Under the Radar

Under the Radar 83: Live at CocoaConf




  welcome to under the radar a show about

  independent iOS app development I'm

  Marco Arment and I'm David Smith under

  the radar it's never longer than 30

  minutes so let's get started so this is

  a first time for us we are in a room

  with other people who are looking at us

  I think which is a little bit

  intimidating but you know I'm sure we'll

  make our way through and doing a live

  show with a hard time cap just for added

  extra difficulty just for fun but yeah

  it's an exciting week it's WDC week and

  it is an interesting year this is having

  go home enjoy everybody see since 2009

  that was my my first year and every year

  there's sort of a different theme or a

  different flavor to the show and I think

  when I was trying to listen for it I

  think the phrase that Apple used many

  times to indicate what the theme was

  this year was technology and refinements

  that in general what they were doing

  were either introducing new technologies

  all of their machine learning stuff or

  that type of thing or it's a lot of

  refinements it's lots of little things

  and as I'm in some ways I like that as a

  developer like it's not one of these

  years where if there's this overwhelming

  sense of like there goes my summer I'll

  never see my children again all these

  terrible things like it's au summer

  where it's like okay I've got work to do

  there's stuff to be done but overall

  unless you're in an area where one of

  these brand new like totally new

  technology is relevant for you you're

  just gonna be tweaking stuff making

  things a little bit better which is nice

  and say in some ways and maybe it's nice

  to have a year off from just a crew this

  crazy sprint or this whole new platform

  or anything like that because especially

  even some of the side platforms got

  almost no changes at all which so it's

  like okay I don't need to worry about

  that I can just do some basic changes to

  get going

  yeah I mean you know it's every every

  year when we have this this happened to

  us this kino thing every year there's

  you know it's it's a question mark of

  how much work will have in the summer

  time as you said and and there's as the

  app store and as these platforms have

  gotten more and more mature the advances

  have gotten more and more specialized

  you know you're you see things being

  added every year that only makes sense

  for a narrow subset of app types and if

  your app happens to be one of those

  things then you have you know new things

  you can do and you know as time goes on

  more and more of the advances are of

  that type rather than things that we all

  have to now suddenly deal with like when

  the you know the big iOS 7 redesigned

  that's like wow everyone has to deal

  with that or when major features to the

  OS we're still being added on a regular

  basis and you know things like

  notifications and like the you know bits

  that was like things that we all really

  had things to do about and and had you

  know potential new thing for our apps to

  do and major new areas of markets that

  would open up and that just really

  hasn't happened a lot recently because

  these platforms are maturing you know

  that that type of innovation just is

  slowing down by necessity because these

  things are getting you know more and

  more you know just mature and better

  around it so you know as you mentioned

  it I think it's worth pointing out that

  basically I think if you if your app

  runs on the watch the TV or in messages

  I don't think you have much to do I

  think you kind of get you know a

  vacation summer if your app if you were

  waiting on a particular sirikit intent

  that didn't exist last year you still

  probably don't have books to do because

  there weren't that many edit my summer

  is much more free than I thought it

  would be you can make a new app I hear

  it's really fun let me tell you a lot of

  experience yeah yeah yeah you know I was

  hoping for the audio Sirikit intent and

  that didn't come and you know maybe I'll

  get it next year maybe not who knows but

  for the moat and I was also expecting a

  a large redesign of iOS or at least a

  moderate scale redesign and I think what

  we got was more along the lines of the

  iOS 6 redesign like most people and

  remember like it you know but iOS 5 to 6

  like 6 actually did step back a lot of

  that skeuomorph is

  it was like a half step of a redesign

  and I think we got a similar scale

  redesigned with this so we now have like

  those new giant header text bars that I

  honestly I'm not a big fan of right now

  but maybe I get used to them

  and it's kind of unclear as to look

  whether we all should redesign our apps

  like this or not sometimes when Apple

  does UI chrome changes sometimes it only

  ends up being important for Apple's apps

  you know there are certain UI

  conventions that you see them and you

  think oh that's a system app and in back

  in the olden days it was kind of it was

  a design goal it considered a good

  design to try to make your app look like

  the system apps but I think the window

  of time where that was true is fairly

  short and that it quickly after that

  that became more trendy to like have

  your own identity your own visual design

  and designers kind of started taking

  over the world and and really you know

  it became better design or better

  respected design to not use the system

  stock stuff or to use it very loosely

  and to really heavily style it your own


  so if you design your app now to use

  this new you know big you know h2 style

  yeah big unstyled header taking up half

  the top of the screen if you do that

  with your apps it it might end up being

  considered a good design and might look

  weird if you don't adopt that you know

  six months from now but it also might

  just be that's how the boring system

  apps look and it'd be weird if your app

  looks like that you know we don't really

  know yet but I would say the scale of

  the redesign that we have is not really

  something that forces us all to

  immediately start taking action with our

  own designs to try to get close to it no

  and I think too it's when I see a change

  like that I always try and think of what

  is Apple trying to point us towards and

  in many ways I think the action for that

  particular design like you like it or

  you don't like it but it seems like they

  are de-emphasizing information density

  yeah and saying that well verticals like

  this essentially vertical real estate on

  the screen is

  not at a premium anymore that you can

  just essentially throw away the top like

  10% of the screen which is what that

  near this new navigation bar looks like

  and that's fine which maybe is

  indicative that you know taller screens

  are coming or just in general there's

  sort of this emphasis towards let's

  smush things down and you know take

  advantage of the size of the screen in

  that way so maybe even if it's not

  necessarily adopting what Apple is doing

  it's just saying that's the direction

  that they're leading towards because I

  think in many ways at WC one of the fun

  games I tried and play is they like what

  are they not saying but they're kind of

  saying because usually there's these

  clues and these hints that they're kind

  of poking towards that are well in

  retrospect either with new hardware or

  just in or even just next year wEDC will

  make more sense you know these little

  things that they're pointing to so

  that's something that I think of how

  when I see these sort of like subtle

  design things and like there seems to be

  an emphasis on dynamic type this year

  which is again all about in some ways

  being less specific about information

  density then it's like being played it's

  like being making your app cool when it

  has gigantic fonts like that's a it's a

  good accessibility feature but it seems

  like just in general they're trying to

  move away from that kind of a you know

  very dense display yeah and it's you

  know they're doing that in these apps

  you know in the system apps and

  everything and and you we can speculate

  there that probably is because of maybe

  some bigger you know taller screen phone

  coming this fall as all the rumor things

  have pointed out but there's also a huge

  install base of phones where that's

  might not look good on you know the the

  SE is selling really well I mean I don't

  know like like my metrics on my app and

  granted the odds it's a podcast app

  listened to mostly by nerds so it's not

  gonna be representative of the entire

  market but you know my my app is

  basically split like 45 45 10 between

  the three screen sizes of phones right

  now it's really it's like you know

  really like a lot of people using the

  plus phone a lot of people are using the

  you know seven size phone but then also

  you know 10 percent or so are using the

  se size phone and that's not a small

  number like that's like I can

  make the interface terrible or unusable

  or suck for that 10% like that's and and

  the 10% is not going down it's like like

  you know it when the SE came out it kind

  of boosted and leveled that number and

  so we have to account like we can't just

  say like oh our designs have to look

  good on the phone that comes out this

  fall that might have a weirdly tall

  screen it also has to look good on

  everything else so it's a it's a fairly

  aggressive new design philosophy that we

  might pragmatically not want to take

  anyway we are sponsored this week by

  Linode Linode is powerful web hosting

  that you can set up in just seconds and

  their tools are easy to understand they

  let you choose your resources your Linux

  distro giving you the power and

  flexibility you need all starting with

  just five dollars eight month for a

  Lynnwood server with one gigabyte

  network and intel xeon e5 processors the

  fastest ones in the cloud market with

  nine data center spread across the world

  that you can choose from you can save

  your customers where they are but

  there's an API to manage your Linode

  servers you can easily automate tasks

  manage a whole bunch develop custom

  applications with super simple scaling

  you can resize your resource levels in

  just a few clicks and it's all

  manageable via their awesome web

  interface or the command line all their

  pricing tiers also feature hourly

  billing if you don't need a server for

  the whole month you can just do hourly

  billing it's really really wonderful we

  both use it highly recommended they have

  fantastic pricing available in my

  opinion it's the best most competitive

  pricing in the industry you know you can

  get a server again with one gig of ram

  for just five bucks a month and it

  scales up to ridiculous levels like 16

  gigs of ram for just 60 bucks a month

  this is a really really great pricing

  across the board they're offering twice

  the amount of RAM that you get and

  pretty much anywhere else as a listener

  of the show if you sign up at lynda.com

  slash radar you'll be supporting us and

  you have $20 towards any Linode plan and

  with a 7 day money-back guarantee

  there's nothing to lose so go to

  lynda.com slash radar to learn more sign

  up and take advantage of that $20 credit

  or use promo code

  radar 2017 at checkout thank you so much

  Toulon ODE for supporting this show so

  as cool as all the actual technologies

  and API and SDKs are the thing that

  anyway the thing I was most excited

  about is the new app store app that see

  to me that's a huge question mark you

  know I'm excited for I'm excited that

  it's changed

  I mean I'm slightly terrified as well

  yes by the change but I'm excited yeah

  any change of the app store should

  terrify all of us because it basically

  means that whatever our business is now

  however the app store is serving us now

  it's probably going to change

  dramatically this fall we don't know in

  which direction yeah you know think if

  they change the search algorithms that

  can make a huge difference for a lot of

  us of you know how what our what our

  sales are if they change things like

  what a feature is worth which they have

  here you know they like the new app

  store has a much lower information

  density as you mentioned earlier with

  info density a change it's a much lower

  information density and they've kind of

  been going towards this in you know the

  recent like search redesigns and

  everything in the last couple years but

  now like the whole store is like that

  where you basically have like giant

  screen filling cards for apps and so

  there's no more like big list screens

  where you get a million of them on

  screen at once so basically the the

  number of featured spots appears to have

  decreased dramatically but each one is

  now worth a lot more and I don't know

  what you know whether they're gonna have

  like different levels like subdirectory

  levels inside of it or that are more you

  know high density or whatever but the

  main app store features are now very

  very few but very valuable and so if you

  get one it's probably awesome but I

  think your chances of getting one are

  not reduced so it's it's kind of a I

  don't know what to think yet about it

  they are so they're changing more often

  they're gonna be every day instead of

  like every Thursday they've been that

  they've been updating some of the other

  editorial sections so that's nice for a

  lot but like how many of us are ever

  gonna get one of those feature blocks

  like it seems like it's an interesting

  change I'm glad they're changing it but

  I don't if I had to guess I'm not sure

  it's gonna benefit most people when I

  see it though when I what I like is that

  it changes the my goal for what the app

  store my app store page my app store

  presence in a way that I find slightly

  motivating I guess is

  like my goal is now to I would say

  recently for the maybe the last couple

  of years I have cared less about being

  featured because the way the App Store

  is now it doesn't actually have a huge

  impact on downloads it's nice like

  emotionally like if I get featured it

  feels really good and that's awesome you

  know like hooray but in my experience

  like it's actually a fairly minor impact

  on downloads which is I think a largely

  to do just with the way that you go to

  the future tab right now and you'll

  probably see you know there's at least

  2030 apps on that screen at once and so

  if you're one of those like that's not

  nearly as impactful and when I see this

  it's it's kind of nice that now instead

  it's you know if you are the app of the

  day and it's nice to like well you said

  like it's gonna be hard to get it there

  are still three hundred and sixty five

  of those a year when in different

  countries - it's you know it's not gonna

  be just one a day it's gonna be probably

  like one per country or territory per

  day yeah and if it if you are that app

  like if you sort of win that lottery

  like you are doing I imagine that will

  have a substantial impact that if the

  home tab of the App Store app has a

  giant fullscreen ad for your app like

  either your app is really bad or like

  you're gonna have a good day and so I'm

  really excited about that as a goal and

  as a motivation and it's nice to kind of

  have snow in the back of my mind that

  like my goal is to do things that will

  get me onto that tab and I can do things

  that are within my control to make that

  happen you know I can and getting like

  it's nice that I feel like it will

  actually have an impact it is gonna I

  think that would be very much a rich get

  richer and a poor get poorer kind of a

  situation like I've been playing with it

  a little bit on the beta and if you

  don't like the search area is still I

  mean the search area - is much less

  dense than it used to be but like the

  actual and the new apps tab like is very

  very focused on just the very very top -

  stuff and if you're not one of those

  apps if you're not that like the

  in some ways they took the top charts

  and rather than being a chart it

  basically just shows the top three apps

  or the top four apps now like that's a

  pretty narrow thing like the top three

  apps is probably gonna be Facebook

  Instagram and snapchat or something like

  that for a long time like there's no way

  my app is ever going to break into into

  that area but I think more generally I

  love the feeling that over the last year

  we've had at least a half dozen

  substantial you know sort of business

  and App Store improvements that make me

  feel as someone who makes my living in

  this world that this is you know like

  this is a lively platform that I can be

  learning to get better on because like

  back in the early days of the App Store

  like in some ways it reminds me of those

  early days where one of the ways that I

  remember being able to sort of get my

  search sort of where I was trying to

  stand up my business was by being a

  student of the App Store by trying to

  understand how it works how I can

  optimize what I'm doing to work well

  there and now that it's this brand new

  thing it's like that starts all over


  like all the summer I can try and work

  on like what do I need to make my app

  assets look like to be to look really

  good here like now we have auto-playing

  videos for app previews and you can have

  three app previews rather than one app

  preview there's all kinds of other

  information that we can specify we can

  give our apps subtitles and marketing

  copy we can promote in-app purchases

  from on our app page like there is so

  much there that isn't the developer side

  that isn't that's that kind of thing but

  I think in some ways I'm glad that

  there's so there's relatively little to

  do on the technology side this year that

  I'm gonna expect to be spending most of

  my summer just working on those assets

  working on trying to work out how to

  market in this new app store because it

  is a very new and different experience I

  mean in many ways maybe that's kind of

  like a metaphor for what we should be

  doing pretty much all the time with our

  apps now like technology is way less

  important than it's ever been for our

  apps for most of what we do

  and the marketing side in the app store

  and getting you know getting the all

  that metadata right and and good and you

  know all these new ways you know like

  they added a preview videos before it

  now they're more emphasized and there's

  more of them and you basically have more

  in the app store that you need to apply

  reasonable production value to you know

  be in the olden days it was basically

  just an icon and maybe some design

  inside your app but you could get away

  with not much else and you know now like

  that's a lot of long since been

  surpassed as the table stakes and now

  you need like you need to consider

  things like your copy

  although whoever reads it but you at

  least consider your title and and your

  screenshots have to be really good and

  and as we discuss in the past like

  people keep you know shoving more stuff

  into screenshots it isn't just a

  screenshot it's like oh here's a fake

  phone spanning over the two frames and

  big marketing text above it and

  everything and so it like the the

  production value that is required to

  succeed in the app store is going up and

  in some ways that's going to be a burden

  it's gonna be burden on a lot of us

  especially people who have smaller

  budgets for that sort of thing and can

  do that themselves their own skills

  that's gonna raise the cost of a

  succeeding in the App Store but I think

  we were already headed in that direction

  and that was already kind of the reality

  of the market so now we are gonna be

  forced to do that for our apps but we

  already really were and if we're willing

  to put in that extra effort to do things

  like get a nice at preview video and put

  some effort into really optimizing the

  way the new store pages look and the new

  things we can do on them I think we will

  be rewarded for that and that's you know

  overall that's gonna matter more than if

  we spend an extra eight hours coding a

  feature that not a lot of people

  actually going to use or care about yeah

  and it changes it's like it makes me

  really nervous to have to have to make

  my App Store page super pretty but on

  the flip side it's like that's an

  attainable goal that is something that I

  can work that I can definitely would

  definitively work towards and to make

  happen and it's not unreasonable that

  like in some ways it's nice when we were

  able to get away with

  that but that seems like that is less

  and less the case and we can now reset

  our reviews with our ratings i rated

  whatever we want so we finally got that

  like awesome like years ago that was on

  my list of you know when i had my like

  12 my like my 12 things I wanted to

  change in the App Store that was back

  then and now we finally got it and like

  these little changes like that are just

  super exciting as a you know as a

  developer Apple is clearly trying to

  make this more viable for us yeah

  and it's one thing I wonder about like

  you mentioned before like the value of a

  feature seems to have been going down in

  recent years it seems I think

  industry-wide we've seen this kind of

  slowdown of people willing to just

  browse for new apps and just install

  them easily like the cost per install if

  you're trying to get you know if you're

  measuring that kind of thing that has

  been going up over the last few years

  and I wonder like do I bet Apple is

  probably doing a lot of these changes to

  the App Store and let the new daily

  features and cleaning it all up and

  everything that they're trying probably

  do this to increase the the number of

  times that people go to the App Store

  just casually like what we used to do in

  the old days like when the after was new

  and we just like go there when we were

  bored and just find some new apps and

  download them and I think a lot of

  people did that and these days a lot of

  people don't so Apple is obviously

  trying to push the market in this

  direction to to go back to doing that

  but it might not succeed like this

  actually might not happen so it's really

  kind of up in the air like putting all

  this effort into your app store page is

  gonna become table stakes but we don't

  know actually how much it'll pay off yet

  sure I mean that's always the case but

  the reality is for a year this is the

  App Store that we're gonna have to make

  work for our businesses and so yeah it's

  like one way or the other this is what

  we got so we just sort of do our best

  and hang on for the ride I did before we

  run out of time I did want to talk a

  little bit about the iPad advances and

  not in too many specifics but basically

  the iPad soph you know like every year

  we try to figure out like what kind of

  new apps are now made possible by

  whatever they announced you know what

  can we you know not only what additional

  features can we add to our existing apps

  but what

  new markets will now exist because

  that's often a place where you can reap

  good rewards if you're you know and you

  you mean a lot of your career off that

  is my career like you know go it like

  going to where new territory has just

  opened up and just being the first one

  there with a decent app yeah and that

  you will often reap rewards from that

  now it's not guaranteed but it's often

  the case and there's often fewer people

  there on day one than you think there

  will be so what's new this year and I

  think that there's not a whole lot of

  like brand new like complete areas but

  the iPad redesign and the new

  productivity features in the iPad I

  think will be one of these areas the big

  you know a lot of a lot of iPad pro app

  makers I've had a hard time making

  economics work out and the question is

  not like whether you can't sell software

  for a good price on the iPad I think the

  question is like are there enough people

  doing pro work on the iPad that that

  will be seeking out an app like yours

  and that to me goes down to like how

  many people are using the iPad for their

  work and before it was cumbersome to do

  a lot of these things you know you could

  do it and we know people who do but it

  was there was a lot of friction and now

  they have reduced a lot of that friction

  and really broken down a lot of the

  barriers and made a lot of the iPad UI

  you know more Mac like and and you know

  don't don't say that but that's really

  what they did and so now I think a lot

  more people will be doing work on the

  iPad than than before so I think that

  might create more of a market for iPad

  pro software than we had before

  and it's not to say that like you can go

  in with an iOS level price you know if

  you go if you're thinking of like

  developing pro software on the Mac and

  you sell your pro up on the Mac for a

  hundred bucks and that succeeds for you

  you can't go to the iPad and sell it for

  ten bucks and expect to have the same

  success you know you're gonna have to

  like charge more and it's gonna have to

  be worth more for people just like on

  the Mac you know they're making it more

  Mac like but I do think that's a market

  that did not exist very strongly before

  and now I think that's gonna be a bigger

  market because the iPad is now such a

  better tool for getting work done in

  them in a professional capacity or

  really honestly any capacity like email

  it's like it's so much easier and how

  that I was before I think there's gonna

  potentially be a bigger market there

  than there was so maybe maybe the place

  to be this year isn't some new extension

  type that became available in iOS or

  something else maybe the place to be

  this year is boring productivity apps on

  the iPad

  maybe I mean the thing that's I I

  struggle a little bit like I'm excited

  what the iPad changes because an AI know

  I have I have many friends who love the

  iPad and are just yeah through the

  through the roof about this like I was

  sitting next to Federico vtg during the

  keynote and like like there was a glow

  coming off of him for the entire show

  because he was so excited and like that

  is really cool I mean as it just as a

  developer I love like I got I gotta

  imagine the iPad team who'd made me

  those features love hearing the feedback

  of these people who are so genuinely

  excited about it and it's like I like

  that's there I'm still nervous that

  whether about whether or not it will be

  enough to it's like you have such this

  chicken-and-egg problem with the iPad

  you know where if a Polly into the

  platform to make it to have that

  richness of ecosystem it is a really

  interesting and compelling device and

  when the iPad first came out like

  whatever that was four or five six years

  ago like it was a pretty good place to

  be an app developer like I made a

  substantial part of my business working

  on the iPad for years and then it just

  kind of fell off and in many ways it

  kind of fell off with apples sales graph

  you know like the iPad sells less and

  less every year my hope is that what

  Apple is doing with these kinds of

  changes is if they can pull that back

  and kind of have an inflection point

  where it suddenly it gets a little bit

  more traction it's all these things that

  were just a little bit too difficult

  before now become that little bit more

  easy and are now more possible maybe

  we'll get there and if they do then like

  that's interesting and I could

  definitely see transitioning my focus a

  bit back towards the iPad because

  honestly recently it hasn't been there

  at all

  and I like the iPad like it's an

  interesting platform in that respect but

  there's such this tricky tricky tricky

  thing when the iPhone is so viable as an

  app platform that the iPad could be

  viable as an app platform but if it

  isn't it's like and if lots of

  developers don't go there it won't be

  but lots of developers going there won't

  make it viable and so you end it's very

  circular and I'm still of two minds as

  to whether like this I'm not sure if

  this year I'll be focusing much on the

  iPad or if it's one of those like

  wait-and-see you know have a couple of

  quarters of sales to see if the iPad

  sales are starting to come back out

  waiting to see if there's sort of an

  uptick on things because I don't know

  it's a heart it's it's I want to be

  excited but I'm like of all the things

  that announced it's like I'm excited but

  I'm much more cautiously excited than I

  am on a lot of the other platforms and

  you know sort of the ways that they're

  apples trying to push us this year yeah

  I think that's probably probably a safe

  bet because like with the iPad stuff

  like you never really know until like a

  year or two later like what what swing

  the market has taken you know it's it's

  a lagging indicator and and a lot of

  these new iPad productivity gains are

  only gonna be compelling or widely used

  on pretty high-end pretty recent iPads

  which is not a large slice of the market

  and so we really won't know yet so I

  guess yeah I guess I agree with you it's

  probably a little bit risky to jump in

  right now but but I do think like

  there's something about the iPad that

  people love it like they tangibly love

  this device they want to use it more and

  the story I hear over and over again is

  I would love to get more work done or

  I'd love to use this thing more but I

  just it's just I can't do what I need to

  do or it's too cumbersome or whatever

  else so I think there's something there

  and I think people will try really hard

  to make it work for them again now that

  we have radically new capabilities I

  mean when I when I OS 9 launched with

  the multitasking for the first time that

  converted a ton of iPad skeptics over

  into being iPad lovers and iPad workers

  and now there's there's another step

  probably of that magnitude or even more


  I think might do that same thing the

  only question is will it stick or will

  it be a fad and it's it's hard to base

  major business decisions on that yeah

  and it's you know I think I said I'm in

  might maybe it's like I've been doing

  this long enough that I'm sad I have an

  increase i've increasingly have a sense

  of sort of caution about those kinds of

  things which in many ways and is

  probably to my detriment in it I'm very

  aware of the fact that I probably

  wouldn't be able to have a sustainable

  business at this point if I was cautious

  in the past that in some ways it's going

  to take developers making kind of

  reckless and sort of slightly you know

  wild decisions to pursue and push the

  boundaries on the iPad for the iPad to

  be a viable platform and I will say one

  thing that Apple does tends to do well

  is they if you if developers do go down

  that road they tend to yo they're good

  at recognizing them and promoting them

  and at helping them you know that if you

  all right everybody see this week and

  you go down to a lab and you're trying

  to you're trying to do something or you

  want to reach out to developer relations

  and you're having a problem trying to

  push the boundaries there's a very good

  chance they will encourage that which

  you know so I would encourage anybody

  who's more adventurous than I am to dive

  into that because I think it's it's not

  an easy win but there's a good

  opportunity there are you saying you

  might make more apps it's possible

  that's that's impressive

  I think we're out of time this week

  everybody so thank you very much for

  listening and we'll see you next week