On Marco’s fertile ground

by davidnielsen

Instapaper creator Marco Arment on iOS 7 being fertile ground.

A wonderful little article and I think Marco is mostly right in his assessment that existing players will have some hard choices to make in supporting iOS 7.

It is a completely new world, and major redesigns will be needed to fit in, also there is no way to properly support older versions of iOS with the same application and looking native on both platforms. It is largely one or the other, and the only way to have both is maintaining an application for each which would present a huge burden for most developers.

Properly architected applications with separated core and user interface, such as encouraged by Xamarin with their .NET based development tools though will have a leg up in supporting both platforms to their maximum and the burden involved with supporting both will thus be lower.

Such development is done by e.g. Rdio and the result is that they are enabled to deploy on multiplatforms with nicely integrated native apps at low development cost. Applications employing such tools and development technics will be able to treat iOS 7 as merely another platform to support and will likely get to market very rapidly and feature a native application with broad functionality.

Sadly most applications do not fall into this category, but I doubt it will matter much for most applications.

Unless there is an existing need to support older platforms, such as a contractual obligation or an existing vast userbase on e.g. iOS 6 and below who cannot upgrade which cannot be sacrificed on the alter of progress.

If you are Facebook, Angry Birds or Candy Crush you will have to support everything, but the average developer is unlikely to have to care about non-iOS 7 users simply because they will be representing a fairly small share of all users, and that share will be shrinking over time so there is little hope for generating lots of income compared to the development investment it will take and the compromises that will be needed in the application to accommodate these users.

Now a year after iOS 6 has been introduced more than 92% of all iPhones are using it and 83% of all iPads[1]. iOS 7 adoption will likely be lower after its first year due to deprecating older devices like the 3GS which are still in use, especially in markets where Apple devices are expensive or technologically out of step with the US market (such as Brazil where the iPhone 4 is still sold today as a highend phone by some companies without any subsidies available).

Also being a major change is likely to make people hold off a bit longer than usual, as has been seen with other platforms that radically changed their interface.

That being said it can still be expected to be very high. No other platform has the update rate iOS has and there is little to stop that from continuing. Apple have made a lot of right choices regarding iOS upgrades such as making them free and easy to apply. That has clearly paid off for them as the numbers reflect.

Where new players have the advantage in my mind is that they will have a chance to build their application directly for the new platform without having their mind tied to an existing userbase or an existing custom user interface. That clarity of mind is likely to be the biggest factor counting in favor of new developers and new applications entering the market. There is no taint or worries about the past, and there is a window open while the existing players execute their game plan for iOS 7 and beyond.

iOS 7 represents not just a new look and feel but a set of functionality that developers will want to rely on being present. Such as the opportunistic downloading so applications will no longer have to refresh data upon loading thus delaying the users access to the content she is interested in.

Examples of this kind of limitation can be seen in Feedly which reloads upon loading to get the freshest news stories or in Pocket which has to poll its servers for the latest articles you saved to read later. These application can now refresh when the user does things unrelated to the application which lead to waking up the device, like quickly checking the time or responding to a message.

This will lead to smoother, quicker feeling applications as a result of using features only available in iOS 7, will make it desireable to depend on in the very design and execution of the application. Thus going for iOS 7 and above only support will present an advantage to developers, and users will get better applications as a result of it.

The only set of applications that will likely suffer greatly will be largely unmaintained free applications that generate income solely from displaying ads. I doubt these kinds of applications will be able to support the development investment required to support iOS 7 properly. These apps are typically dead wood and cutting them from the tree will do it good. I think users will be served better by new actively maintained iOS 7 applications and if these new apps are 99 cents rather than free then that is a small price to pay for progress.

Progress is good.

  1. Chitika Insights analysis as of June 6th 2013.  ↩