An iPhone user with digital cash in hand hunting for the next killer app to impress his iPhone-less friends, views a category in the iTunes App Store. He is instantly greeted by twenty apps filling up the better part of the iTunes real estate. These are the “new releases.”
Or actually, they aren’t.
“Sort by Release Date” is the default view and because it is the first and biggest part of what a consumer sees, developers of iPhone apps often see an amazing doubling of sales while their app is on that front page.
There are two factors for getting one’s application in the empyrean “Sort by Release Date” area.
- Apple’s approval date (for new apps and updates)
- Release Date set by the developer
The earlier of the two determines placement. This means a developer HAS to be quick.
When an app is approved (whether new or an update), Apple sends the developer an email saying so. But the app isn’t automatically added to the newest releases list. The developer must log in to iTunes Connect (the backend for iPhone developers to upload their wares to Apple) and manually set the date to that day’s date. THEN (maybe) within a few hours, the app may appear in the new releases list.
You might ask, “Why not simply set the developer date to 2099?”
Easy. Setting the Release Date to some time in the future, removes the app from the App Store. You don’t want to do this.
A developer could set the Availability Date to today’s date every morning while an app is waiting for approval. This way, the app won’t be pulled (as long as it is past midnight in California) and as soon as it is approved, it will appear in the Release Date list.
But this may not be good either. Some people have reported that doing this delays approval–moves the app to the bottom of the queue. I haven’t tested this systematically. I have tried this technique, but due to innate laziness… Well, I haven’t been systematic. I’ll try to do this with a particular app everyday just to see if it does take longer than other apps. Will update.
Here is all Apple has to say on the subject (that I know of):
Does the “Released” date displayed for my application in the App Store have an effect on my application?
The “Released” date is listed as part of basic app information displayed on the App Store. The “Released” date is currently determined by the date of the app’s approval by Apple and the availability date that the developer has listed within iTunes Connect, whichever is earlier.
Other things to consider:
- The release date is in alphabetical order
- Names starting with numbers are positioned by the first letter (numbers don’t help ranking) — Although, interestingly, numbers do appear at top if sorted by “Name.”
- Changing the release date past the date approved by Apple doesn’t help. But having it before the approval date means your app will appear in the list for that date (many pages deep).
- At least for me, notifications of approved apps tend to come in the late afternoon (I guess still morning or early afternoon California time). This makes me feel like I lost a half day of exposure. Maybe not, but it feels that way.
Why did Apple do it this way? It seems to me there ought to be a “Live / not Live” option for developers and the Release Date should be set automatically according to when it was actually released.
Also listing by alphabetical order creates an incentive for strange naming patterns. If I rename “Japanese Phrases & Lessons” to “A1 Japanese Phrases & Lessons” I will be at the top of that day’s list. Why can’t it be displayed in order of approval? Or perhaps randomly? That way everyone gets an even chance.
Anyone have anything else to add?