A closer look at App Store in iOS 7

iOS 7 (App Store teaser)

Like all stock apps, the App Store on iOS 7 has been graced with a sprinkle of Jony Ive’s magic. Not only does the storefront looks a lot nicer now – gone is the dark-themed look in favor for sleek appearance with lots of white space for easier reading – the app is way smoother and nimbler than on iOS 6.

It also features several enhancements that will appeal to pretty much everyone, from parents and their kids to power users to the likes of Senator John McCain who will love not having to manually update apps on his iPhone. Here’s a quick look at all the changes in App Store on iOS 7…

The App Store in iOS 7 is all-white and flattened, which goes a long way toward enhancing your reading experience. The first thing immediately noticeable is just how quickly the storefront loads.

If you’re on iOS 6, you’re admittedly annoyed by the App Store’s painful sluggishness – it takes anywhere between a few seconds to half a minute between tapping the App Store icon on your Home screen and seeing store content.

Even browsing different store sections has been sped up tremendously, which all makes a big difference in day to day use. Next, app pages have been tweaked a little. App blurb is now prominently labeled at the top, under the App Store Notes section.

iOS 7 (App Store, app blurb)

In addition to the Details screen, there are also Reviews and Related sections, like before. Your Description, Information, Update History, Developer Info, Developer Website and Privacy Policy sections are at the bottom. Another striking improvement to the overall layout is a revamped screenshot gallery.

iOS 7 (App Store, screenshots)

Just tap on the screenshot preview of an app to enter a nice full screen gallery where you can quickly swipe through all of the screenshots.

Automatic updates

During the congressional grilling on tax evasion, Senator John McCain unexpectedly  asked Apple’s boss Tim Cook “Why do I keep on having to update all the apps on my iPhone”?

McCain is no doubt going to love iOS 7.

Unlike automatic app downloading in Android, iOS 7 gives you greater control over when the App Store will auto-update applications on your device. For starters, your device defaults to downloading app updates only when on Wi-Fi and connected to power so that it doesn’t waste your precious battery.

Per Apple’s iOS 7 Features web page:

iOS schedules updates during power-efficient times. Like when your device is on and connected to Wi-Fi. So your battery isn’t drained unnecessarily

If enabled in Settings > iTunes & App Stores, the App Store can download updates using cellular data. Here you can also enable or disable automatic downloads for your Music, Apps, Books and Updates (iOS firmware).

iOS 7 (Settings, iTunes and App Stores, Automatic Downloads 001)

Unless absolutely necessary, users should disable this feature at all cost. Even though Apple delivers delta app updates in order to conserve bandwidth, don’t forget that cellular downloads count against your monthly allowance. This is of concern to everyone as most carriers have by now switched subscribers to metered plans and throttle their data.

Even with cellular downloads enabled, the App Store won’t actually install your updates in the background unless connected to power – again, conserving your battery and providing a better user experience. Pending updates will sit under the Updates tab in the App Store storefront. Just hit the Update All button to apply them.

iOS 7 (App Store, pending Updates 001)

When connected to power, your device will automatically install pending updates in the background. This is quite seamless and handy for average users who will be always running the latest and greatest version without any intervention on their part.

Powers users are a different story.

Updates to some apps introduce new issues, sometimes even removing features. A good example is MCTube Pro, an awesome YouTube client that in a recent update has removed caching ability at the request of Google.

MCTube Pro removes YouTube caching

I wanted to retain caching capability so I haven’t updated MCTube Pro. But not everyone pays attention to fine print in changelogs and release notes. Therefore, if you want complete control over automatic app updates on your iOS 7 device, your best bet is to disable the feature altogether.

Kids section

In order to appease to parents, Apple has added a brand new Kids section to the App Store on iOS 7. As the name implies, this is where Apple-curated applications for children can be found.

iOS 7 (App Store, Kids 001)

Sortable by age, the Kids section makes it easy for parents to discover new games and applications for their children.

Apps Near Me

Another great App Store improvement in iOS 7 is a new location-based app discovery option aptly named Apps Near Me. After hitting the Near Me tab and approving access to your location, the App Store will list all popular apps nearby.

iOS 7 (App Store, Apps Near Me 002)

The basic premise is to give folks recommendations for different apps based on either their location, or what local events they’re attending like a sports game or a music concert. It would appear Apps Near Me hasn’t been enabled yet as tapping the tab produced a message saying “There are no apps for your current location”.

iOS 7 (App Store, Apps Near Me 001)

We don’t know whether Apps Near Me stems from Apple’s acquisition of app discovery engine Chomp, but this feature is bound to get huge as it facilitates easy discovery of the apps you might be interested in, related to your local market.

Wish List

Also new in iOS 7: you can now add apps to a Wish List. To access the feature, hit the Share button on an app page in the App Store and choose Add to Wish List

Like before, the Share menu also includes options for gifting apps (a feature briefly pulled from iOS 6), copying the direct link, or sharing the app’s iTunes URL via Twitter, Facebook, Mail or Messages.

As depicted below, you can only add paid downloads to your Wish List, not free ones.

iOS 7 (App Store, Wish List 001)iOS 7 (App Store, Wish List 002)

Apple’s thinking behind making the distinction between paid and free is eyebrow-raising, to put it mildly. I’m also curious as to how Wish List will work with paid apps that have temporarily gone free. A dedicated button in the top right allows for a one-tap access to Wish List anywhere in the App Store. Here, you can check out all the software you’ve added to the list over time.

iOS 7 (App Store, Wish List 003)

As you could imagine, tapping the Edit button enters a multiple selection mode so you can remove multiple apps from your Wish List in one go. Swipe to the let to pull an app off your Wish List. What I’d love to see implemented is the ability to rearrange Wish List entries and organize these things into custom categories, such as Wish List for games, photography apps and so forth.

iOS 7 (App Store, Wish List 004)

A nice touch: buying an app that’s on your Wish List automatically removes it from here. Man, Apple does think of everything, no?

No matter how you look at it, Wish List is a clever move on Apple’s part.

The company is obviously betting on folks re-visiting their Wish List and buying those app they’ve been lusting after. And because it’s tied to your Apple ID account, your Wish List instantly refreshes on all iDevices.

Quite handy.

Redeem iTunes cards using your iCamera

This is another easily overlooked addition to the App Store on iOS 7.

Just like the Mac App Store, the App Store on iOS 7 devices lets you redeem iTunes Gift Cards by scanning the code with your device’s camera. As I explained last week, this little nugget is available upon hitting the Redeem button at the bottom of the Features section.

iOS 7 (Redeem iTunes card 001)

iTunes card scanning requires “a gift card with a box around the code,” the prompt cautions. iTunes gift card scanning doesn’t seem to work with the front-camera. Also, tap-to-focus appears to be disabledso you’ll have to bring your card close enough.

This feature taps Apple’s new API that allows developers to enhance their apps with the ability to “scan and recognize barcodes with the camera”.

Backend updates

In addition to App Store changes dependant on core iOS 7 features, Apple is continuously making backend server tweaks to improve layout. For example, the App Store on iPads running iOS 6 has recently added a brand new lefthand bar which makes it easy to sort your Purchased apps alphabetically.

iPad App Store (search 001)

In addition to browsing your Purchased items alphabetically, you can also zero in on a specific app by using the search field that was actually added back in October 2011 when iOS 6 launched for public consumption.

Summing up

Overall, I love the plumbing work on the App Store in iOS 7.

Snappy performance is bound to strike chord with everyone and some features will be appealing to certain types of users, like the Kids section for parents. And with Wish List and Apps Near Me, Apple is adamant about making the app discovery process easier.

During the WWDC keynote, Apple said it paid out ten billions dollars to developers thus far, solidifying the App Store’s lead as the most vibrant and lucrative app platform on the planet. And with three times the revenue of Android and every other mobile platform, it is clear that Android – despite its market share advantage – doesn’t play on the same level as Apple’s App Store.

WWDC 2013 keynote (App Store reevenue by platform)

By the way, the App Store is turning five next month.

Between flattened UI and a bunch of new APIs, iOS 7 will breathe new life into third-party apps as developers infuse their warez with clarity, iOS 7 look and feel and new capabilities such as AirDrop wireless sharing, native sharing to Flickr and Vimeo (and possibly LinkedIn) and more.

Apple is slated to release iOS 7 this Fall.

If history is anything to go by, the firmware update will hit Apple’s servers a few days before the next iPhone lands on store shelves.

As always, some iOS 7 features are hardware dependant and may not work on all devices – see our iOS 7 compatibility list.

iOS 7 (App Store teaser 002)

You may also want to take a look at my walkthrough of Messages in iOS 7, check out a list of the supposedly “missing” iOS 7 features and read Oliver’s excellent advisory of sorts on pre-release software titled “Calm down, it’s only a beta”.

So, did I miss anything?

What other features would you like to see in App Store on iOS 7?

Please, do join the discussion down in the comments.