“We believe the future of television is apps.”
– Apple CEO, Tim Cook
Studies show that smartphone ownership is already pretty saturated in most Tier 1 countries and we all know that apps rule on mobile.
But where else have apps not taken hold yet?
There is still a lot of debate as to if there is actually a battle for apps on our wrists. Smartwatches will probably never be as prevalent as smartphones, but they do fill a certain niche.
However, there is one app battleground that is still very much up for grabs…the living room. In this post we will show you how Apple has already established a firm foothold, how you can get started with creating Apple TV apps, and what you can do to make your apps a success.
People Watch a LOT of TV
According to a study conducted earlier this year, the average adult in the US watches 5.5 hours of video content, per day. Of this, about 4.25 hours of this is spent watching TV.
That’s like a part-time job.
Yet, outside of having hundreds of channels available (on some cable networks), there has been very little advancement in television technology. This is something that Apple pointed out in their September 9 unveiling of Apple TV 4.
On top of that, according to an Entertainment Software Association study, 42% of Americans play video games at least 3 hours a day. I’m sure that many people play a lot more than that.
The bottom line is that having apps on a TV will grow to be a powerful convergence of television content, games and the apps that we use on a daily basis (think: food ordering apps, shopping apps and more).
…and just like with the launch of any new platform, the first publishers to market will usually have an advantage.
Roku has dominated the streaming TV hardware market for some time. But according to a recent report, Apple now owns 31% of the market…the majority share.
Apple TV might just kill TV as we know it.
All of the reasons mentioned above make it a great time to create an Apple TV app.
How to Build Your First Apple TV App
Now that you understand why you should build an Apple TV app, let’s do a quick overview on how to build an app. This isn’t meant to be a comprehensive guide to Apple TV app development, but if you are as excited about this opportunity as we are, then you should get started right away.
If you already have apps on the App Store, then creating an Apple TV version of your app will still take a little work.
Like Apple Watch, Apple TV has its own version of iOS, called tvOS. Here are some awesome Apple TV development resources to help you get started:
- Ray Wenderlich – Beginning tvOS Development with TVML Tutorial
- Nick Walter – A free 47 minute tutorial video on how to get started with tvOS apps
- Apple – App Programming Guide for tvOS
If all you want is to display Youtube / Vimeo videos in your own branded Apple TV app, check out Tappla.
Once you have your app ready to go, it is time to market it…
Apple TV App Marketing Tips
Before we get to the marketing tips for Apple TV apps, it is useful to get an idea of what the new interface looks like, if you haven’t seen it before. This video from MacRumors does a great job of showing us this new version of Apple TV.
1. Rethink the Big Screen Experience
Simply making a smartphone app smaller, to fit on a smartwatch, doesn’t work.
Think about all those apps that tried to put keyboards on Android watches.
In the same way, TV apps shouldn’t just be bigger versions of iPhone or iPad apps, they should be completely rethought to maximize the advantages of the TV. There are characteristics of the device that needs to be taken into account, when designing apps for the new platform.
For example, the Airbnb app is a great fit for Apple TV. People are used to watching travel shows on TV and now they can actually book a room in these places.
By providing big, beautiful pictures that fit the entire screen, users can get a good feel for what a place is like and create an emotional connection. Notice how the information about the rental is kept to a minimum and the image is given priority.
Another area where a TV app is perfect, is in the shopping category. For example, a TV app like Gilt makes it easier to see clothes up close, instead of having to squint on an iPhone, or even a laptop.
This is one of the first games that is available on Apple TV. IGN recorded their first impressions of the game and they talk about their concerns with how the game would translate from iOS to tvOS.
One thing to note in this video is the differences between the player input on the two platforms. Remember to create an onboarding process that will help users get up and running quickly…even if they have used other version of your app. Don’t take anything for granted.
Also consider the user experience when using the Apple TV remote. It is pretty tough to input information with the remote, so companies like Facebook and Twitter are routing data entry to a smartphone, to simplify the signup process.
You may have to do something similar with your app.
Figure out how to use the large screen to your advantage and mitigate the disadvantages. It may require some significant changes to your app, but it is worth it.
2. Measure Your Results
Just like with any other type of app, examining your analytics is a big key to your success. Apple has been very slow in giving app developers useful analytics on their apps and their offerings have been very basic.
Expect the same with Apple TV apps. Therefore, be sure to find a third-party analytics solution.
Most of the big analytics solutions on the market should have an Apple TV SDK available, at some point. But adjust has been one of the first to provide a solution.
Regardless of which platform you choose, be sure to have analytics in place before launching your Apple TV app.
3. Ads Will be Huge
Ads on an Apple TV aren’t only physically bigger than mobile ads, they are also richer and more interactive. TVs don’t have many of the limitations that mobile devices have, mainly potential bandwidth concerns that come with mobile data providers.
So advertisers are free to create beautiful, full-screen, interactive ads. This will allow you to benefit from advertising your apps, as well as monetizing your apps with (most likely) higher converting ads.
Imagine if people could click on TV commercials during the Super Bowl or the World Cup. Commercials for apps, like this one, will become much more common.
What about 3D video ads?
If you currently monetize you app with ads, or you are going to be advertising your company through Apple TV app ads, then ads in Apple TV apps can have the potential to make a big positive impact on your revenue.
Again, if you are one of the first to market, you will be able to take advantage of lower ad costs (for advertisers) and an additional revenue stream (for app publishers).
Companies like AppLovin are already testing their Apple TV ads SDK with select partners.
4. Study Apple TV App Store Optimization
As with any app, making sure that your app is discovered, is a big factor in if your app is successful or not. As far as we know, most of the best practices for App Store Optimization will apply to Apple TV.
However, there are a few differences:
Like everything else on Apple TV, the app icons will be bigger. They will also be rectangular.
This will give you a lot more real estate to convey what your app is about. For the first time, it is also perfectly acceptable to use text on your app icon.
However, you should still stick to the basic principles of icon optimization. Make sure that there is one clear focus in your icon and it should convey what your app does, unless you are a well-known brand.
Remember that all images are at 1x resolution. Therefore, remember to test your icons on a big screen TV before release.
Icons must be submitted in two sizes, the bigger size being 1280 pixels wide. Also be aware of images you may need for Top Shelf, dynamic content and other content areas.
Oh, and don’t forget about parallax.
This is the part that we are really excited about. We’ve heard that developers could have App Preview videos on Apple TV soon.
To record video footage from your app, you will need a USB-C to USB cable and Quicktime on your Mac. Then go to File > New Movie Recording in Quicktime.
Click on the down arrow next to the red record button and choose Apple TV for both Camera and Microphone recording. Then click on the red record button to start the video capture.
If you are too busy to create a high quality App Preview video, we can do it for you.
Here is an example of an Apple TV preview video that we did for SongPop. Apple TV is the perfect platform for this game.
You can find out more about the development process of SongPop here.
Screenshots are even more important on Apple TV. Since the image is so big, it is important to get it right.
Like app icons, if you use low quality images, it will be painfully obvious.
The process for taking screenshots is similar to recording videos, outlined above. But instead of hitting the record button, hold Command-Shift-4, then hit the Space Bar.
Your cursor will then turn into a camera icon. Hover over the screen until the title bar disappears.
Then click your mouse or trackpad to take the screenshot.
You can make your app universal across iOS and tvOS, allowing people to make one purchase and get your app on all their devices. To get a complete look at the Apple TV requirements, read: Preparing Your App Submission for the New Apple TV
If you are going to make a tvOS version of your app, remember to notify your existing users about your new offering. It can be easy to overlook this one simple step, but your existing user base is the best place to get new Apple TV users.
5. See What Other Platforms are Doing
There are other platforms that you can also study to help you succeed on Apple TV. Studying platforms like Amazon Echo and Android TV can give you some ideas as to what features to include in your Apple TV apps.
Keep in mind that these platforms aren’t just trying to make your TV more useful, they are probably the first step towards everyday home automation. This may not help every app, but the more you can think along these lines, the more likely your app will be used.
With new devices, come new opportunities. We are excited about what the future holds for Apple TV and the bigger role that apps and video will play on home devices.
Apple Watch is cool, but Apple TV has the potential to reach a much bigger audience. As we learn more about Apple TV app marketing, we will keep you updated.
Are you developing an Apple TV version of your app? Let us know the challenges you are having, in the comments below.
Latest posts by Hugh Kimura (see all)
- 7 Apps That are Crushing Content Marketing - 25 May 2016
- 5 Simple Ways to Reduce Your Facebook Ads Cost for App Installs - 11 May 2016
- Slack Messaging: The Guide for App Marketers - 20 April 2016