6 things the Mac App Store can learn from iOS

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App Store_3
The Mac App Store could use some support.
Photo: Ste Smith/Cult of Mac

This is a guest post by Karthik Suroju, a digital marketer at CloudMagic.

The iOS App Store is a one-stop destination for everything consumers need on the iPhone and iPad. However, that’s not the case with the Mac App Store. At the beginning of January 2016, there were 1,234,267 apps for iPhones, 662,984 for iPads and a mere 27,011 for Macs.

We launched an email app on the Mac App Store on January 6 and it immediately shot up to become the No. 2 top-paid app across all categories. Apple featured us and Product Hunt loved us. (We were the most upvoted product of the day.) TechCrunch, Macworld, iMore, Cult of Mac, The Atlantic, The Next Web and many others covered our launch. More importantly, our app, CloudMagic Mac, completed the experience for our iPhone and iPad users.

Considering these factors, we’d say that building an app for the Mac App Store is worth it. But we had our fair share of, “Apple should’ve provided this.” Here are the six major supports available in the iOS App Store that are missing from the Mac App Store.

1. TestFlight

Apple’s TestFlight makes it easy to invite users to test iOS apps before release. But there’s no TestFlight for Mac. Apple provides a way to beta-test Mac apps, but it’s in no way close to what TestFlight offers.

In our case, we wanted to show the app to influencers and journalists before the launch. In a world where getting the attention of influencers is difficult, try getting the UUID! It’s the most annoying part of a campaign. We managed to get journalists from top publications to try our beta, but the campaign would have been much smoother with TestFlight.

Mac app distribution process vs. TestFlight

    • Journalists/users need to go through the pain of sharing their UUIDs, the universally unique identifier for their specific device. With TestFlight, the process is far simpler: Just share the email ID.
    • You need to register their Macs to share a beta versus just uploading an email list in TestFlight.
    • You share app updates as a file versus auto-updates on TestFlight.
    • There is room for only 100 beta testers compared with TestFlight’s 2,000.

Also, if you use the Apple Push Notification Service (APNS), you need to create a new provisioning profile every time you register a new machine. If you use a profile with the same name, push notifications fail for your existing beta users as their profiles become invalid. In short, the so-called app distribution will only increase the burden on developers instead of helping. If Apple really wants to help Mac developers, they should bring TestFlight to the Mac App Store.

#ProTip: Once your app is approved, you can immediately generate promo codes and distribute the app to journalists. This only works if you decide to give yourself a few days between the app approval and release.

2. App previews

Videos better convey the experience of using an app than descriptions and screenshots do. Apple allows developers to upload app preview videos in the iOS App Store. According to Apple, “App previews can help customers better understand your app and encourage more downloads.” That’s true. From our experience, store-views-to-installs conversion increased after we added app previews to our iOS app listing.

With no free trials available, wouldn’t it be ideal to provide as much useful information as possible on the app page in the Mac App Store?

3. App Analytics

For our iOS app, we regularly look at metrics such as app store views, download sources, retention rate, app units to app store views ratio, and crashes. We’ve written a blog post on how App Analytics helps you make key decisions.

With no App Analytics for the Mac App Store, we are unsure if the present set of descriptions and screenshots are the best combination for marketing our Mac app. We cannot pinpoint the source or measure the retention rate. If App Analytics provides answers, why is it not available for Mac developers?

4. Free trials

Like many app developers, we get numerous comments on our Product Hunt page asking for free trials. However, because the Mac App Store does not provide a way to give out free trials, many developers create alternative methods to sell apps, such as through their own websites.

That’s bad news for the Mac App Store (and for app developers). As this blog post points out, free trials are a way for developers to say, “Hey, we believe in our app and stand by it. Try it out for a month to see how it helps your life.”

Free trials are a surefire way to hook hesitant purchasers and show them why they need your app. They get to experience the app for themselves rather than having to rely on third-party reports.

5. Replying to reviews

There are few things more frustrating than seeing a review of your app that points out a simple problem and not being able to respond. But that’s the way it is on the Mac App Store.

Can you think of any other store that does not allow anyone to reply to reviews? Developers need this feature to address issues in real time, and we’re not asking for wild privileges. We’d like to be able to respond one time per review.

6. Resetting reviews

Ratings and reviews on the Mac App Store get reset each time an update goes out, and the “All Versions” reviews are hidden. So, if you have an app for a year at five stars and 1,000 reviews, too bad. All that information disappears and becomes zero when you publish a minor bug fix update. That is a powerful incentive to not fix app problems.

Our hope is that Apple starts to take Mac developers seriously. Apple should empower us with the tools we need to succeed even more. After all, Apple is about the ecosystem — and users love to have a consistent experience across devices.

What other Mac App Store problems need fixing?

What else does the Mac App Store need to catch up to the iOS and Android app stores? How can developers and consumers help make it happen? Please share your two cents in the comments below.

Karthik_Suroju_Profile_picture_croppedKarthik Suroju is a digital marketer @CloudMagic. An avid reader, he wishes Harper Lee would have written more. Always open for a discussion on sports, startups and The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. Follow him on Twitter @karthiksuroju

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  • shannon_f

    Thanks for posting this, it’s good to read about things that consumers maybe don’t know about the MAS and why it’s not working well

  • dave

    I am a huge Apple nerd, i drink the kool-aid almost everytime it’s offered. So if Apple says it’s better to have one centralized app store to keep things streamlined, updated, virus/malware free, and easy to search then I believe them. BUT they seriously need to spend a lot more time prioritizing the mac app store and giving developers a decent reason to be there. It’s like a desert wasteland on there, plus the odd time I find an app I actually want, it turns out the version available on steam or the developers website is better anyway.

  • Pavel Lahoda

    I am glad that most of your points are easy to solve by not using AppStore for Mac..many developers are doing just that. iOS would be a better place if AppStore was not exclusive distribution platform and you had a chance to provide trials, upgrades etc. outside the AppStore as it is possible on the Mac (or Android).