Is the iMessage App Store dying or already dead?

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I love the idea of the iMessage App Store. I love Apple’s focus on privacy. I love building on top of an app I use all day everyday. But not only is the iMessage App Store dying —I’m afraid it might already be dead.

“Where are my stickers?”

5 months in, normal people still have no idea where the iMessage App Store is, how to access it, or how to use it.

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Stickers, apps, and store are deeply, excruciatingly buried in iMessage’s confusing UI.

This is what it currently looks like:

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  • So many taps.
  • Hiding the Photo, Digital Touch, and App Store icons behind the caret (Screen A) makes discovery really hard and forces an extra tap.
  • Speaking of Digital Touch (the heart icon in Screen B). No one uses it. Get rid of it.
  • Using the App Store icon (Screen B) to access the iMessage app drawer doesn’t make sense. I’m guessing Apple did it to highlight the fact that the iMessage App Store was new? But tapping it doesn’t take you to the store — it takes you to either the “Recents” list (Screen C) or to the iMessage sticker or app you most recently used. It’s confused everyone I’ve ever shown it to.
  • And, lastly, the fact that they used the App Store icon to show and hide the iMessage app drawer means they couldn’t use it for the store itself (Screen D)! So they had to use that ridiculous plus icon.

And this is what I think could be done to improve it:

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  • If we get rid of Digital Touch, we could avoid using the caret at all and, instead, show the Photo and iMessage app drawer icons 100% of the time. This makes discoverability better and saves a tap (Screen A).
  • Let’s replace the confusing App Store icon that currently launches the iMessage app drawer with the 4 dots icon instead (Screen A). This is the most emblematic icon from the iMessage App Store and, if instead of going straight to Recents or the most recently used sticker or app, we went to the app list every time (Screen B), the user would feel a lot more confident that they knew exactly what was going to happen every time they tapped that button.
  • The added benefit of using the 4 dots icon instead of the App Store icon is we can once again use the App Store icon for the actual, ya know, App Store (Screen B).

No promotion

The other reason people are still clueless about the iMessage App Store is, unlike the Happy Birthday balloons ad or the Portrait mode ad, Apple has done zero promotion to help explain the iMessage App store.

Back in Nov ’16 Apple & TBWA\MAL were working on an iMessage App Store TV spot that focused on stickers called “Soda Pop”. But it died.

My guess? They saw a lot less money from the first couple of months of the iMessage App Store than they’d forecasted, so they killed it.

But not promoting the iMessage App Store is a self fulfilling prophecy.

What in curation?

Same problem with curation. This is the Featured screen for iMessage App Store last week:

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Friday was a banner day! And sorry for the meme.

The featured screen of the iMessage App Store reminds me of someone’s neglected blog. This lack of active curation especially hurts stickers.

Without Apple’s curation the Top Paid has been dominated by big names like Disney, which currently has 15 sticker packs in the Top 50.

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Could Apple fix this by hiring more people to run the iMessage App Store? Maybe. But my guess is there isn’t enough revenue to justify that.

They’ve probably run the numbers on current traffic and know that an increase in curation wouldn’t lead to enough of an increase in revenue.

iMessage Clip Art Store

Last year when I submitted my first stickers, a few days before the store was set to open, I was convinced they wouldn’t get approved.

Looking back now, that was of course laughable, because it’s been quantity over quality in the “iMessage Clip Art Store” since day one.

The big question

So the big question remains: is the iMessage App Store just dying, or is it already dead? Is it DOA like iTunes Ping or does it have potential, warts and all, like the Apple Watch?

If Apple:

  • fixes the UI
  • promotes & explains it
  • actively curates
  • introduces quality control

Then the iMessage App Store stands a chance.

But if Apple doesn’t do those things — and depending on the revenue numbers they might be perfectly justified in not doing those things — the iMessage App Store is dead.

Written by

Occasional thoughts on how to build a successful one person business. Husband & father of three.

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