The new iOS6 App Store: developers react

If you’re an Apple acolyte you’ve no doubt already downloaded iOS 6, the new version of the operating system released on Wednesday. But have you checked out the re-designed App Store yet? We have, and we’ve also asked a bunch of veteran smartphone developers to give us their impressions.

We started with iPad, where the Featured page has been re-imagined to emphasise imagery rather than app information and looks less cluttered as a result. The Editor’s choice section at the top is now a slimmed down horizontal carousel, rather than a main static image with small blocks down the right hand side. This has allowed more space for New & Noteworthy and What’s Hot, which can both now be seen without scrolling down.

The big change is that the grey slabs that used to contain info on each title in these sections have been removed, so now we just get the game icon, category and price. Meanwhile the chart page now lists paid and free app columns vertically rather than horizontally, which gives equal weight to both and increases the prominence of free stuff. “It also means more exposure for apps in positions 5-9 compared to iPhone,” says Will Luton, creative director at Bristol-based developer, Mobile Pie. “This, I suspect, will lead to more instability in the iPad charts”.

The other key new element is the re-designed app pages. Click on an app icon and instead of being taken to a separate screen, a pop-up window opens up over your page with all the app info on it. Interestingly, the new pages lead on screenshots of the game rather than a description.

The iPhone version retains that sense of imagery over information. It too has a carousel at the top rather than the grid of four blocks. This allows slightly more space for other featured titles, allowing you to see four rather than two without scrolling – and again, review scores are gone.

Interestingly, the charts page now puts both paid and free apps on the same page, rather than defaulting to paid apps and asking you to touch the Free icon at the top. This is likely to give a boost to the freebies and stabilise the charts somewhat. “I reckon we’ll see fewer weird spikes of sales for no apparent reason – or from keyword-tweaking,” says Andrew Smith of Spilt Milk Studios. “While generally the good apps will see a higher plateau for the long tail. The new chart views may also have a slight effect on things. No longer is it page-based, so the differences that we used to see between say 25th and 26th – ie, the gap between the pages – will no longer be so pronounced”.

The most controversial element is the emphasis on screenshots on the app pages. Click on an app icon from Featured and you’ll see the game title and a screen, rather than the description, which is hidden lower down.

“This is a big move,” says Luton. “We’ve lost the tagline – what the app does in words. Developers would do well to ensure that they position their first screen shot so it is readable in portrait and have a descriptive image and text combo. Screenshots are going to be much more important now.

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