With new operating system, Apple revamps its money-making App Store

iOS 11Apple's newest operating system for iPhones and iPads, iOS 11, introduces changes to its marketplace for third-party software designed to appeal more to app developers and to add augmented reality apps.

The system is being released today ahead of its two newest phones, the iPhone 8 and iPhone X, set to start shipping to customers on Friday and 3 November, respectively.

The most visible changes will come to App Store. The App Store is the backbone of Apple’s services segment, which brought in $21.5bn in revenue in the past nine months, a 19% increase over the previous year and a bright spot as overall sales grew only 5%.

The store has been redesigned to give app developers more space for images and text to describe their software. Developers have long complained that their software is hard to find in Apple’s store unless users type in the precise name of the app or follow a link to it.

“The redesign make it much cleaner and speaks to the pain point of the store: You had so many apps that if you didn’t know exactly what you were looking for, it was really hard to find anything,” Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Creative Strategies, told Reuters.

The new store also gives prominent display to games. Games are expected to make up 75% of all revenue for Apple’s App Store, according to App Annie, which collects and analyzes market data on mobile apps.

Most of that revenue comes in the form of so-called in-app purchases, where gamers make purchases of tokens, gems and other digital items to unlock new parts of the game. “It’s really the gift that keep on giving from the developer perspective,” Milanesi said.

But perhaps the biggest change in iOS 11 will the debut of augmented reality apps, or AR, in which digital images float over the real word. Apple has made much of those a capabilities, but an ostensibly minor feature may help AR apps spread: Screen recording.

In testing, Adam Debreczeni, maker of an app that lets users see a three-dimensional map of a fitness activity like a bicycle ride or run they’ve gone on, was surprised at how enthusiastically users took to sharing screen recordings of AR apps like his.

“I think that’s going to help AR games go viral and get better distribution,” he said.

iOS 11 also includes:

  • A dock which provides access to favourite and frequently used apps and documents from any screen and makes it easier to work with multiple apps with split view and now also slide over;
  • A files app provides a central place to access and organise files no matter where they are located;
  • Portrait mode now uses optical image stabilisation, 'True Tone' flash and HDR;
  • New voices which are more natural and expressive, adjusting intonation, pitch, emphasis and tempo while speaking, and can translate English into Mandarin, French, German, Italian or Spanish;
  • A new way to help drivers stay more focused on the road with Do Not Disturb while driving. iPhone can detect when a user may be driving through vehicle movement or Bluetooth connections, and automatically silences notifications to keep the screen dark.
  • And later this year, Apple Maps adds indoor maps for shopping centres and airports around the world, including: Amsterdam, London Heathrow, and Los Angeles.