The daily App Store

A couple months into the major iOS 11 App Store redesign, it’s become a daily “thing to check” for me.

The stream of content on the Today tab is consistently interesting, even if I don’t want every app. I enjoy the variety of pieces and roundups, especially the developer deep dives where they put a face to an app, so to speak. After all, there are humans behind all these little round squares.

My only minor complaint is that I wish the Apps tab would update more frequently. Rotating the entire thing daily sounds a bit much, but perhaps some parts could swap out more often than they do now.

Anyway, hats off to the App Store team.

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How to easily find, get all your Apple TV apps

If you’re curious to see whether an app you use has an Apple TV version, or if you just want a one-stop place to grab all available apps, check your Apple TV’s App Store. Under Purchased > Not on This Apple TV, you’ll see Apple TV versions of every app you’ve ever downloaded.

Since they’re all universal purchases—meaning there is (currently) no way to charge separately or extra for the Apple TV version of an app—all apps listed here are free downloads as long as you purchased or downloaded the iPhone or iPad version first.


iPhone 6S owners can peek and pop in the App Store

It wasn’t available when the 6S launched, but one of the recent iOS 9 updates added peek and pop for apps in the store. It’s a great way to take a quick glance at an interesting app, then press a little harder to dive in deeper. Unfortunately, swiping up while peeking won’t offer any of the common shortcuts you’ll find with this gesture in other apps. It would be nice to share an app with this swipe or add them to our wishlist.

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[Updated] The trouble with having two Apple IDs


Apple now has a feature called Family Sharing. Among other things, it allows for sharing purchased content and apps between multiple Apple IDs in an account. Read more about how it works on Apple’s site, as it solves mout, possibly all, of the trouble mentioned here.

The public release of Apple’s music subscription service ‘Apple Music’ brought my one major gripe with Apple’s account system into focus again: The fact that Apple doesn’t allow merging of Apple IDs will mess with your ability to make use of iCloud Family Sharing and the Apple Music Family Membership.

How to end up with two Apple IDs

I have two accounts with Apple. One is the iTunes ID that I created when I bought my first Apple device in 2004 — a 4th generation iPod, thankyouverymuch, and yes it still works nicely. The other was created when I bought my first Mac in 2008 and signed up for a MobileMe address.

When Apple introduced iCloud in 2011, all MobileMe accounts were converted into iCloud accounts and became Apple IDs, with all the capabilities of an Apple ID used in the iTunes and App Store. That’s where the problems started because many users were left with two Apple IDs and no way to merge them.

Since Apple made this change, they’ve provided a way for their customers to use a different Apple ID for signing into iTunes and iCloud when setting up a new Mac or iOS device. It’s inelegant, but it has worked well so far because iTunes, App Store, and personal content stored in iCloud didn’t intersect until last year.

Where things get really inconvenient

When iCloud Family Sharing was introduced in June 2014, this configuration became a problem for anyone with two Apple IDs and the desire to share content with their family, because Apple doesn’t provide a way to set up iCloud Family sharing for two different accounts. Depending on the way a person has been using the two Apple IDs, certain content is going to be permanently unavailable for Family Sharing.

Essentially, I can either decide to share my Apple Music subscription, along with my music, movie, TV, books, and app purchases with my family; or I can decide to easily and privately share calendars and photos — the latter is something we love doing in my family. And really, I don’t want to have to decide.

Best case and worst case scenarios

Lucky for me, the case above is a best case scenario. I have diligently separated my iTunes/App Store purchases and data stored in MobileMe/iCloud from the get-go, resulting in all my media purchases being linked to my original iTunes ID from 2004(1) and all my iCloud data being associated with my MobileMe address from 2008(2).

Theoretically, anyone who is in the same situation can manually migrate personal data like calendars, events, reminders, notes, and contacts to the Apple ID/iCloud account that is linked to their iTunes and App Store purchases, and continue to use the other iCloud account for email(3), but the process is far from trivial.

The worst case scenario applies to all cases where a user hasn’t made sure to make all app purchases with just one of the two accounts. Only Apple has the ability to accomplish anything here.

Pitfalls of merging Apple IDs

With my limited knowledge of Apple’s account and data structures, there are two issue I can think of as to why they haven’t come forward with a solution for this problem:

  1. Syncing complex data isn’t easy and the potential for data loss or corruption is very high.
  2. Apple needs to make sure no one gains access to another persons data by merging Apple IDs.

Personally, I find the former issue to be much worse than the latter because the latter is a matter of effective authentication(4).

With all that said, merging the purchase history of two Apple IDs and the personal data in both accounts is not impossible, and should be solvable for a company like Apple.

  1. Which amouts to eleven years of occasional music, movie, TV show, book, and application purchases.
  2. These are thousands of emails in my MobileMe/iCloud account, associated with three different aliases that I use constantly. Also my PIM data and iMessage history.
  3. Apple allows users to sign in with more than one iCloud account on a Mac or iOS device. The secondary account can be used for email, notes, calendars, and reminders, but things like Family Sharing, Find my Device, iCloud Keychain, etc. can not be used with it.
  4. An idea for solving the latter problem would be to create a secure environment, like a dedicated iOS app in which a user can log in with both Apple IDs to authenticate themselves, preferably with more than just the login credentials. Only if the authentication is successful will Apple have the permission to actually initiate the account merging process.

Apple and indies need to work together to improve App Store prices and buying culture

Milen Dzhumerov:

Developers hope that due to price elasticity, they can stay profitable by just selling more copies at a lower price. This encourages reducing the price more and more in the hopes that getting into the top charts would produce enough volume to compensate. Except it does not and cannot for two simple reasons.

App Store pricing needs to change. Some of it should come from Apple, and I don’t need to rehash the years of ideas and solutions that others have proposed at length. But some should come from the community. Q Branch just raised the price on Vesper from $2.99 to $9.99 and had their best revenue day ever (though, admittedly, with a $7.99 sale to promote going universal with iPad). Tyler Hall raised the price on Shutterbox from $1.99 to $7.99 and had his best sales day ever.

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The problem with iOS 8, Family Sharing, free apps, and how to fix it

Like many couples, if you’ve been sharing a single Apple ID in order to share iTunes Store purchases (which Apple has long recommended), you may have run into a problem with iOS 8 and Family Sharing where you can’t download or update some apps. I’ve been troubleshooting this with my wife since iOS 8 landed, and I think I know what’s going on. Yes, I’ve reported the bug to Apple. I’m not hip to OpenRadar, but the Apple bug ID is 19320726. Does it need to be somewhere else for dupe-ification?

The Full Purpose of Family Sharing

Remember that Family Sharing isn’t just about iTunes purchases. While it has many perks like automatically creating a shared family calendar and Photo Stream, Family Sharing also brings some much needed privacy back to being a family in the digital age. As one example, I’ve met a surprising number of couples who never created an otherwise unused ID 3 for sharing purchases. They just shared one member’s Apple ID and password among the group.

Think about that—one member just gave the others access to their personal email and iMessages. Maybe they didn’t know any better, maybe creating an ID 3 was too much work. I’d argue they shouldn’t have needed to know any better. The core problem is that most companies never took a stab at an actual solution until Apple and Family Sharing.



The Problem

Here’s how the problem started for us, and I wager it affects most other couples who switched to Family Sharing:

  • Since the iTunes Store had ‘Music’ in its name, Jessi and I went the popular route of sharing a single account between us for all purchases. I have Apple ID 1, she has ID 2, and our store account was ID 3. All purchases, including free apps, were made with ID 3.
  • iOS 8 landed and we opted into Family Sharing, all three IDs are on board. Jessi can now sign into the store with her ID 2 and enable things like auto-downloads for the apps and books she cares about, but keep her devices clean of all the stuff I download out of curiosity or for work.
  • However, a not insignificant number of apps (especially free apps) downloaded with that shared ID 3 have not opted into Family Sharing. Twitter and Pinterest are two good examples (check their details in the App Store; it’s “Family Sharing – Not Available).
  • Since these apps were originally downloaded with ID 3, Jessi’s devices now logged into the store with ID 2 cannot update any non-FS apps originally downloaded with ID 3. An error tells her that since they were downloaded with a different ID, they can only be updated by signing into that ID.
  • This also counts for apps she never downloaded. For example, I downloaded Twitter’s official app with ID 3 a long time ago, but Jessi couldn’t download it unless she swapped back to ID 3. Now that she signed back in with ID 2, she can’t update it either.
  • Update: After some more testing, this ID error appears even with some apps that are FS-enabled; perhaps they were not opted into Family Sharing when we set it up, then opted in later. Jessi had nearly a dozen FS-enabled apps that refused to update until we signed in with ID 3, including Dropbox, Google Drive, and Evernote.

Users are ultimately forced to juggle App Store IDs, use the same password for everyone’s account, or come up with an equally terrible workaround. The first option is pretty inconvenient, the second is terribly insecure.

The Solution in Two Parts

I can understand why developers of paid apps might not want to opt into Family Sharing. While my professional opinion is that you’re kidding yourself if you believe a significant number of household members will buy an app twice instead of just share their store logins, it’s your business and your show. However, I can’t see the case for avoiding Family Sharing for free apps. If there is one, I’d love to hear it.

Either way, this Family Sharing wonkiness is probably making most consumers just do the easy thing—continue (or switch back to) sharing a single account for all purchases, which means privacy weirdness for one or more members and encouraging weak passwords. It’s bad for everyone.

Since Apple takes forever to fix stuff like this, I see two solutions:

  1. In the short term I encourage developers of free apps to opt into Family Sharing to smooth this over.
  2. Long term, Apple probably needs to tweak how Family Sharing works. Maybe all free apps are automatically FS-enabled and get no choice otherwise, and paid apps are opt-in even if they go on sale for free. In-app purchases are more complicated, but at least this is a start.

I’ve been complaining about this on Twitter for a while now, so I hope this explains the problem in more detail and maybe even gets a ball rolling somewhere at Apple.

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Apple already answered our requests for App Store upgrade pricing and demos

This conversation has come back around again, so maybe I can save everyone a little time.

Apple recently released Logic Pro X in the Mac App Store. It’s the first major new version of any of its paid apps besides OS X since the Mac App Store became a thing and since we’ve all been begging and pleading for upgrade pricing and demo options for both App Stores.

Logic Pro X does not have a downloadable demo from the store or Apple’s site. It costs $200. The previous version that was available the day before Logic Pro X also cost $200. Apple balanced its price at a perceived value for both new and existing customers (Aperture, for example, used to be $300, now it’s $80) and, to my knowledge, none of its apps have ever gone on sale.

That’s it, there’s your answer. Apple didn’t use a blog post or an interview or a leaked memo, it spoke through action. I’m not sure I’m any happier with it than the rest of us, though there certainly are some advantages in terms of lowering customer confusion and support queries—one price, old customers and new, no questions about who qualifies for the extra special double upgrade super sale and who doesn’t and c’mon I bought it one day before your upgrade window pretty please ok fine you get one-star and I’m going to trash your name all over my Twitter.

Unless there is some sort of significant App Store regime change or a decision maker gets a bump on the head followed by an epiphany, upgrade pricing and demos are not coming to the App Store or Mac App Store. Adjust your App Store apps and business models accordingly.