This post is an expansion of my original post for Quru, which can be found here.
Before beginning, a HUGE thank you to Anteneh who helped with this sticker pack and hosts it via his developer account. Check out his great apps here.
The recently released iOS 10 has brought many new features – a lot of them residing within the Messages app.
The Messages app was the place for iPhone users to go to send text messages. In 2011, as part of iOS 5, it also incorporated iMessages – Apple’s own proprietary messaging system, which allows for end-to-end encrypted messages to be sent using the data network.
By 2016, with over 1 billion active iOS devices around the world, iOS users were sending 200,000 iMessages per second – that’s 6.3 TRILLION per year – making Messages the most used app on Apple devices.
But, since the introduction of iMessage in 2011, the Messages app itself has largely been left alone (feature-wise), allowing other companies such as WeChat, Line, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Snapchat etc to stake their claims as the best and most functional messaging platforms. Traditional text messaging is declining, but messages sent via other platforms are increasing and Apple has realised this and wanted a slice of the messaging pie.
As part of the update to Messages, we’ve seen the introduction of iMessage sticker packs and the Sticker Pack Store. This is something that’s been around for a while on the likes of Facebook Messenger and has been largely overlooked by a lot of consumers and companies. But this new feature could be a welcome addition to companies wishing find and use an easy win to enhance their online brand(s). Some of the big brands with ties to Apple, as well as with great IP (such as Disney and Nintendo), are already doing well in the Sticker Pack Store.
So what are the benefits of sticker packs, you ask? Well …
- Brand reinforcement through assets
- Brand exposure to new and potential users/customers
- Maintain and increase install base of the associated app (where applicable)
- Drive traffic back to app (where applicable)
- Ability to update sticker packs relating to new and on-going campaigns (through simple sticker pack or app updates via the App Store)
- Time/cost effective
- No coding required
- Minimal requirements;
- Apple developer account (€99 per year)
- Xcode (free from Apple)
- Image editing tool (Photoshop, Pixelmator, GIMP, etc)
- Assets to use as stickers
- Asset for app logo
- Small user-base of iOS users to test via TestFlight
A real world example
As a “fun” side project, I decided to make a Quru sticker pack. I have zero coding or app development experience (aside from beta testing apps), and only very vaguely know my way around Apple’s own app development tool, Xcode.
There are 3 key parts to the relatively simple process:
- Create your assets. If you already have brand assets, brilliant – you’ve just done about 70% of the work already. Format the assets accordingly.
- Add your assets to a pre-defined Sticker Pack project template in Xcode, arrange and format accordingly, and fill in the basic details.
- Push your build to iTunes Connect for metadata completion, testing, and review/release.
While I did encounter some issues with the App Store review team (which were subsequently sorted out - see the side note at the end), the overall “technical” side of the project took me about 10 hours to complete – with approx. 7-8 hours of that being taken up by editing images to use as stickers. With existing assets, you could probably turn out a new sticker pack within a few hours, and have it live on the iMessage App Store within a couple of days.
Getting your sticker pack out there
Sticker packs can also be deployed in a couple of other ways – each offers their own pros and cons – and it depends upon the requirements and goals of the business as to the best way to bring your sticker pack to the masses.
You can push a stand-alone sticker pack to the iMessage App Store, bundle a sticker pack with a new or existing (updated) app via the main App Store, or bundle your sticker assets with a keyboard extension.
The most effective way to deploy, and with the most benefits, is to bundle via an existing app and also make available as a stand-alone sticker pack. Bundling with an existing app will mean it can be deployed as an app update and will be installed and available automatically (dependent upon users' own settings), but you will also have the additional visibility of the stand-alone sticker in the App Store.
If you want to know more about iOS/iMessage sticker packs, the different ways to deploy them, some of the benefits and pit-falls, do feel free to get in touch.
In the meantime, download the Quru Analytics Sticker Pack by searching on the App Store or by following this link.
Dealing with Apple side note
I hadthought (hoped) this would be the simple part of the process. Oh, how wrong I was! I think the app took 5 submissions before it was finally accepted. Five submission, numerous notes to Apple within iTunes Connect, two phone calls with the App Review Team, and an email to Phil Schiller and Tim Cook.
Part of this was my fault, part of it Apples'. Initially the pack only contained images of Quru staff. Apple stated that this had 'no relevance to a wider audience' so was rejected. I resubmitted with an explanation. Rejected again. The third submission had analytics related icons but the screenshots we not updated to show this. Rejected again for the same reason. Fourth submission stated about the new icons etc. Rejected again, but this time Apple did try to contact me to discuss. I had a chat with someone from the App Review Team who stated that the app had no relevance again. I explained that the app had a number of analytics related icons and the facial images were just a small part of the app. He then countered with a rule that sticker packs cannot contain real people - despite some of the best selling sticker packs being exactly that - I used the recent iMore sticker pack as an example. He said he couldn't comment and would go take a look at that pack offline, but if I were to resubmit without the faces, it would be approved.
At this point I was annoyed an confused. Contradictory information, as well as information that didn't seem to be correct as it directly went against other things Apple was accepting an promoting. I decided to put my frustrating experience in to an email and fire it off to Phil Schiller (who is now in charge of the App Store and has recently introduced new app review processes). Within about 30 minutes of that email being sent I got another call back from Apple, now stating that the app, with the faces included, was fine. All I would need to do was update the screenshots and the meta description and the review would be expedited and approved. Well, they didn't expedite it (in fact, it longer than all of the other previous reviews), but it was eventually processed, reviewed and accepted!