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WWDC 2016: Where developers think Apple is lagging

Erik Sherman Journalist, Independent

Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) is where developers annually flock to get the latest information on iOS, watchOS, tvOS, and OS X (now macOS). Events on the first day alone "promise exciting reveals, providing inspiration and new opportunities to continue creating the most innovative apps in the world," Apple says.

A good thing, too, because gone are the heady days of the early iPhone and iPad years when people assumed Apple could do no wrong. Developers who either did well at the lottery for tickets to WWDC or who planned to closely monitor the streamed events and sessions told TechBeacon where they thought Apple was lagging and what they wanted to hear at the conference.

App Store evolution: Revenue share and design

The App Store had some recent news, with Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller telling The Verge about a new revenue split for subscription sales. If a company can keep customers for at least a year, it would get 85 percent of the revenue rather than the usual 70 percent. Some developers felt that having to wait a year was too long, since most of their revenue might come in the first year.

There have been other improvements in the App Store, said Dickey Singh, CEO of Redwood City, California-based Pyze. Since Schiller gained responsibility for the App Store last December, "the time it takes for an app to get approved dropped from 14 days to 3 days and then 2 days," noted Singh.

However, Apple isn't out of the woods yet. A number of developers still think that the App Store is in need of heavy reworking. Craig Collett, CEO of Calgary-based Shuffle Ventures, called it "dated" and said it needed a "pretty major upgrade" to give developers more control over app marketing and interacting with users, especially regarding comments about an app.

Collett also faulted the returns process. His app requires paid credits. Apple can offer users a refund but then not report that back, so the credits remain active. App discovery and search remain sticking points for many as well. With millions of apps, it is difficult for small, independent developers to get attention.

Xcode and CarPlay

Mike Smithwick, an independent developer, said he's been hearing dissatisfaction with Apple's Xcode integrated development environment. "Xcode has been really flaky in the past version, very slow," he said. "A lot are complaining about that."

James Hodge, co-founder of Australia-based HLS Vehicle Customization, which is focused on the automobile market, says his company is looking at other platforms because "Apple's CarPlay environment is very closed off and difficult to get into." Fundamental capabilities of iOS are unavailable, he said, which puts his company at a disadvantage compared to competitors focused on Android or Windows.

"Apple has an ambient light sensor in their devices, but there's no way for us as developers to access that," Hodge said, which means that creating automatic day-and-night operating scenarios is difficult. Bluetooth connectors for auto data ports are plentiful and cheap, unless developers use iOS, in which case they need Bluetooth LE-certified devices and authorized partners. "Bluetooth LE means $30 or $40 for a device rather than $3 or $4" for Android, Hodge said.

"The aim of their rules and curated app stores is protection from malicious intent, which is great," Hodge said. "They do a great job of keeping malware and nasty things out of the store." But the result is limiting innovation and competitiveness of developers, he added.


Many developers anticipate a major announcement about developers getting API access to Siri. That is generating some significant excitement. "Having Siri more open would also be a boon for developers," said Dean Faizal, mobile team leader for Reston-based IT consulting company MetroStar Systems.

One concern is how apps may, or may not, be called by Siri. If the system defaults to calling specific high-profile partners for particular needs, that could further disadvantage independent developers.

More to come...

Here are three articles TechBeacon published covering WWDC 2016:

Image credit: Flickr

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