How to get featured on the App Store?

It’s hard. With more than 1 million apps out there, your app should really stand out. But there are ways to increase your chances.

A feature by Apple may turn your start-up into a well-known and profitable company, so it is wise to at least try to get featured. It gives hundreds of thousands of downloads, loads of press and recognition.

Normally, Apple will reach out saying that you should prepare artwork for the App Store. But don’t be so happy yet, it does not necessarily mean that they are going to feature you as an editor’s choice. By the way, being in the “Best New Apps” is as good as featured on the main banner.

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As you know, Readdle apps were featured many times. Documents got Editor’s choice, Scanner Pro was picked as App of the Week that gave us 5 million downloads, PDF Expert 5 and Calendars 5 are featured in productivity categories. So I am willing to give you a few tips on how to increase your chances.

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1. Create a great app that does one thing.
The philosophy behind Apple’s technology is that it is easy to use and it just works. The same rule applies to apps they want to feature: it should be simple, easy to use, and it should does one particular thing exceptionally.

Example: Scanner Pro – great app that turns an iPhone into a portable scanner. So the user can scan anything into a good-looking PDF file with just 2-3 taps. Of course, Scanner Pro gives additional value to iPhone and iPad as it brings more value to the platform. But I hope you’ve got the idea.

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2. Invest in design and user experience.
Apple, as an innovative platform, is always looking for a great new ways of interacting with their iPhones and iPads. A good design might help you to get noticed. But you should think of design as not just how it looks, but how it performs given tasks and interacts with users.

Clear by RealMacSoftware did a great job by reinventing and innovating touch/swipe UX concept. That was one of the reason why they have been featured by Apple.

 

3. Get noticed by Apple.

Apple review team monitors the market and on a constant look-out for the new gems. So if you are able to make some buzz around your new app – that should definitely help. However, you should keep in mind that Apple is looking for something cool for end users of their devices (a.k.a iPhone / iPad owners), so it’s not about helping small developers to succeed.

The best way to do it is to get some serious press writing about you. It could be done in-house or you could hire a PR guy/ agency. We do it ourselves and I am pretty sure you can do it too. I will write an article on how to get press.

Pro tip: you can go smart about it and do some highly targeted Facebook ads in San Francisco and Cupertino to increase the chances of Apple employees seeing your app.

4. Try to understand Apple’s editorial calendar.
App Store editorial team has its own calendar of holidays, events and seasons, so they feature the apps accordingly. If it’s September – most likely Apple will push their “Back to School campaign” featuring apps for students (to-dos, writing, PDF readers, note-takers, etc). If there’s an important event going on (say, Olympic games) most likely there will be a special feature on that. So try to think a little bit further ahead to guess what are they going to feature and why. According to that you can adjust your marketing strategy to get noticed in the right time.

Tip: usually the review team is picking the apps to feature 2-3 weeks in advance.

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5. Localize.
As you may know, there are a few App Store editorial teams worldwide covering US, Europe, Asia, and BRIC + “developing countries” (as I call them). So if you want a global feature, say Editor’s choice, your app has to be available in various languages. The usual practice is to localize into 9 main languages that covers 90% of the market: English, German, French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese and Japanese. Crowdin service worked pretty good for us.

Apple is pushing regional markets and that seems to be working fairly well! The volumes in developing countries have increased dramatically (Russia saw approximately 20x growth of free app downloads over the last two years). So targeting some of those markets might be a good idea, and your app might become a hit there. You never know what’s going to happen (look at Evernote in Japan).

Finally, just create a great app that millions of people will like.
This will most likely grant you a feature by Apple, but at the same time, that’s the hardest thing to do, especially now.

I’d love to hear your stories and suggestions. Were you apps featured? Did you know about that they are going to be featured?

Credit: I was inspired to write this post by my friend and colleague Yulia.

P.S. Having a personal connection with someone at Apple might open many doors too. WWDC is a great event to dive into Apple community. You can meet iTunes team, or Apple evangelists who might further introduce you to App Store editorial team.