Why Aren’t Developers Chasing the iMessage App Boom?

March 17, 2017 - 2 minutes read

Messaging apps — which is to say, apps that existing within messaging platforms like iMessage, Line, Messenger, and etc. — have been a huge growth area in the mobile tech industry. Sticker sets alone drove over $250 million in revenue for Line, and Western chat apps have seen similar success stories adding-on services to their platforms. That said, new data from Sensor Tower shows that developer interest in the platform is declining, along with downloads and use. Expanded messaging services are clearly a huge trend — so why is it struggling on Apple’s own messaging solution?

Part of the problem is likely due to the company’s reluctance to “clutter” the user interface with cues that the apps even exist. Unlike Facebook Messenger, WeChat, and other fun-based messaging platforms, actually accessing and using in-chat features like sticker sets is surprisingly difficult. It’s even trickier for actual apps (as opposed to sticker packs, which are oddly classified as “apps” and require a developer liscence to submit). For Chicago iOS app developers, the question becomes: “will anyone see my app?” rather than “will anyone want my app?” This is, for obvious reasons, a big problem.

That said, there are big wins to be made on the platform — and if Apple chooses to make the in-chat app store more accessable in future UI updates, app developers with good products in-place could suddenly find themselves scoring big wins in a surprisingly uncompettative app pool. Chat apps racked up as many developer submissions in the first six months as the app store did in the first year, but given the maturity of the iOS platform those numbers are surprisingly low. Even artists and graphic designers could find themselves holding a winner with the right sticker “app” at the right time. Whether or not Apple takes a leaf out of Facebook’s book or not, it’ll be fascinating to see how the strive to improve prospects for developers in one of the most-used messaging platforms in the US.

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