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24 February 2014

Apple’s forced iOS 7 update and Xcode 5 migration


iOS Developers have been receiving emails from Apple warning them of the impending forced migration to Xcode 5 and iOS7 SDK for weeks now.  Large development houses have most likely been building against and using the iOS7 SDK for months now as they push the feature set and update the look and feel of their apps.  What, however, does this forced migration mean for independent iOS developers or small to mid-size businesses with apps in the marketplace?  Is your app going to disappear?  Is there a grace period?  Let’s look at some of the specifics around what Apple will do.

Apple’s exact words were:

“Make sure your apps work seamlessly with the innovative technologies in iOS 7. Starting February 1, new apps and app updates submitted to the App Store must be built with Xcode 5 and iOS 7 SDK.”

Apple wants as many of it’s users on iOS 7 and using it’s latest hardware as possible, which means having as many apps built for iOS and the iPhone 5 as possible.  The route Apple is taking is to restrict what they accept in their App Store.  For comparison, Google does not perform any review of the apps submitted to Google Play.  This simplifies things for developers while creating a different app store experience than that of the Apple App Store.

Apple will only accept new applications that were built using Xcode 5 and use the iOS 7 SDK.  In addition, they will only accept app updates that have been built using Xcode 5 and the iOS 7 SDK.  There is no grace period in this, after February 1 these are the new rules.  That being said, Apple will not remove apps from the App Store.  Apple has been very profuse and verbose with information on migrating an app from iOS 6 to iOS 7.  For example, they offer a design guide which includes a transition guide.

 The short answer is your app will survive.  The long answer is if you want your app to succeed you will need to transition to iOS 7 sooner than later.  Most apps that have not transitioned to use iOS7 offer a lower quality user experience.  Sometimes this comes in the form of a reduced view frame, black boxes on the sides of your app, but most of the time it’s more subtle…the app looks outdated or not as clean as other apps.  The subtle differences are not always readily perceptible to the end user, but they impact the experience the user has and in the end how likely that user will return to use your app again.

 For businesses, a reduced user experience can lead to a decrease in that user’s activity or engagement with the business and therefore result in reduced revenue.  All of this can be avoided with some fairly straightforward maintenance of your app(s) as updates to iOS come out.  Most iOS applications do not need a complete overhaul to comply with Apple’s impending requirements and to use the iOS 7 SDK.  From a cost perspective, this update is fractional compared to the overall cost of designing and developing the app in the first place and can usually be completed fairly quickly, a matter of days not weeks or months.

A mobile application should be thought of as a dynamic extension of your business, not a one-time investment that sits on “the shelf” and magically draws customers in.

Today’s mobile users are expecting updated content and an updated look and feel.  If you view updates to iOS as an opportunity to improve the user experience you deliver and not as a hassle to just comply, you will retain more customers and create more engagement from your existing customer base.

 Giving your application an aesthetic update is also a fractional cost compared to the original development of the application.

This is part of the maintenance of your app.  Just like you need to fix bugs in the application you need to update the outward appearance and usability.  If you do not have an in-house development team to handle these fixes and updates we offer a variety of services from a one-time migration, to the design of a graphical update to long term service and maintenance contracts fixing bugs, migrating to OS updates and general app maintenance. Contact us for more information.

 The bottom line is you should give you application the same attention you want your users to give it.  Your customers will follow your lead, as you ignore it they will too.