of a company’s history and culture. Of course, Twitter has every right to blow all that up and move on, but that doesn’t make it the right decision.

To be fair, Twitter is not lying when it says this is a small group. The third-party user base is tiny compared with Twitter’s native app user base. During the same time that six million people were downloading third-party apps, the official Twitter app was installed a whopping 560 million times across iOS and Android. That puts the third-party apps’ share of installs at about 1.1 percent of the total.

That user base may have been shrinking over the years, too. During the past year, while the top third-party apps were installed half a million times, Twitter’s app was installed 117 million times. This made third-party apps’ share only about 0.4 percent of downloads, giving the official app a 99 percent market share.

But third-party app developers and the apps’ users are power users. Zealots, even. Evangelists.

Twitter itself credited them with pioneering “product features we all know and love,” like the mute option, pull-to-refresh and more. That means the apps’ continued existence brings more value to Twitter’s service than numbers alone can show.

Image credit: iMore

They are part of Twitter’s history. You can even credit one of the apps for Twitter’s logo! Initially, Twitter only had a typeset version of its name. Then Twitterrific came along and introduced a bird for its logo. Twitter soon followed.

Twitterrific was also the first to use the word “tweet,” which is now standard Twitter lingo. (The company used “twitter-ing.” Can you imagine?)

These third-party apps also play a role in retaining users who struggle with the new user experience Twitter has adopted — its algorithmic timeline. Instead, the apps offer a chronological view of tweets, as some continue to prefer.

Twitter’s decision to cripple these developers’ apps is shameful.

It shows a lack of respect for Twitter’s history, its power user base, its culture of innovation and its very own nature as a platform, not a destination.

P.S.:

twitterrific

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Apple’s Search Ads expand to six more markets in Europe and Asia

Posted by | ad tech, Ads, advertising, Advertising Tech, app-store, Apple, Apps, developers, Mobile, search ads | No Comments

In December, Apple introduced a new pay-per-install ad product called Search Ads Basic aimed at smaller developers, to complement the existing Search Ads product, which then became known as Search Ads Advanced. Today, the company is expanding Search Ads to more countries, including France, Germany, Italy, Japan, South Korea, and Spain, bringing the total number of countries where Search Ads is available to thirteen.

In addition to the U.S., Search Ads Advanced had already expanded to Australia, Canada, Mexico, New Zealand, Switzerland, and the U.K.

Developers in the newly supported countries will be able to create campaigns using Search Ads Advanced starting on July 25, 2018 at 4 PM PDT, with those campaigns appearing on the App Store starting August 1, 2018 at 4 PM PDT.

Meanwhile, Search Ads Basic will be available across all thirteen supported countries starting on August 22, 2018 at 10 AM PDT.

To encourage sign-ups, Apple is offering first-time advertisers a $100 USD credit to try out the product.

While the first version of Search Ads launched back in October 2016 in the U.S., the idea behind the newer “Basic” product was to offer developers a different – and simpler – means of reaching potential customers.

Search Ads was originally designed to allow developers to target users’ keyword searches, combined with other factors like location, gender or whether or not they had installed the app in the past. Developers would pay when users tapped on those targeted ads.

With the launch of Search Ads Basic, it’s easier to set up campaigns.

Developers only have to enter the app to be advertised, the campaign’s budget, and how much they want to pay per install. Apple helps by suggesting the max developers should pay using historical data. Then, developers only pay for actual installs, not taps.

Although the App Store was redesigned with the launch of iOS 11 to offer improved discoverability, search is still a key way people find out about apps.

Apple says that over 70 percent of App Store visitors use search to discover apps, in fact, and 65 percent of all downloads come directly from an App Store search.

The ads work well, too, as they have an over 50 percent conversion rate, on average, says Apple.

Apple’s advantage over the pay-per-install ads found elsewhere on the web isn’t only the ads’ placement – at the top of App Store searches, where they’re identified with a blue background and “Ad” icon – it also manages this without violating user privacy. That is, it doesn’t build specific profiles on individuals for ad targeting purposes, and it doesn’t share user data with developers. By its nature, this makes the system GDPR compliant.

In addition, Apple only places an ad when it’s relevant to a user’s search – developers can’t pay more to have their ad shown more often across less relevant searches, which offers a more level playing field.

Apple didn’t say when Search Ads would reach other countries, but with the new expansions it has some of the top markets now covered.

 

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