What may stop Apple's App Bundles from bringing joy to developers

Shane Schick

We talk about downloads, we talk about installs, but I, for one, never hear about people going "shopping for apps" in an app store. That may soon change for the iOS crowd. 

Among the plethora of announcements made at Apple's Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC) two weeks ago were a series of enhancements to its App Store experience. Many of these, like continuous scrolling, the "Explore" tab and trending searches, seem aimed squarely at the needs of consumers, though they may address some discoverability issues of iOS devs. Others, like the forthcoming video previews, are more or less copycat features that have been available for Android users on Google Play for a while. The opportunity to create "App Bundles," however, represents a highly intriguing approach to the marketing and monetization of apps that could seriously separate the serious entrepreneurs from the amateurs. 

App Bundles will allow developers to group together similar kinds of apps or ones which are somehow related into a single downloadable format. Apple featured a developer of children's apps as an example on the WWDC stage, but there are obviously lots of other possibilities. Particularly in emerging "hot" categories like health, App Bundles mean developers can explore niches within niches in order to offer more targeted products to consumers. 

What's less obvious is how Apple, developers or anyone else will shift those consumers to acquire apps via App Bundles. Although I haven't seen specific data on this yet (hint, hint, App Annie), I suspect that most people install apps one at a time, usually in response to specific needs or interests. Given how difficult it has been for so many developers to get those single downloads, whether they'll install several at once remains a real question mark. 

Assuming they do, there's an even thornier issue around engagement. We already know that consumers tend to abandon an app within seconds if it fails to load the first time, if there's a bug or any other issue. If that happens with one app in an App Bundle, will they then jettison the entire bundle? Meanwhile, there is often a gulf between those who come back to an app on a regular basis and those who try it once and then rarely or never again. If that behavior is consistent across an App Bundle's contents, the developer loses even more potential business. 

The success of App Bundles will depend in part on how creatively developers categorize and package their apps and mobile games. For those with apps that have been around for a while, putting them together in an App Bundle with their latest release could be a way to bring greater value to their fans. On the other hand, it could complicate matters for developers who may have to alter their marketing tactics (and the interpretation of mobile analytics data) based on how consumers respond to their individual apps versus those gathered together. Ultimately, there are probably some ways for smart developers to take advantage of App Bundles. It may be a while, though, before anyone makes a bundle off of them.--Shane