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iOS 16 Release: What's New for ASO?

Simon Thillay by ,  Head of ASO at AppTweak

For Apple customers and mobile marketers, September is usually a busy month with the annual unveiling of a new iPhone and iOS. The year 2022 is no exception, with the recent release of iOS 16 on 13 September. But while iOS 15 was very much anticipated by ASO practitioners, iOS 16 has not caused much hype in the industry. So let’s take a look at what’s actually changing for ASO this September with the release of iOS 16.


Nothing new for the App Store with iOS 16?

At first glance, iOS 16 is not changing the App Store as we know it. The store’s user interface remains unchanged (despite an A/B test spotted by ASO Stack Slack users a few months ago, fourth screenshots still do not show in iPhone search results). Neither do we have juicy new features, like iOS 15’s custom product pages (CPP) and in-app events (IAEs). This, of course, makes sense given that iOS 15 introduced considerable changes for ASO, and many developers are still in the process of adopting them.

With that being said, it’s worth noting that the fine print of the App Store privacy policy highlights the use of consumer information to offer users personalized recommendations (as seen in the screenshots below). This is not necessarily new information, but it confirms that all users may not be presented with the exact same content in the store.

AppTweak has found that this applies to featuring inventories – 6 stories in the Today tab shown to all App Store users in one territory, while up to 24 additional stories were displayed to certain users as a result of these personalized recommendations.

App Store privacy policy notesSource: apple.com

This can, therefore, be seen to confirm the evolution of the App Store, suggesting that Apple may look to introduce more targeted inventories for organic store visibility on top of the upcoming changes to Apple Search Ads.

That said, it’s also worth noting that - so far - there has been no indication that personalization could affect organic search results, given Apple’s own “story” about search results and rankings, directly available on the App Store.

Apple’s new features offer opportunities for certain apps

Although the App Store itself is not changing with iOS 16, some new features introduced by Apple will affect certain apps and their ASO operations:

The introduction of a depth effect to the lock screen, combined with the possibility to rotate images used on the lock screen and the addition of lock screen widgets are likely to produce a temporary trend in wallpaper apps and other apps that make widgets a core feature of their product. This is similar to what was observed two years ago when iOS 14 introduced widgets for the home screen. This will, of course, also be supported by the featuring opportunities Apple will grant to apps leveraging these new iOS 16 functionalities.

iOS 16 Apple wallpapersiOS 16 wallpapers. Source: apple.com

Beyond the temporary benefits, these functionalities in iOS 16 may also impact consumer expectations regarding certain types of apps for which background execution is essential (music apps for instance) and that users may want to exert more control over from their lock screen. For such apps, offering a lock screen widget may be a great opportunity to engage and retain long-term users and show new benefits for active and lapsed users.

Keep in mind Apple’s featuring opportunities

With every new version of iOS comes the opportunity for developers to ask Apple for exposure in exchange for early adoption of the new OS features. This year will be no exception, with some of the following opportunities to keep in mind:

  • The addition of “achievements” in the Game Center will be of potential interest to all game developers.
  • “Live Activities” notifications should grab the attention of news & sports apps.
  • SharePlay via FaceTime gives media & entertainment apps (in particular, music & video streaming apps) new options for sharing content.
  • Parental control setting options attached to Family Sharing also adds a new functionality to gain trust among parents for apps targeting multiple age groups.

Get an overview of your app’s featurings

iOS 16 Apple Live ActivitiesiOS 16 Live Activities. Source: apple.com

What will happen for the Health & Fitness category?

Looking at the potential ripple effects from iOS 16, something to not underestimate will be the release of Apple’s Fitness app for all iPhone users (it was previously only available to Apple Watch users). This is likely to worry top app developers in the Health & Fitness category, given that Apple has often been accused of favoring its own apps with special exposure.

While it appears that the Fitness app now comes pre-installed with every iOS 16 software installation, the app’s visibility on the App Store does not appear to have surged already one day after the release. The app remains outside of the top 200 Health & Fitness apps in the US and does not yet appear to have gained keyword rankings for terms like “workouts.”

Apple also seems to have aimed at a non-confrontational approach in the category by announcing that any workouts completed in third-party apps also contribute to closing the user’s Move ring. Therefore, it positions its app as a complement to other Health & Fitness apps. Nevertheless, only time will tell if the Health & Fitness app market will undergo the same competition as in music or video categories.

Health and Fitness app seasonality for marketing

New properties in StoreKit & ASO changes for app developers

While iOS 16 does not bring much novelty to the consumer-facing part of ASO, marketers may find consolation in certain developer-facing changes that will offer new opportunities:

  • It is worth noting that new StoreKit properties announced in the iOS 16 release notes will grant more granularity to developers setting up and/or analyzing in-app purchases. Specifically, developers should be able to better navigate price localization and subscription management.
  • More importantly, Apple announced during WWDC 2022 that it will release a new Benchmark feature in the Analytics section of App Store Connect. This feature will allow developers to compare their app’s performance to a peer group. It will also help developers identify in which quartile their app ranks when it comes to conversion rates, retention rates, crash rates, and Proceeds Per Paying User available in App Store Connect (peer groups will be based on store category and monetization model, but will not let developers create custom peer groups themselves).

    Unfortunately, this new App Store Connect feature will not be immediately available (it was announced during WWDC 2022 that the feature would only be available in early 2023), but it will likely be anticipated by developers.

Benchmarking conversion rate in App Store Connect
Benchmarking conversion rate in App Store Connect. Source: apple.com

  • Last but not the least, an important upcoming ASO change will be the addition of new Apple Search Ads inventories. Though this is not directly tied to the release of iOS 16, Apple announced that a virtual event for Search Ads users will be held on September 21. Apple also partially confirmed (an already leaked information) that more ad inventories are coming to the App Store. We will, of course, cover these announcements and keep you informed in our upcoming blogs.

Watch this space to learn more about iOS 16 updates.

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Simon Thillay

by ,  Head of ASO at AppTweak

Simon is Head of ASO at AppTweak, helping apps boost their visibility and downloads. He's passionate about new technologies, growth organizations, and inline speed skating.