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Apple Wants YOU to Develop TV Apps

At their September Keynote event, Apple launched their fourth-generation Apple TV with a vague release date of October sometime. With a week to spare, it looks like Apple will squeak in their latest set-top box right before the end of the month.

Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage at WSJD Live to announce that “the foundation of the future of TV” is available for order as of today and that shipping will begin by the end of this week (Friday, October 30).

As discussed in my ‘Are Apps The Future of TV?’ post, the biggest new feature of the Apple TV is its new App Store. So that you don’t turn on your new set-top box to be greeted with a barren App Store, Apple has just started accepting app and game submissions from its development community.

Apple has provided app developers, like us, with guidelines for supporting major Apple TV features and submitting tvOS apps. Now they’re calling out potential app entrepreneurs and startups, like YOU, to change the way we consume and connect with television.

So what do disruptive app developers and entrepreneurs need to know about the fourth-generation Apple TV?

In this post, we examine Apple’s next big product and how you, as an early adopter, can create apps that change the way we gather around our big screens.

 

What’s in the Box?

Made entirely from glossy and matte black plastics, the new Apple TV looks just like its two predecessors, only around 50% taller with two rear port changes. All audio has to go through HDMI and the previous micro-USB port has given way to a USB-C connector. As iFixit notes, a giant heat sink inside makes it noticeably heavier than before.

The new Apple TV will also be shipped with a new Siri Remote, which is black on top and silver on the bottom. To make scrolling quicker, Apple has replaced the prior four-direction navigation circle with a small matte glass surface that can be used for navigational swipe and gentler positing. Gyroscope/accelerometer sensors are hidden inside the remote for future games, and not user within the main Apple TV interface.

applesiriremotefamily

The evolution of the Apple TV Remote.

Four new buttons have been added to enable the Siri Remote to control your TV’s volume, activate twin built-in microphones for Siri voice input, and quickly return to the Apple TV’s main menu. Apple has also included a multi-month rechargeable battery this time that can be refuelled with an included Lightning to USB cable.

 

What’s the new Software?

Apple has substantially redesigned the Apple TV’s user interface with an ambitious, visually appealing set of improvements. Everything’s been whitewashed with a brighter colour palette, text has been flipped to Apple’s new San Francisco font, and drop shadows have been added. Translucent panes introduced in iOS7 have made their way to tvOS, with even better results.

One big change that isn’t obvious from screenshots is speed: the new Apple TV lets you zip rather than plodding through menus, thanks in equal parts to a considerably beefier A8 processor and the more responsive Siri Remote. Additionally, app icons and cover art images now wiggle in 3D thanks to an Apple mandate that developers include 2-5 parallax layers to create depth.

Much of the new UI, including Apple-developer widgets like Weather and Stocks that aren’t represented by app icons, can be navigated using Siri voice commands. You have to hold down the Siri Remote’s microphone button while you speak to get Siri to “hear” and process whatever you say. This takes a little adjustment, but is better than killing the Siri Remote’s by having it endlessly listen for the words “Hey Siri” or, even worse, trolling questions like “How much wood would a woodchuck chuck if a woodchuck could chuckwood”

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Siri’s answer to the age-old-troll question. Source: MacRumors

By holding down the mic button, Siri can be activated in the middle of pretty much anything, including videos. You can use Siri for voice-controlled navigation, “What did they just say?” type inquires, and lookups of information related to whatever’s currently playing.

Along with the new UI and Siri Remote, the biggest new addition to Apple TV’s Software – well, for us app developers and entrepreneurs – is the soon to be opened App Store. More than likely, the set-top box will arrive with only a handful of Apple-developed apps pre-installed, leaving you to choose which third-party developed apps will be filling up your Home screen.

 

What To Expect From TV Apps and Games

The A8 processor inside the new Apple TV is one year and three generations old, which is to say that it’s already been surpassed in power by the iPhone 6s/6s Plus’s A9 and iPad Pro’s A9X. But with at least as much horsepower as these other Apple products, the Apple TV will be well-equipped to play new games, as well as thousands of games previously released on iOS devices, assuming that they’re updated to support the tvOS operating system.

Expect the graphics in 3D games to be roughly on par with consoles such as the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, with no shortage of ability to handle 2D games of any type.

One note of caution about tvOS games: for all of the set-top box’s incredible potential as a gaming platform, Apple continue to ignore requests from serious gamers regarding basic controller issues, such as allowing developers to offer games without support for the restrictive Siri Remote. It remains to be seen whether software and hardware decisions like this, which have upset many within the gaming community, kills the Apple TV’s ability to win over major game developers and their customers.

While apps are a lot easier to code than games, the Apple TV’s living room-focused interface hints that Apple’s not looking to see it turn into a cut-rate Mac. Basic widgets to extend the functionality of traditional TV features – watching sports, learning about the weather – will appear quickly, as will tvOS versions of Netflix, HBO Now, Hulu Plus and other channels.

However, don’t expect Apple to endorse creation apps, web browsers, or other Mac mainstays for the platform. Well, not yet, at least. Similarly, it will be interesting to see whether compromised apps with audio and/or one-way video calling take off in the absence of integrated FaceTime-caliber hardware.

 

Have An Idea for a TV App?

Even though prior versions of the Apple TV haven’t been mega-hits, the second- and third-generation models proved to be quite handy for everything from watching videos to occasionally putting FaceTime calls on the big screen.

I’m personally very excited about the fourth-generation Apple TV’s potential and think the next year will be a wild ride for early adopters. The first two or three months may be chaotic for developers and entrepreneurs as they rush to get hastily completed apps and games into the Apple TV App Store. In time though, the right kind of apps will change the way we experience television for the better.

What kind of apps would you like to see on a television platform? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

How To Optimise App Store Screenshots

To maximise your app’s conversion rate for the lowest possible user acquisition cost, it is crucial to understand how to optimise the sequence of screenshots on the App Store page. In this post, we examine those high-converting screenshots that drive more traffic to your app’s page and, in turn, lead to more app downloads.

According to research firm Forrester, 63% of apps are discovered through App Store searches. This makes App Store browsing the most used method for discovering and downloading apps. Consequently, if you’re not using App Store Optimisation (or ASO for short) to increase your app’s search ranking, you’re missing out on the largest discovery channel available to your app.

At its core, ASO is about increasing your organic installs by showcasing (or teasing) your app’s features quickly and succinctly. But to maximise your conversion rates for the lowest possible user acquisition cost, you must understand how to optimise the sequence of screenshots on your App Store pages.

Previously, we touched on how to pick the best ASO keywords for naming your app and designing your app’s Landing Page to draw in users and stand out once installed. In this post, we’ll go over what screenshots to place on your store page to convert views into installs, as well as the A/B testing you can do to optimise conversion rates.

So, without further ado, here’s how you find those high-converting screenshots to increase downloads on the App Store.

 

Making Screenshots that Showcase Your App

Whereas an icon might hint at your app’s quality and general utility, screenshots and videos paint a clear picture of what your app actually does. The best screenshots clarify your app’s unique value proposition and key selling points. How you demonstrate this, however, differs by app type.

Optimising For: Games

Angry Birds

Angry Birds 2 on iPhone shows off both gameplay and graphics. It doesn’t waste space showing how to launch a bird.

Games need screenshots that impress potential users with context about how fun the gameplay is as well as high-quality visual design. Angry Birds 2 is a great example that leads with its lively characters and physics-based gameplay, as established in the original Angry Birds. Adding key benefits at the top-left or bottom-right (e.g., “Multi-Stage Levels!”) is another best practice put in motion by Rovio’s designers.

Optimising For: Apps

CatchoftheDay

CatchOfTheDay on iOS tells a story to engage audiences.

For apps that aren’t games, we suggest showcasing screenshots that inform users how the app works. CatchOfTheDay is a perfect example. First, it hooks shoppers with the lead screenshot (beyond using Apple’s well-known brand and products, it also showcases being ‘Australia’s #1 Shopping Experience’). Then it proceeds to explain the shopping experience by visually outlining the main features the app provides to users.

 

Making Screenshots that Engage Users

Users are selective. You only have one to three seconds to get them to pay attention (Industry experts call this the “three-second rule”). There are several fundamentals to practice to convert the most installs.

Clumsy Ninja

Clumsy Ninja on Google Play leads with an entertaining video to engage Android users.

You’ll want to lead with at least one clear high-definition video. Keep it short and simple – ideally 15 to 30 seconds long. As a rule of thumb, your trailer’s duration should be less than half the time it takes to download the app itself on a 4G connection.

It’s even more important to leverage an app trailer on Android, as your lead video appears at the top of the Google Play store page. Clumsy Ninja does an excellent job of utilising this video top space with its engaging video.

For screenshots, always lead with the highest-converting image based on non-incentivised traffic. This may require some A/B testing, which we will cover later in this post.

 

How to Design a Great Screenshot

It’s very important to have concise and scalable screenshots, as users will be browsing on a range of devices including desktops, laptops, phones and tablets. File format is also a consideration — to get your screenshots onto Google Play and iOS App Store, they need to be saved as either JPEGs or PNGs.

If it’s your first time making App Store screenshots or you need assistance with your next project, you can use AppIconTemplate.com’s handy iOS and Android screenshot PSD templates.

One Minute Closer Apple iTunes

One Minute Closer on iPhone uses some text, while having a visual sense of hierarchy to explain the app’s core values. Source: iTunes

In general, text should be light and used to help frame the visuals. This translates to a font size around 65pts for the body and 100pts for the header. Overall, you’ll want to communicate visually and be supported by — not reliant on — text. Tinder employs this strategy by using text to enhance the visual message.

Screenshots should have a sense of hierarchy, displaying the app’s core features and unique selling points first. This way, the consumer can quickly grasp why your app is better than or different to competitors.

In the Tinder example, users quickly learn that the app shows local people, the ability to quickly like or pass and what happens when a match occurs. This helps it stand out against other dating apps.

Lastly, always make sure screenshots are consistent with the look and feel of the app UI/UX. Otherwise, users will become confused when they open your app and you’re likely to run into user retention problems.

 

Combining Design with A/B Testing

The quickest way to know you have the best screenshots and optimise conversion rates is through sequential A/B testing. However, how you execute this method differs by App Store:

  • Google Play – Android developers have it easy thanks to Google Experiments, which lets you set up tests and collect results within Google’s dashboards.
  • iOS App Store – For iPhone and iPad apps, we recommend using Facebook advertising campaigns prior to an app’s soft launch. The click-through rate for each screenshot will allow you to evaluate which ones drive traffic towards your app and, as a result, will lead to more downloads.

Based on you’re A/B test findings, you should optimise the order of your screenshots so the highest-converting one (among your target users) is first. Furthermore, you need to account for common behaviour across devices where your user views your store page. When they come across your page, they could be on their desktop, laptop, phone or tablet. To maximise your conversion rates, you must not only have the best set of screenshots, but also know the correct order to present them.

 

Key Takeaways

According to analytics firm App Annie, a 10% improvement in your conversion rate can lead to 10% more app installs or 10% less user acquisition to reach your target market. In short, optimising your screenshots will improve your user acquisition.

However, design principles and A/B testing methods differ between apps and Apps Stores, so be sure to keep our guide handy to help you through the process. In time, you’ll discover which screenshots are leading to the most downloads and, in turn, receive the fruits of your App Store Optimisation efforts.

Are there any ASO tools or resources with should be checking out? Let us know in the comments below.