Apple TV App Store: why is it great and what it lacks

Lukas Korba (Twitter, personal site), my friend and business partner, published his first impressions about Apple TV from a developers point of view. I found his remarks interesting and this is the first guest post with some more coming in the future.

Last Friday came the long-awaited moment when Apple released Apple TV as well as its native App Store. Let’s take a look at how it works compared to its well-known older brother from iOS. At first glance, you’ll notice that it is very minimalist. Actually, it offers a “Featured” section, which is a selection of the most interesting in the view of the editorial team. Then it has just an overview of your purchased applications and search for the entire database. This is nothing unexpected as the new Apple TV is trying to follow in the footsteps of past trends, when Apple minimized both design as well as actual use. With a simple controller in your hand you do not want to tediously go through a complex structure of many screens.

App Store in a minimalist version

The problem is whether such a minimization isn’t a pity in itself. Under its slogan “the future of television is in applications” is just the application and without that, Apple TV is only a powerful machine. But how do you get to applications when the official store only provides you a view of a selected set? There are not any top rankings and you can’t filter by category. Easily after spending five minutes you don’t know what to look for and where to get any inspiration. That’s the same principle of the Apple Watch Store which hasn’t significantly changed since the launch in April.

Largest iOS hits redesigned for a large screen

What then does a selection by the editorial team have to offer? Basically, it is the largest hits of iOS applications and games, designed for a Full HD screen. Indie developers hope that this will change in the future. It is not clear yet whether they will regularly update promoted apps and games on Thursday, but given the similarities to the Watch Store it should be expected that Apple will retain the best-selling and well-known products and rarely give a chance to others. One of the few nice things is that thanks to the “Universal Purchase”, users do not have to pay for an application or a game twice. This applies when the game developer publishes the game with the same ID as the iOS version.

The App Store in the new Apple TV through the eyes of the developer

My own experience is that Apple approves applications for TV in a matter of hours. In just one day, I was able to get approval of 3 versions of my game Octagon. Compare this to a week for iOS and OS X which is a big difference. The start of the Apple TV is simply a priority and Apple itself will be relieved when it has put its hectic year behind it. But there are several issues that complicate life of developers. First problem is sales reports, which Apple generates daily, does not distinguish how many sales took place on iOS and how much for tvOS. This is true for applications that use the principle of the “Universal Purchase”. From a marketing perspective, it is crucial information!

Second, developers couldn’t find whether their apps are featured outside of their home country store. Once you start earning surprisingly good revenue, you don’t have a way to discover where your app or game is promoted by Apple. The store hasn’t the classic country switch as in the App or Mac App Store and also analytics companies such as AppAnnie aren’t covering this new platform yet.

My solution was to establish a new Apple ID for the United States, which revealed that my game Octagon is featured in the US in the Top Paid Apps and More Games to Explore. Later, I found out that the Czech store is quite similar to the Australian, while the US has an additional important tab called “Top Charts”.

Do you own Apple TV? Please share with me your first impressions on which games and apps are worth trying.

Update 1 (Nov 5): New categories

Apple appears to have updated the tvOS App Store to add a new Categories section, which should make it easier for new Apple TV owners to discover apps on their devices. Like the iOS App Store, the new Categories section arranges apps into different sections based on purpose, like Games and Entertainment.

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