Apple rolls out peer group benchmarks for developers

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Apple Developer News:

Starting today, you can put your app’s performance into context using peer group benchmarks, which compare your app’s performance to that of similar apps on the App Store. Now you’ll have even more insights to help you identify growth opportunities.

Peer group benchmarks provide powerful new insights across the customer journey, so you can better understand what works well for your app and find opportunities for improvement. Apps are placed into groups based on their App Store category, business model, and download volume to ensure relevant comparisons. Using industry-leading differential privacy techniques, peer group benchmarks provide relevant and actionable insights — all while keeping the performance of individual apps private.

Having checked out the benchmark data for some of the apps I ship or work on, it’s evident Apple still has a way to go if they want these benchmarks to be on par with the data that’s available for Android developers via the Google Play Console. Where Google allow developers to create peer groups containing specific apps, Apple’s approach is based on your apps category, monetisation strategy and download count.

Google’s approach allows for comparison to your actual market competitors, Apple’s is far more generic and less meaningful. But given Apple’s stance towards privacy, and the clear emphasis on protecting individual app privacy it’s hard to see that changing.

On the flip-side, it’s fascinating to be able to compare some metrics and see how well your app is performing against other apps. It adds a valuable context to some of the metrics already available in App Store Connect.

Apple rolls out iOS 16.4 beta 1

NASA Visualization Explorer Now Available For All iOS Devices

Apple is back with a new round of betas today, this time for iOS 16.4, iPadOS 16.4, macOS 13.3, tvOS 16.4, and watchOS 9.4. Apple hasn’t released any betas since iOS 16.3 reached general availability in January.

iOS 16.4 beta 1 includes a number of changes, including support for new Unicode 15 emojis, manual and automatic updates for Matter accessories.

There’s also new support for OAuth and other types of authorisation requests from SwiftUI, but perhaps the most notable feature included in 16.4 are the changes made to Safari and WebKit. Push notification support is being added for web apps. However, push notifications will only be supported for web apps added to a user’s home screen. In total, Apple says 135 new features are included in WebKit as part of Safari 16.4.

And notably for developers, from iOS 16.4 onwards you’ll be able to opt-in to developer betas directly from the Settings app as long as you’re signed in with the Apple ID used to enrol into the Apple Developer program. Otherwise you’ll only be able to opt-in to the public beta program. Apple will cease issuing configuration profiles in future releases of iOS.

Apple to focus on mixed-reality headset in 2023

Bloomberg (Mark Gurman):

Apple Inc., after seven years of development, is nearly ready to launch its first mixed-reality headset. But the focus on this new product will lead to an otherwise muted 2023.

Up until fairly recently, Apple had aimed to introduce the headset in January 2023 and ship it later this year. Now the company is aiming to unveil it this spring ahead of the annual Worldwide Developers Conference in June, I’m told.

Apple has already shared the device with a small number of high-profile software developers for testing, letting them get started on third-party apps. 

If Mark Gurman is on the money, then 2023 is shaping up to be a relatively quiet year for most Apple product categories. Aside from the mixed reality headset, which has been rumoured for many years.

If Gurman’s sources are correct, it sounds like Apple is still having issues with developer tooling for the headset. Given the importance of getting developers on board, hopefully the company can resolve these issues shortly. The last thing we want is another development experience reminiscent of developing for Apple Watch, which can be frustrating to say the least.

With so much of the company’s efforts spent on getting the mixed-reality headset out the door, Mark is predicting a quiet year for most other product lines. The iPhone may see a number of changes in including USB-C and a switch to a titanium body. While the Mac lineup will see minor spec bumps across the line and a Mac Pro that resembles the existing Intel hardware.

One benefit of a quieter year for the other product lines is the chance for Apple to pause and ship versions of iOS, macOS, watchOS and tvOS that focus on stability, reliability and performance. So expect much of the focus for WWDC this year to be on the headset and the new ‘reality OS’, and less so on splashy iOS & macOS features.

Apple shuts down Dark Sky app

After acquiring Dark Sky in March 2020, as of January 1, 2023 the Dark Sky app is no longer available. Apple will continue to support the Dark Sky API until March 21, at which point it will also be switched off.

Apple has also published a new support guide for those looking at how Apple Weather can replace Dark Sky:

Dark Sky’s features have been integrated into Apple Weather. Apple Weather offers hyperlocal forecasts for your current location, including next-hour precipitation, hourly forecasts for the next 10 days, high-resolution radar, and notifications.

Apple used Dark Sky technology to roll out WeatherKit in 2022, which is now in use in the Apple Weather app across iOS, macOS and more. A REST API is also available, and Apple is encouraging developers to migrate immediately to avoid problems once the Dark Sky app is switched off in March.

Apple adds new code signing technotes

If you’re looking to find out more about code signing for Apple’s platforms (iOS, macOS, tvOS, watchOS etc.) then Apple has just published some new content on the topic.

Apple has been slowly adding more technical articles back to the Apple Developer site since adding the new Technotes section in February, and in the last few days the company has added a new series of articles about code signing.

The articles form a series – dubbed ‘Inside code signing’ – that deep-dive into the world of code signing and cover certificates, hashing, provisioning profiles and more.

Code signing is a foundational technology on all Apple platforms. Many documents that discuss code signing focus on solving a specific problem. The Inside Code Signing technote series is different: It peeks behind the code signing curtain, to give you a better understanding of how this technology works.

TN3125: Inside Code Signing: Provisioning Profiles

Not only does Apple cover theoretical concepts, there’s also a sprinkling of examples of command line tools that can be used to extract information from provisioning profiles, perform code signing and more.

Apple had been posting some of the content about code signing recently to the Apple Developer Forums, but having them centralised in this series on the Technotes site is much better for discoverability and readability.

The language of the articles has also been made more formal, with more examples provided to better suit the technotes format and style.

Apple clarifies app removal policy

Apple has issued a note to developers after recent media reports about them removing apps from the App Store that haven’t been updated in 2+ years:

As part of the App Store Improvements process, developers of apps that have not been updated within the last three years and fail to meet a minimal download threshold — meaning the app has not been downloaded at all or extremely few times during a rolling 12 month period — receive an email notifying them that their app has been identified for possible removal from the App Store.

Apple always wants to help developers get and keep quality software on the App Store. That’s why developers can appeal app removals. And developers, including those who recently received a notice, will now be given more time to update their apps if needed — up to 90 days. Apps that are removed will continue to function as normal for users who have already downloaded the app on their device.

Apple Developer News & Updates

It’s unclear why this has suddenly made mainstream headlines, as this program has been ongoing for many years now since 2016. Perhaps this time around Apple has inadvertently targeted more popular app developers, or enough time has passed since the program was announced that many forgot about it?

If you do get hit by an app removal notice, you’ll now have 90 days (an increase from 30 days) to issue an update to keep the app in the store.

And based on the wording of the post, if your app continues to function and doesn’t require an update you can appeal to Apple to keep the app in the store.