The Ultimate Mobile Design Trends for 2018

As 2018 gets underway, the tech landscape is already remarkably different from just a  few years ago. Mobile is ‘large and in charge’ now, as the following mobile design trends will confirm.

A study from IDC estimates that more than two billion of the 3.2 billion people on the planet who access the web in 2016 will do so from a mobile device. Mobile design hasn’t just caught up with desktop—it’s crushing desktop in terms of sheer user numbers.

With mobile and user experiences being front and center more than ever, designers are looking to perfect their mobile-design skills for clients. By studying app design trends, they can be inspired by the best UI design ideas, and then create their own innovative and upgraded versions.

When it comes to mobile UX and UI design, they have to prioritize the user experience,.Designing native mobile apps that offer a richer experience than mobile web apps is the way to go. While there’s our list of the best mobile app design trend blogs to help you with some mobile design inspiration, native mobile app design is a constantly evolving thing, which is why future-proofing any piece of code is so important.

With that in mind, here are the 10 hottest mobile app design trends in 2018 that we predict.

1) Both Native Mobile Apps and Web Apps Will Surge

For some time, there’s been a dispute over what type of mobile app works best: native mobile apps that you open by tapping on your smartphone’s home screen or mobile web apps that you access from mobile versions of browsers like Safari.

app design trends

Designers and developers in the question of native vs. web app would argue that native mobile apps are superior because they’re faster for users, can be monetized in places like the App Store, and offer users access to mobile operating system features like the camera, contact lists, etc. That’s definitely true!

However, recent research by Google’s product director, Luke Wroblewski, indicates that there’s great demand for both types of mobile application designs, in spite of the apparent limitations of web apps. According to his data, native mobile app users spend 18 times longer on native apps than on mobile web apps…yet to add fuel to the native vs. web app fire, mobile web apps see almost 9 million monthly visitors compared to native apps’ 3.3 million monthly visitors.

Average monthly minutes per visitor of native apps compared to mobile web apps.

Therefore, mobile audience growth is based on mobile websites, so developers will have to continue serving that market with mobile web apps, too, while continuing to prioritize mobile native apps that have a better UX.

Therefore, mobile audience growth is based on mobile websites, so developers will have to continue researching UI design ideas and serving that market with mobile web apps, too, while continuing to prioritize native mobile apps that have a better UX.

2) The Increasing Influence of Wearables in App Interface Design

Wearables are gadgets like the Apple Watch, and they take the concept of mobile application design and development to a whole new dimension. Gartner predicted at that start of last year that the 2017 wearables market would rise to 310.4 million units sold, which is a 16.7 percent increase from 2015 sales.

app design trends 2018 - Apple Watch

So how does this affect UI design ideas? Not only is the screen smaller than a traditional mobile device, but wearables also encourage people to use mobile technology in different scenarios than smartphones and tablets, leading to necessary changes in the touch screen interface design.

For instance, the way you’d tap the screen of a smartphone to open a native news app is different to how you’d have to reach over with one hand to touch your Apple Watch to use its features.

Here’s a video to better illustrate how the Apple Watch works.

app design trends 2018 - Apple Watch Apps

As a result, 2018 will see wearable designers and developers race to create intelligent, user-friendly native and web apps that are unique to this type of mobile device, especially by adjusting their touch screen interface design.

3) Better UI Design Ideas for Gestures

What’s a gesture? In mobile application design, it’s divided into two groups, according to Google:

  • Touch mechanics (what your fingers do on a screen)
  • Touch activities (what they accomplish, as a result)

Double-Touch Drag

For example, if a user taps on their iPhone’s native mobile mail icon, they’ve produced a touch mechanic, that in turn creates the ensuing touch activity, which is their inbox opening.

With projections of smartphone users at more than 6 billion globally by 2020, it’s high time that designers explore new UI design ideas to better accommodate a range of mobile gestures.

Touch screen interface design mechanics include:

  • Touch (tap)
  • Force Touch
  • Double touch
  • Drag, swipe or fling
  • Long press
  • Long-press drag
  • Double-touch drag
  • Pinch open
  • Pinch closed
  • Two-finger touch
  • Two-finger drag, swipe or fling
  • long press with two fingers
  • Two-finger long-press drag
  • Two-finger double touch
  • Rotate

Some native mobile apps, such as Starbucks’ use an unappealing mobile UI design that makes, for instance, validating a free drink reward more cumbersome than it should be. If you have a free drink, you have to actually shake the phone by using your entire hand to get the barcode to appear on the screen for it to be validated.

app design trends 2018 - Starbucks App

It’d be much better to integrate a different touch screen interface design that allows the user to simply tap or swipe to get the barcode to appear.

With the number of mobile devices ever-increasing, mobile application designers have no choice but to create a better mobile UI design that uses a wider, more intuitive range of gestures for a better UX.

4) Multi-app Split Screen Catches on in Android UI Design

Multitasking or task switching is ubiquitous in our always-on world, so why shouldn’t this be the case in our mobile world? The multi-app is split-screen work flow that allows users to do two things at once on their screen, That means you can be on on your Evernote native mobile app and email colleagues at the same time or be tweeting and looking something up on the Internet simultaneously. The convenience of this UI design idea is beyond amazing, as it saves users the time and trouble of tapping the home button, looking for the native mobile app they want, and then constantly switching between two (or more) open app windows.

app design trends 2018 - iPad Pro

With the iPad Pro outselling Microsoft’s Surface tablet and similar offerings from Samsung in the last quarter, it’s clear that impressive mobile UI design features such as split-screen capability have made all the difference for consumers.

With Android fans clamoring for, and wondering when Google’s finally going to introduce the mobile split-screen feature on its devices, the time seems right for designers and developers to focus their efforts on finally producing split-screen multitasking for Android.

app design trends - Android Split Screen

Google seems to already be making baby steps toward this Android application development innovation right now, so it’ll be interesting to see what they come up with later this year.

5) Material Design Captivates the Mobile Application Design Community

Unsurprisingly, Google will be a big player in influencing native mobile app design trends this year. Material design is not completely flat anymore because it uses techniques like gradients, shadows and other subtle, 3D effects. As a result, this slightly different approach to native mobile design has people excited because it’ll drastically improve the UX on mobile devices.

Material Design UI - Mobile Design Trends 2016

Though material design was slow to be adopted to various Android apps last year— we’re talking Gmail, YouTube, Google Maps—that’s changing in 2016, as more native mobile apps from companies outside of Google take note of this app design trend and join the material-design bandwagon.

Screen Shot 2016-02-04 at 11.04.10 PM

Facebook’s popular Messenger app is getting a material-design makeover on Android while IMDB’s Android app has material-design touches added to its navigation, search and action bar.

Beyond mobile application design, Google’s Chrome browser is also set to incorporate material-design touches in its interface, and Google is all set to unveil its new material design-influenced Chrome browser soon.

Look for more popular apps to follow this app design trend and adopt material design as the year progresses.

6) Moving Animation in Native Mobile Apps

People are naturally programmed to take notice of movement, so incorporating movement into a mobile UI and UX design can be the perfect way to highlight a specific product. This app design trend makes moving animation a superb tool for e-commerce sites. This also has a secondary, more useful purpose: Letting users move products around on the screen before they buy it makes it easy for them to inspect it from all sides…almost as if they were in a real, tactile store.

app design trends 2018 - Moving Animation on Smartphone

With Web Designer Depot proclaiming that “animation is no longer a novelty for web app designers…it’s becoming the basis of effective interaction design,” moving animation is set to take off in a large way this year as designers increasingly realize that movement helps tell a story, and that helps the UX.

app design trends 2018 - Bugaboo Mobile Site Urban Stroller Product Page

Bugaboo’s mobile site features moving animation that lets customers examine its popular strollers from all sides, which beats merely looking at still pictures to make a buying decision.

Bugaboo’s mobile site features moving animation that lets customers examine its popular strollers from all sides, which beats merely looking at still pictures to make a buying decision.

7) A New UI Design Idea: Subdued Color Contrast

You’ve probably been taught that contrast should be high and loud to facilitate an easier reading experience, but 2018’s app design trends go against the mainstream conventional wisdom by toning things down a bit.

app design trends - Weather Apps Color Contrast

The usual typography contrast is black font on a white background—there are even various color-contrast calculators on the web (like Contrast Ratio) to help you find good contrast for readability.

In 2018, though, contrast is expected to get more subtle, which is actually easier on the user’s eyes and  has real mobile UI and UX design advantages in that it facilitates a better reading experience. Some of the the biggest companies in the world are already moving to this subdued form of color contrast for their websites.

Airbnb Mobile Site Homepage

Take Airbnb’s mobile site as a web example of this app design trend: Note how many of the fonts on the homepage are actually faded black or all-out gray and how the white space around the blocks of content and images is really gray space. As a result, there’s still exceptional contrast for easy reading, but it’s easier on the eyes.

8) Flat UI Design 2.0 Begins to Replace Flat UI Design

One of the few, but big, criticisms of flat design is the lack of signifiers on things like icons and buttons, which fail to adequately communicate functional design elements. This touch screen interface design has a negative impact on user experience since what users can click and tap isn’t necessarily obvious at first.

app design trends 2018 - Flat Design UI

This might not seem like a big deal to veteran users, but the point of good native mobile app design—mobile and otherwise—is to make the UX design easy enough that even novice users can find their way around your native app or mobile website.

Flat design 2.0 is like Material Design in a sense because both use more 3D UI design idea effects like shadows, gradients and lighting effects. However, whereas Material Design is more of an aesthetic and design philosophy based on paper and ink (read: tactile elements), flat design 2.0 is an actual response to and way of addressing the shortcomings of flat mobile application design.

Evernote Android Screen

As 2018 wears on, look for more mobile sites and apps to retain the flat look in their touch screen interface design, but with noticeable shading to indicate subtle 3D elements. These will make it easier for users to figure out where to tap and slide, such as Android Evernote’s native mobile app above.

9) Micro-interactions on Native Mobile Apps Become More Prevalent

Micro-interactions are focused on the UX design of a native mobile app. They’re subtle tasks that work around four elements.

  • The Trigger
  • The Rules
  • Feedback
  • Loops and Modes

Slack is an awesome example of this native mobile app design trend that is replete with great micro-interaction examples.

app design trends 2018 - Slack Direct Messages

I tap the “plus” sign next to Direct Messages. This is the trigger because it starts the micro-interaction. Now, I get to communicate directly with my Slack collaborator, which forms the rules or the way the interaction functions. How do I know this? Because, thirdly, the feedback Slack gives me on-screen shows a “New Conversation” box opening up, where I can chat directly with her. Finally, the length of this micro-interaction—or loop—is as long as I want it to be, as I can close the new message when I want to.

app design trends 2018 - Slack New Conversation

As you can see, these micro-interactions in app UI design let people instantly observe the results of their on-screen actions by providing helpful and understandable feedback. This greatly improves the mobile UX design. As more mobile application designers see this innate value to users, micro-interactions will get more widespread.

10) Increased Tracking in Typography Improves Mobile UI and UX Design

So much of the mobile web today deals with readability. One of the most important aspects of readability is tracking, or the consistent space between all letters in a word. The greater the tracking, the easier the word is to read because users don’t have to squint to read the word.

app design trends - Tracking in UI

With the big focus on native mobile app usability, designers need to look at increasing the readability of their content.

Typography authority Typewolf released its list of the most popular fonts of last year, and the big app design trend for this specific area is spacious and generous tracking between letters of the most popular fonts, which will continue into 2018. With Gartner predicting the number of mobile devices increasing in 2018, readability is going to be increasingly vital to mobile UX and UI designs that will attract native mobile app users in even greater numbers.

app design trends 2018 - Dell Mobile Homepage

Note how Dell’s mobile site uses this generous tracking evenly in between the letters of the type on its homepage.

Bonus: Mobile Design Trends That Have Died!

We didn’t get to where we are in mobile application design without some significant mobile design failures. Here are some notorious mobile design trends that simply died off.

1) The Flip Design

Remember that old Motorola Razr phone your buddy had? It featured and popularized the flip mobile device design that everyone at the time thought was cool…yet it failed to stand the test of time. For some time several years ago, people thought it was trendy to whip out their cell phones and flip them open before talking. Now, the instant gratification of the touch screen interface design of iOS and Android smartphones that you can just whip out for talk and data rule the day.

app design trends - Motorola Razr Flip Design

Confirming the death of this mobile design trend for good is news that Lenovo, Motorola’s new owner, is actually going to completely remove the name “Motorola” from its phones. Oh well. It was good while it lasted.

2) Push to Talk

Another mobile design that was popular before Apple and Samsung popularized their version of smartphones with unique touch screen interface design, push-to-talk was essentially turning your phone into a walkie-talkie. Its selling point was letting users talk to an entire group of their friends at once instead of just one friend at a time.

app design trends - Push to Talk Nextel Phones

However, as the years wore on, designing phones for this service became so unpopular that it’s now a relic of a bygone era.

Confirming the death knell for this outdated mobile design trend was the Sprint announcement, four years ago, that it would totally kill off its Nextel push-to-talk network. Goodbye!

3) Infrared Ports

In the early 2000s, many cell phones had infrared or IR ports. These offered wireless transfer of your data over very short distances, and they demanded that your devices had to be side-by-side for it to work.

app design trends 2018 - Infrared Ports

Because IR ports were restrictive, it was no surprise that Bluetooth and Wi-Fi soon came along and banished this mobile design trend for good.

Today, you’d be hard-pressed to find many phones with this feature.

What the Future Holds for Mobile Application Design

Look for these trends to dominate the native mobile app design landscape as the year progresses. It’s clear that now is the time of mobile design, as evidenced by mobile users now completely outweighing desktop users…. Don’t hold your breath waiting for these stats to reverse.

With this focus on mobile application design, it’s no surprise that the design community is looking for increasingly interesting app design trends to improve the user experience and get people on native mobile with greater comfort than ever.

The Ultimate Guide to Getting Your App Featured in the Apple App Store

It’s every iOS app developer’s dream: getting their native app featured in the App Store. To have your work displayed front and center in Apple’s app marketplace requires the right combination of strategy, knowhow and, of course, a remarkable app. While it may not be easy, it’s definitely achievable, and what every app developer should aim for. After all, being featured can be the main source of your native app’s growth.

There are various positions where your app can be featured in the App Store. The big one is being featured right on the iTunes homepage for All Categories, but if your app is featured on the homepage of any specific category, you’ll get massive exposure just the same.

You need to know that the competition can get pretty intense: there are between 1000 and 2000 app submissions every day, with the wildest days seeing nearly 2,500 submissions. Talk about crazy! In this kind of melee, how can the average app developer hope to catch Apple’s attention and get his app featured?

We’re going to walk you through every single avenue available to get your native app the attention it deserves!

Tactic #1: Focus on Designing for the Mobile User Experience

As Steve Jobs said so famously  when talking about the user experience and technology nearly two decades ago:

“You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back toward the technology—not the other way around.”

Steve Jobs

It’s now 2016, and this advice is truer now than ever. As mobile continues to take center stage in design and technology, if you want to get an App Store feature for your native mobile app, you have to first focus on the user experience and design your app around that. It's the only way you’re going to create an app that people will want to use, keep coming back to, and even fall in love with.

Take a cue from Apple’s own guidelines for designing for iOS. The three themes are:

  • UI deference
  • Clarity
  • Depth

All three elements focus on the user experience on native mobile apps, and by user experience we're referring to what your users think and the emotions they feel as they’re using your app. Are they frustrated? Are they delighted? Are they finding navigating through your app and accomplishing the goals they set out to do easy or hard to do? All of these questions need to be answered in conjunction with Apple’s design guidelines!

For inspiration on how to design a killer user experience for your app, see our very insightful blog post titled “19 Insanely Beneficial Mobile Design Blogs That Every Mobile Designer Should Follow.”

Tactic #2: Make it Native!

While there used to be a debate about making native apps versus making hybrid (HTML-based) apps, the controversy is increasingly being settled in favor of native apps. The reality is that many hybrid apps fail to get featured in the App Store — and with good reason. They are problem-laden, as this ZDNet article makes perfectly clear.

Let’s quickly recap what a hybrid app is. In essence, it’s an app that a developer builds on HTML5/JavaScript, then packages into an app and then repackages that same code for other platforms (Android). Unfortunately this is more idealism than reality, because hybrid apps generally sacrifice the user experience as a compromise for being “usable” on other platforms.

Native App

Just because hybrid apps can be “used” on other platforms doesn’t mean that they have a decent user experience. In fact, they’re prone to crashing. Perhaps even more significantly, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is on record declaring that “the biggest mistake we’ve made as a company is betting on HTML5 over native.”

With these big strikes against hybrid, your best bet for getting featured on the App Store lies with designing a great native mobile app. After all, Forrester reports that customer satisfaction is greater with native than with hybrid. Why? Because of the superior user experience, of course!

For more on this, see our earlier “Hybrid Vs Native Mobile Apps—The Answer Is Clear” blog post.

Tactic #3: Concentrate on One or Two Major Use Cases

Perhaps nothing speaks to understanding the user experience in native mobile app design more than honing in on the app’s use cases. A use case is the main reason why a person would want to use your app. According to Y Media Lab’s CEO, Ashish Toshniwal, the number one secret to being featured is getting the use case right from the get go and keeping it to no more than one or two per app.

A use case should be clear right from the start: Any user should easily see what the app’s about within the first five to 10 seconds of downloading it! You don’t want to complicate your app or confuse your user, which is what you’ll do if you add too many use cases to an app.

Use Cases

App designers should absolutely have one or two use cases well-identified before they ever start app development in earnest, and should forego indulging in a long wish list of desired-but-impractical app features.

Tactic #4: Design a Stellar-Looking App Icon

Before you think that your native app’s icon doesn’t matter since it’s only a symbol, consider this. Founder of Tiny Hearts, Robleh Jama, whose apps have been featured at different times on the App Store, writes that:

“We’ve been featured a few times, and we heard directly from Apple that they notice good app icons.”

There you have it—straight from the horse’s mouth!

It shouldn’t be surprising that Apple is evaluating your app’s icon as a factor in deciding whether or not to feature your app. An icon provides very valuable clues to the quality of the app you just designed.

Gmail App Icon

 

Here’s how to design that impression-making app icon that Apple will take notice of:

1) If your app icon is, for example, a unique color that makes it instantly pop when compared to all the other apps in its category, that’s an indicator of technical prowess and awareness in design. Make your app color and vibrancy stand out from those of your competitors.

2) Another issue is clarity: Your icon ought to automatically communicate what your app can do. Just look at Gmail’s simple, though straightforward, icon.

3) Finally, the icon should be an indicator of your app’s interface. If an icon can quickly and simply inform people of how they’ll use your app, that’ll score you extra points with Apple. Design your icon to give solid clues about how people will actually see it and use it on their devices.

Tactic #5: Create a High-Quality App

When you strip everything down to the bare basics, you can’t get featured by Apple if your app is subpar. So how do you create a high-quality app in the first place?

It definitely helps to have a very solid concept behind the app you create. Gearing your app to a specific niche audience is a solid strategy, as you want your app to make a meaningful connection to said audience. If your app can help solve a problem they’re experiencing or fill a need in their lives, then so much the better.

iTunes Featured Apps

Being a designer or a creative entrepreneur with a hot idea is obviously not enough to make an app a hit. You need to have work on the back end of the app done by a superb developer. In both of the case studies presented here, the app's creators came to Y Media Labs for development assistance, and we delivered for them.

To create a high-quality app, your solid idea must be backed by a top-notch development team.

Tactic #6: Try Cold Emailing

Some marketers swear that cold anything—cold calling, cold emailing, etc.—is obsolete in this day and age. After all, since the advent of the web, business relationships can develop conveniently and efficiently on social networks and the like. However, at least one app-marketing specialist completely disagrees with premise, as he successfully used the cold-emailing strategy to get one of his clients’ native apps featured in the App Store.

Are You in Over Your Head? App

Steve Young succeeded in getting MiniGamr’s app — Are You in Over Your Head?— featured by Apple, an accomplishment which he writes about.

The process is comfortingly straightforward after you've already built a great app:

1) Find the proper contact person at Apple by using LinkedIn, then narrow down your search results to “App Store Manager”.

2) Use this amazingly beneficial tool, Chrome’s Email Hunter extension, to actually compel email addresses of your search targets to show up on their LinkedIn profiles, allowing you to easily email them.

3) Craft a persuasive, short email that consists of an explainer video, social proof for your app, an explanation of its new iOS features (if any), and a request for feedback.

4) Complete Apple’s forms: If you've succeeded you’ll receive a form from the App Store manager in response to your cold email, which you should fill out ASAP and email back.

After this, it’s simply a waiting game since you won’t actually hear back from Apple to verify that your app will be featured. Simply check the App Store on Thursdays (when they update their featured apps) to see if you made the cut. Be sure to check not only the homepage, but alsothe pages of different categories.

Tactic #7: Get Featured on Popular Industry Websites

Surprise, surprise: Apple’s app people are following and reading top industry tech websites. This is where social proof comes into the picture, because the more your app or company is featured on these top-notch websites, the more your credibility as a hot commodity will increase in the eyes of people with pull at Apple.

Think of it in terms of getting press coverage to support your bid to be featured in the App Store. It’s all about consistency: If Apple notices that your app is already getting a fair amount of press, they’re much more likely to be convinced that it’s something that they should feature, too.

iMore Homepage

Good selections of where you’re potentially going to get noticed by Apple insiders include huge Apple sites and blogs such as Cult of Mac and iMore, plus product-sharing sites like Product Hunt.

Try this strategy:

1) Search for a list of the most popular blogs about Apple

2) Navigate the sites you're interested in to find the contact info for the editors

3) Craft a compelling, well-written pitch that persuades the editors to mention your app in a related story Position yourself as an expert, which provides value to a site’s published story.

4) Alternately, you could hire a PR, link-building or marketing agency with good connections to successfully get your app mentioned in a specific news story that would appear on an Apple site.

If Apple believes that your app is already generating some buzz, they're more apt to want to jump on the bandwagon!

Tactic #8: Get Familiar With Apple’s Own Calendar and Schedule of Events

This is key. When Apple features apps, it does so because there’s also a tie-in to something broader and bigger that’s happening in pop culture and the world. In other words, it’s usually not a coincidence that certain apps are featured at certain points in the year.

For instance, during tax season it’s a good bet that apps focusing on doing taxes efficiently will be pushed in the App Store. During huge pop-culture events like the Oscars, entertainment and celebrity-gossip apps are likely to be featured more.

Oscar Dresses

As Readdle’s Denys Zhadanov puts it:

“App Store editorial team has its own calendar of holidays, events and seasons, so they feature the apps accordingly. If it’s September – most likely Apple will push their “Back to School campaign” featuring apps for students (to-dos, writing, PDF readers, note-takers, etc).”

So when you get in touch with Apple and pitch to them, be mindful of the time of year when you’re making your request.

Tactic #9: Make Your App Exclusive to iOS

Even though Android is outselling the iPhone by about five to one, there are many native apps that either come out exclusively for iOS or come out on iOS long before they’re available on Android. What’s going on? You’d think that the higher number of Android users would make it more appealing for app designers and developers to focus on Android apps. But that’s exactly where the confusion lies.

iOS Only

By making your app exclusive to iOS and flat out ignoring Android, you stand to gain a lot of benefits:

  • More profits
  • Fewer compatibility issues
  • Cheaper production costs
  • Having to deal with far fewer piracy concerns
  • Bigger community of developers supporting the Apple platform

Tactic #10: Keep Your Customer Ratings Above 4.5

One of the most vital criteria that your users rely on when deciding to download your app is the customer ratings. It’s simple: If they see a high rating—say, above 4.5—then they’re more likely to download it. By contrast, a lower rating will have a discouraging effect on them wanting to download your app.

Keep in mind that Apple’s also thinking from the profit-motive standpoint. They want to feature higher-rated apps because those are the ones that do best.

This begs the question: How do you keep your customers happy so that they rate your app highly?

The answer takes us back where we started, to the user experience that we’ve been stressing from the very beginning. It is very important to your app’s success and to being featured.

Customer Ratings in App Store

To keep your ratings high, do the following:

1) In-app customer service – Make it super-easy for your users to contact you from directly inside the app. You shouldn’t be sending them elsewhere for customer service. When you make getting support efficient, you reduce  the instances where your customers go to the App Store to vent their frustrations with one- or two-star reviews.

2) Perform beta testing prior to release – This is where you get feedback from a small sampling of your intended audience. When you know what your audience likes and dislikes about your app before the official launch, you can make the necessary changes and cut down on negative reviews.

3) Prompt your users – Assuming you’ve created an excellent app that provides a great user experience, your users should be more than happy to leave a high rating for your app. How do you get them to do so? Simply prompt them by using tools like Appirater, a piece of code that presents dialog boxes to your users, reminding them to rate your app.

4) Run Contests to Incentivize Users – You can always try the direct approach by incentivizing your users to review your app. One of the best ways — which won’t run afoul of Apple’s standards — is to hold a contest. Popular iOS-app forums like Touch Arcade have a regularly-updated section where app developers routinely announce contests for iTunes gift cards with the way to enter being an app review.

Tactic #11: Submit Your App Right After Its Release to Product Hunt and Other Influential Websites

You want your app to get as much attention as possible when you release it, and the best way to do this is by submitting it—without paying to do so—to an influential website. One of the best options is Product Hunt, a site that Tech Crunch calls “the social news site of tech products read by influential people.” Since Apple’s engineers and employees have great influence in the tech world, you can be sure their people are following Product Hunt closely to stay on top of the hottest releases!

Product Hunt Homepage

While there are many sites out there that will cover your new app’s release, not all do it without asking for money in exchange. Paid reviews naturally diminish the credibility of your app coverage. The following sites are influential, and don’t ask for money for app coverage— they only ask for high-quality apps. These sites get a lot of app-review requests, so competition is fierce but it’s still worth a shot:

1) AppAdvice – This popular site gets so many coverage requests that it won’t guarantee you app coverage. You can help your chances of getting covered by including the following: your company name and history, your app’s release date, the app name, iTunes link, app description, app promo code, app-development portfolio, contact email, the app’s unique selling proposition, and future app plans.

2) App Store Apps – The submission process is a bit easier for this site. All you need to do is provide your promo code when you contact the site.

3) App Chatter – If this site decides to cover your app with a written review, you also have a chance of being featured on its podcast! Simply provide the site with your name, email address, app name, app type, iTunes URL, download code and website URL.

Tactic #12: Use a Feature or Product Just Released by Apple

To get on Apple’s radar just in time for your app launch, you should try to ingratiate yourself with the company by using one of its newest features or products. For example, you could design an app specifically to take advantage of the features of the company’s new Apple Watch. Designing an app for this exclusivity won’t just get you noticed by Apple, but also demonstrates the practical utility of how a new Apple product works. Double the points!

Apple Watch

Now, you can pitch to Apple by doing the following:

1) Ensure that you also have all of the details for your app feature/coverage (such as contact details) specified in iTunes Connect before you send off your email to Apple.

2) Make sure you’re sending your pitch to the right email addresses! According to Venture Beat, the Apple marketing team takes emails from app developers at both appstorepromotion@apple.com and appstoremarketing@apple.com.

3) Now you’re ready to hit the send button and simply wait for a positive outcome. Good luck!

Tactic #13: Prepare for the Best (if You Get a Positive Reply From Apple)

You know that old saying, “Prepare for the worst, but hope for the best?” You have to be ready to respond to the outcome if Apple agrees to feature your app. They'll give you an alert letting you know that it intends to do so, but you need to do more than just be appreciative and bask in the glow of your success.

If you don’t have your next move planned, chaos is likely to ensue and you won’t be able to make the most of this great marketing opportunity. So what do you need to do?

App Icons

If an Apple representative gets in touch with you, you need to have all the details ready to give them the info they’re looking for. Do the following:

1) Provide Apple with promo art to make your feature stand out (You do have promo art all ready to go, right?)

2) Give them screen shots of your app in action so that users can see how your app functions and decide whether they want to download it

3) Show them your app icon. As mentioned above, icons are one of the biggest factors in getting your app featured in the first place.

4) Present them with a detailed and interesting description of your app that will entice users to download it.

The key takeaway here is that getting featured is only half the story. If you’re going to get featured, you need to present your app in the most attractive and persuasive way possible. Remember that you’re still competing against a plethora of other apps, so marketing your app well when it’s featured is strategically important.

Tactic #14: Tell a Story as the Basis of Your Pitch

Human beings love stories, including the folks at Apple who are deciding whether or not to feature your app. Storytelling is so deeply ingrained in the human experience that we’re programmed to empathize with a story’s characters as soon as we hear one! Why not use a story to successfully sell your app to Apple as part of your pitch to get it featured?

Your basic story follows the usual pattern of Freytag’s Pyramid: exposition, rising action, climax, falling action and resolution.

Storytelling

Set up your story for Apple this way:

1) Tell Apple why you wanted to make the app and reveal the passion that went into it

2) Explain the journey you went through as you developed your app

3) Tell them about any struggles you’ve experienced – maybe it was lack of funding, team members quitting, etc.

4) Show what you did to overcome these challenges

5) Communicate to them that getting featured in the App Store is the reward for all that hard work

When you use storytelling in your pitch to Apple, you're persuading them to put themselves in your shoes and really feel what your company went through to develop the app. It's a strategy that creates a resonance with whoever’s making the decision to feature your app.

Let’s check out two helpful case studies. In both instances, Y Media Labs was heavily involved in developing standout apps that ended up being featured on the App Store.

A Case Study in Determination: Montessorium

Montessorium, an educational app company dedicated to making the Montessori method more accessible, is one of Y Media Labs’ clients. Its native apps have been featured in the App Store and even in Apple commercials. Its apps, as a result, have been downloaded approximately 1 million times!

Montessorium Apps

Montessorium did several things right to be featured by Apple.

They made sure to:

  • Pick the right partner
  • Create an app in their area of expertise
  • Design for their audience
  • Use tech to optimize the user experience
  • Constantly embrace new technology
  • Stay true to their guiding principle

Montessorium’s Featured Apps

The first Montessorium native app that took off was Intro to Letters, a teaching app based on the Montessori method that helps kids to learn how to read, write and trace, as well as to record letter sounds, phonograms and names. It’s available on the App Store. It wasn’t just featured on the App Store, but in an Apple iPad commercial entitled “iPad is Electric” as well as in an Apple billboard campaign. Now that's how to make an app truly successful!

Intro to Letters

Continuing the company's run of successful native apps was Intro to Math, another teaching app for both the iPad and iPhone that was once again based on the Montessori method - this time it focused on the method that helps kids to read, understand and write numbers from zero to nine. It’s available on the App Store and Google Play. As was the case with Intro to Letters, this app was also featured in an Apple commercial: this one was called “We Believe.

Intro to Math

In our next example, Y Media Labs helped another company to develop an app that was featured in the App Store.

A Case Study of Big Vision: Nom Nom Paleo

Nom Nom Paleo is an award-winning and highly trafficked food blog from Michelle Tam, a Paleo Diet advocate and bestselling cookbook author. She started her blog in 2010, and a few years later it had grown so big and popular that she decided she wanted to create her very own cookbook app based around her Paleo Diet recipes.

She contacted Y Media Labs, where CTO Sumit Mehra had ironically never even heard of Paleo anything. When Michelle got in touch with him “out of the blue,” Y Media Labs went ahead with the app development, seeing great potential in Michelle’s idea.

Talk about ambition — you truly need vision to go from having a popular food blog, seeing the potential for an app based on an oft-misunderstood diet, and then turning it into a rousing success! But that’s what Michelle and Y Media Labs did with the Nom Nom Paleo app, available on the App Store for both the iPad and iPhone.

Nom Nom Paleo App

The native app was featured as one of the “best new apps” by Apple, and has garnered an inordinate amount of praise from authority sources.

No matter how great your native app is by itself, it doesn’t guarantee you an App Store feature. Getting to your end goal of being featured really depends on a step-by-step process that relies on numerous tactics.

Getting Featured Means Using Different Strategies Together

By now, you should have clear insight on what it takes to increase your chances of being featured in the App Store. Note that no single strategy or approach guarantees success, and in fact, none of these methods individually or together guarantees 100% success.

Still, if your company has already invested passion, commitment, drive, time and money into making a tremendous app, then you should go for broke to get it featured in the App Store. Be sure to use as many of these strategies as you can to increase your chances.

Though you clearly won’t be getting an email from Steve Jobs anymore—as Y Media Labs’ CEO once did, encouraging him to keep doing what he was doing —  the next best thing is to keep persevering your way to success.

Most apps don’t get featured, so don’t despair if the long shot doesn't deliver. Remember that when you implement all of these approaches to get featured, you’re doing justice to your hard work, and that’s what really counts in the end.

There you have it! That’s how you can get featured in the App Store. Do you have any better suggestions or tactics? If you do, please email us at marketing@ymedialabs.com.

Should You Develop Your Mobile App for iOS or Android? This is How to Make the Decision.

If you're thinking about building a mobile app and having a tough time deciding whether to build it for the iOS or Android platform, you've come to the right place.

In a previous article, we covered whether you should build a hybrid or native app. What we’re going to focus on today is answering a related question that is equally contentious: what platform should you build your app on first – Android or iOS? Contrary to the popular belief that there is one clear winner, iOS, the answer is dependent on your company’s needs, reach (niche app, local focused, national or international scope), time to market, customer base and long-term mobile strategy. While most evidence points to iOS being the platform of choice, the objective of this article is to clearly lay out the major considerations when building a mobile app on a specific platform. Once you’ve read this article, you can compare your company’s needs with the information presented below and then easily decide and justify to your executives why you've chosen one platform over the other.

If you're considering building a mobile application on iOS or Android there are ten factors you need to think about:

  1. What country/region are your visitors from?
  2. What are the demographics of your target population?
  3. Are you interested in reaching out to the mobile user base most likely to spend money on an app or rather the largest population of mobile users?
  4. Will your app be a paid app or do you plan to monetize it later on down the road?
  5. How quickly do you want to build an app? What is your expected time to market? Key differences regarding the integrated development environments for the two platforms impact your timeline!
  6. What are the main differences between developing for Android and iOS?
  7. Android’s operating system has more than 7 versions; iOS only 3. What’s the impact on your business as a result of this discrepancy?
  8. How important are the publishing policies between the two platforms to your business - do you anticipate regular updates or not?
  9. Does your business model require staggered releases across devices?
  10. Do you have to build your app on both iOS and Android at the same time?

This is a list of prioritized questions you must go through before choosing your preferred platform. The rest of the article will explore each of them in detail so you can make an informed decision on what works best for your company.

1. What country/region are your visitors from?

Your in-house analytics tools can provide you with historical data on what devices  your visitors and paid customers are coming from.

There is no better indicator of the platform you should build on than the current visitors to your site. Unless you literally launched your company’s website last night, you should be able to use your web analytics tools to see a breakdown of your website traffic and to determine from which platforms users are accessing your website. Ultimately you’re trying to reach the highest segment of your current or potential customers through the implementation of your app.

Apple, iOS, Android in Google Analytics

A different and simpler way to think about it is this: by multiply the number of iOS/Android users with their spending on your app, you estimate the potential revenue from these two specific user bases. That will give you the best indication on what platform to choose.

2. What are the demographics of your target population?

iOS users spend and make more money than Android users.

There is hardly any debate anymore over who makes more money and spends more money on apps and in-app purchases. From the get-go, Apple won the war on this one. Average iOS users make $85,000 per year in the US while the average Android user makes 40% less or $61,000 per year. A different view shows that 41% of iOS users make more than $100,000 dollars in the US versus 24% of Android users falling into this bracket. And if we go higher up on the income scale, 60% of users making $150,000+ own iPhones rather than Android devices. This is the breakdown by income according to Verto Analytics.

App Annie, a business intelligence company and analyst firm headquartered in San Francisco, California, publishes a quarterly report showing the main financial differences between Android and iOS applications. According to the 2015 3rd quarter report, iOS users spend 80% more on in-app purchases than Android users despite having a much smaller piece of the pie at the global level.

iOS vs Android Downloads

3. Are you interested in reaching out to the mobile user base most likely to spend money on an app or rather the largest population of mobile users?

iOS users spend more on in-app purchases but the majority of American smartphone users are on Android.

The graph above doesn’t only show that iOS users spend a lot more money on in-app purchases. Though more money is spent on in-app purchases on iOS, Google Play continues to widen the gap when it comes to monthly downloads of apps. Of course, this is to be expected considering Android owns a sweeping 80% of the global Smartphone market.

In the US, Apple smartphones still account for 42% of the smartphone market share (Android has had the majority of the US share for 3 years now). At a global level the distinction is even starker with Android controlling upwards of 80 to 99% of foreign markets. That’s attributed, in part, to the emergence of $100 smartphones operating on Android in contrast to the $600+ price tag of an iPhone.

In brief, if you’re interested in pursuing the high earners in the US market as well as those customers who are likely to spend big money on in-app purchases, iOS is the platform for you.

4. Will your app be a paid app or do you plan to monetize it later on down the road?

iOS upfront monetization model may bring more upfront revenue to a business but Android’s in-app monetization can provide the same outcome over time. Most of the popular apps in the world are free with revenue being generated through in-app advertisements.

iOS revenue numbers are impressive on their own when examining revenue generated in-app and from purchasing apps in the App Store. However, there are two more caveats to the purchase data shown above: freemium models (which are big on the Android platform) and non in-app revenue generating models which are not factored into the data shown above. Let’s look at each.

There are clear reasons why Android became the biggest platform in the world and Google Play the platform with the highest app downloads. There are reasons on both the customer’s end of the spectrum and from a developer’s point of view (which we will discuss later as well). The customer gets a cheaper Smartphone but also low cost to no cost apps in the Play Store. Which is win-win for the customer thus driving demand on both platforms. Simply put, developers can reach a wider market on Google Play by listing their app for free but then get revenue through the freemium model.

Apple’s default business model from the get go was very simple: the customer finds an app and purchases it for a small fee. Apple gets 30% of the money spent by the user with the rest going to the developer. The great thing about this model is that the revenue per download is higher. The problem with this is multi-fold. First, even if an app has stellar reviews, most customers would be unlikely to pay for the app unless a) someone strongly recommends it (word of mouth) or b) they can get a demo or test it themselves.

This is where the Android model kicks in and changes the laws of nature. Users can download the app for free and interact with it as much as they want. However, either various functionalities of that app need a paid upgrade or your app has ads – either videos, or modals that need to be dismissed – which help you get revenue per view/click. If the user wants to avoid the nuisance of ads or they’re really interested in the functionalities which are not available, they can upgraded to the paid version of the app. This model has become incredibly popular, especially in the gaming mobile world.

And the theory behind it is simple: the iOS model is predicated on upfront profits – users download the app and pay for it; in the Android world – the users get the app for free and you get your profits back over time as users either end up purchasing the app or are exposed to enough ads to allow you to recover your ROI over time. Of course, even paid apps in iOS or Android can have in-app purchases but overall Android-focused apps have a different business strategy than iPhone apps.

In short, if you really want to get in front of the largest possible number of users in America and the entire world, you have a better chance of doing that on the Android platform because Android controls 85% of the world smartphone market and 52% of the US smartphone market. And if you’re worried that your app won’t make money, freemium and ads-driven app monetization strategies have proven incredibly effective modes of generating revenue which are not always tracked in the overall financial assessment of the iOS vs Android financial reports.

5. How quickly do you want to build an app? What is your expected time to market? 

iOS apps are faster to build and release than Android apps

Some writers believe that building an Android app takes 2-3 times longer than building an iOS app.  One engineer kept track of all the code written when building the same app on both platforms and showed that he had to write approximately 40% more code for Android than for iOS.

6. What are the main differences between developing for Android and iOS?

Android’s technology stack provides developers with (almost) infinite flexibility. Apple’s development environment is more restrictive but easier to adopt/work on.

If you’re an iOS developer you will use XCode as the IDE platform and Swift as the coding language to develop your application. As an Android developer you will use Android Studio. Though Android touts its system as being open source, adaptable, and giving developers a significant amount of flexibility (all points are true by the way!) this doesn’t necessarily prove advantageous. One software engineer writing for TechCruch insists that Apple's IDE (XCode) is better.

He describes it as “by and large, a joy to work with. It’s slick, fast, powerful, helpful without being intrusive." In contrast, he sees the Android counterpart as being "embarrassingly bad. Slow, clunky, counterintuitive when not outright baffling, poorly laid out, needlessly complex, it’s just a mess." [source]

Most iOS developers consider XCode as fairly easy to use with a great (developer) user interface and quick and intuitive shortcuts for building templates and applying in-app controls. In contrast, as some developers commented on Quora, understanding Android Studio is next to impossible and Google continues to make changes to the environment which makes it even more difficult for developers to navigate.

From a business perspective, until Android Studio reaches the same level of maturity as XCode, it may be more advantageous to go with iOS, thus avoiding the pitfalls of developing to the moving target that Android Studio continues to be.

7. Have you considered the OS version discrepancies between iOS and Android and its impact on the time to market for your app?

iOS has fewer OS versions which reduces your operational cost of maintaining and updating your app over time by not having to test a wide variety of devices and operating systems.

For iOS, most users are on up-to-date versions of the OS (a staggering 98% of all users are currently on the iOS7 and 8 with an impressive 89% of users being on the latest version). From a business perspective, the decision becomes rather easy to make. You either develop your app on the newest version, or you build it and test it for the top two versions and reach most of your users. In general, as a company, you should develop, test and maintain either a website or a mobile app that will work flawlessly for 80% of all your potential users. As such, iOS meets and very much exceeds the business expectations.

Looking at Android, you see a very different picture. Unfortunately, even today, most users are not on the latest OS. As of January 2016, a meager 0.9% of Android users are on the latest operating system Android Marshmallow. These abysmal stats are driven primarily by the very fragmented nature of the Android market where OS updates are dependent on the manufacturers pushing these updates to the users’ phones. Additionally, historical data looks really grim when it comes to users’ adoption of the latest version of the OS. In the 10 months after releasing iOS8, 83% of Apple users updated their phones to this operating system. Launched about one month later, Android’s Lollipop had an adoption rate of 12% over the following 8 months and a whopping 72% of all Android users are still on a version that is 2 years old.

To put this in perspective, 40% of all Apple users updated their OS during the first month after it was launched. Android did not achieve anywhere near the same performance before launching their new version.

See the embarrassing discrepancy below:

ios+android_adoption_rate

Source: http://www.businessinsider.com/iOS-vs-android-adoption-rate-2015-6

What this means for any company considering launching an app on Android is that controlling various versions will be a hassle, increased in-app testing will be needed, and version specific bug fixes will have to be implemented. Never mind the fact that an Android app takes 40% longer to write. The uncontested winner here is iOS, and that’s by a long a shot.

8. How important are the publishing policies between the two platforms to your business (do you anticipate regular updates or not)?

Android allows frequent app updates; Apple’s iOS has strict policies which will limit your release flexibility and updates.

On the Android platform, publishing an app is an effortless act. You simply deploy your app to your Google Play store and it becomes available for downloads, usually within hours of your deployment. Secondly, Google Play allows you to update your app multiple times a day should there be critical issues you need to fix. Finally, Google Play allows you to publish an alpha and beta version to Google Play - that way you can actually publish your app on Google Play and do live testing on it, fix issues, and then launch it to the general public.

In contrast, publishing an app on iOS can be described as a nightmare without any fear of exaggerating. It requires various levels of approval from the iOS team with bureaucratic reviews with the app deployment taking up to one week. For the “giants” in the field the process can take as little as one day but most companies should not anticipate more than 2-3 deployments per month.

9. Does your business model require staggered releases across devices?

Android’s options for staggered releases wins the battle by providing companies with the flexibility to roll out and test their apps and new features to a subset of users before rolling out the release to all customers.

Google Play has the ability to allow for a staggered release, an option loved by everyone from business stakeholders to analytics experts to product managers. A staggered release allows you to deploy the app gradually to various percentages of users, observe their interactions, and then increase the percentage of users who can access it over time. So, for example, a new version of the app is released to only 5% of the users, then gradually increased to 25%, 50%, 75%, and finally100% of the users.

This option is specifically used by businesses with high amounts of traffic on a daily basis where the impact of a bug on the app could have a disastrous impact on their app revenue. Take for example a game like Candy Crush. If they wanted to add five more episodes to their game, they would choose a staggered approach and ensure everything is working as expected. Large retail companies are another example where the risk of having any bugs after a major release is mitigated by the fact that they employ staggered releases for their applications. Once they release a new version of their app to 1-5% of their user base they either progress with the release to all users should everything be verified to be working as expected, or, if issues are found, roll back their code. This ensures any problems only impact a small amount of users instead of all the users of their app. Google Play offers the option for staggered releases; iOS does not - at least for the time being.

10. Do you have to build your app on both iOS and Android at the same time?

Choose a platform, build your app, and test it heavily. Strategically building your app on both platforms at the same time is not wise.

Most companies understand the need to build a mobile application as soon as possible to be relevant in today’s digital marketplace. And we recognize that. But the last thing you want to be doing is building your app on both iOS and Android at the same time. While it's true that developing your app on both platforms would help you reach a staggering 96% of the Smartphone global market, the philosophy of failing fast (build your app fast then fix things later) simply doesn’t apply well in the case of mobile app development because the cost of building the app on both platforms at the same time would impact your ROI significantly.

Mature software development goes through a predictable process: identify business needs, create wireframes, design high fidelity comps, perform user testing (not as well used as it should be!), develop the software based on final comps, perform quality analysis, release the software, and then monitor the performance of your software (analytics). If improvements are needed post release (and 90% of the time they are!) you go back to step one by writing the new business requirements based on the data you've gathered. Deviations from this plan typically result in lost productivity (time & money), user confusion, user frustration and finally lost revenue/traffic to your digital product. In the case of mobile app development, if you don’t have a mobile presence at all, building your apps in parallel is not a good idea because when you finally get to the point of gathering data and making changes you now need to fix an issue on both platforms – aka double work.

That is why the strategic call you should make, regardless of the underlying platform, is to build your app on either iOS or Android first, then gauge your audience’s reaction, make necessary changes, bring your app to a mature state where your critical flows have been thoroughly tested and user approved (transactional, profile management, post order in-app tasks, etc), and then move on to developing your app on the second platform.

android retention rate

The second reason you should develop for one platform only is that no matter how good your app is, your customer retention stats will look very dim. According to Quettra research, apps on Android lose 77% of their customer base (users who downloaded the app) in three days after an app is downloaded, and a staggering 95% of their users within 3 months. iOS apps have similar engagement patterns as well.

 

And this is your average app. Imagine if you put all the effort into building an app on two platforms simultaneously only to lose all these customers.  So, the smart thing to do is build your app on one platform, learn from your users, make improvements, and then expand to the other platform. Take Instagram for example – they launched the iOS app and waited two years before developing the same app on Android. The reason behind their choice? Making the iOS application as robust as possible before moving on to another platform.

The bottom line: iOS a better option despite all Android’s advantages

Yes, there are fewer iOS users out there (80% fewer than Android users). Yes, developing an app on iOS becomes more tedious because of Apple’s stringent UX rules for app development. Yes, the iOS SDK takes a lot of time getting used to. And certainly, Android is appealing when it comes to its overall user base across the world and its majority stake in the US. But taking all things into account – market share, iOS vs Android demographics, time to market, users’ power purchase, the relative simplicity of the iOS SDK and IDE - it makes sense to build your app on iOS first.

Sure, Google will continue bragging about Android’s low barrier of entry, code portability and flexible app publishing process. But until Google can find a way to brings its users to the latest version of Android, develop a more vigorous development framework and make their SDK more robust, the iOS takes the cake. Financially, strategically, and tactically, iOS remains the best choice for launching your first app. Sorry Google, we have faith in you, but you’re not there yet.

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