iOS 15 launched on September 20th, 2021.
At around 10 am PST on that day, someone somewhere pressed that GO button for iOS 15 to rollout as a software update to all eligible iOS devices.
Apple is known for being quite vague on the release info and timings of new iOS features. The world of App Store Optimization and Mobile Marketing has been deeply invested in the launch of iOS 15 as it carries with it Apple’s promise for three new App Store capabilities:
- In-App Events (IAEs) – a new entity that will allow the showcasing of IAEs in an “Events” gallery within your product page. Familiarise yourself with this feature with this guide.
- Custom Product Pages (CPPs) – the opportunity to create up to 35 custom product pages, each with their own creatives and messaging that match the install motivations of particular audiences. Every page has a unique URL that can be used with User Acquisition campaigns. Read more here.
- Product Page Optimization (PPO) – the ability to run native A/B tests on your default App Store product page (not the custom product pages). Click here for more info.
The launch timeline expectation of these new features
In various ways, Apple hinted that IAEs will be launched first and on the same date as the worldwide launch of iOS 15.
Well, that didn’t happen.
They also hinted beforehand that CPPs and PPO will be launched later this year.
But with the mix of vague data and a lot of rumors, it’s been difficult to estimate an exact date.
What happened with the launch of the new iOS 15 capabilities? The Evidence
Here’s the timeline:
- The Mysterious Asterisk
Up until 10 am PST, Apple had several web pages on its website that mentioned In-App Events would launch with iOS 15. Apple had a user-facing feature-list page that mentioned IAEs and their appearance in a new App Store widget for the home screen.
On this page, any feature that wasn’t going to be available at launch had an asterisk labeling it “Coming later this fall”.
In-app events did not have that asterisk label, but shortly after the update was rolled out, mysteriously, an asterisk was added to the feature.
- The IAEs page on the App Store developer web page had a “Coming Soon” label up until 10am PST. In the minutes that followed, the label changed to: “Available this fall”
- The What’s New in the App Store for developers web page had another annotation below all three features (In-App Events, Custom Product Pages, and Product Page Optimization) that said “Available on iOS 15”.
Screenshot from The Wayback Machine of that page as it was on September 14th.
A few minutes after 10am PST and the update rollout, this text had changed to: “Available later this year, requires a minimum of iOS 15”.
- Another update was made to the ‘What’s New in the App Store for developers page” shortly after 10am PST in regards to App Analytics in App Store Connect.
This “Available Later this year” tag appeared instead of the “Available for all apps on iOS” tag that was there moments before.
2. The Disappearing Sentence
In addition to the above, the iOS 15 release notes, as they appeared on the iPhone when the update became available, included this line: “App Store in-app events help you discover timely events within apps and games such as a game competition, a new movie premiere, or a live-streamed experience.”
This was in the actual update release notes. A few minutes afterward, that sentence was removed from the online version of the release notes which can be found here.
So what happened?
Clearly, In-App Events were planned to be launched with iOS 15 at 10 am PST (even appearing in the release notes.) At the last minute, a decision was made and the feature got pulled from the update – for a reason we may never know.
Could it be a bug? Or maybe someone in the App Store leadership team felt the launch wouldn’t be strong enough, as the vast majority of app developers have no in-app events uploaded to the store (with the exclusion of a few beta testers)?
The evidence shows that it was definitely planned to be launched on September 20th.
There’s even less information around for CPPs and PPO, as these aren’t user-facing features. They’re only mentioned on the Developer website.
What we do know is that a few minutes after 10 am PST, a conscious change was made to these pages, including the label below CPP and PPO saying “available later this year”.
Another interesting thought
Let’s think about it from Apple’s perspective and in relation to previous iOS version releases. It takes 12-13 weeks until around 80% of iOS users adopt a new version (it remains at about 80%, as some people who haven’t upgraded their hardware use older devices that aren’t compatible).
If we look at Mixpanel’s data, we can see it took between 12-13 weeks until iOS 14 reached 80% adoption.
The data also shows that it took 4-5 weeks until the adoption rate reached 40%, which is arguably a significant mass audience (about 400M users based on the latest release from Apple saying there are 1B iPhone devices active).
Why is the adoption rate important to the timing of when Apple releases these new App Store features? Because these features are dependent on there being:
- enough users with iOS 15 installed to actually be exposed to in-app events
- enough users available to be a good enough sample for Product Page Optimization
- and to ensure that most users directed to CPPs actually see them (as they have iOS 15 installed) and not be redirected to the default page.
The big question is… at what adoption rate will Apple feel comfortable enough to release these features? I believe the answer is around 50% (at least 1 out of 2 App Store visitors will have iOS 15). If we learn from the past release of iOS 14, this happens about 6-7 weeks after launch, which in iOS 15’s case means it’ll be around early November, probably with an iOS 15.1 update.
Hypotheses as to what will happen
- As all these three features now detail “available later this year” and someone at Apple wrote that on September 20th, we can expect all three of them to be launched in 2021.
- The in-app events page has additional information as it says “Available this fall”.
- This leads us to believe that at some point between October 1st and mid-December, all three features will be launched (unless something unexpected happens.)
- According to the adoption-rate thesis, I believe there’s a high likelihood that the release will be around early November.
- Of course, Apple could change its plan the same way it did with in-app events, minutes before it was released.
All this leads us to the final working assumption we recommend you adopt:
“All three new iOS 15 App Store capabilities will be launched at some point between October 1st and December 15th with iOS 15.1 or iOS 15.2”.
This is great news as it gives you more time to prepare how you’re going to leverage these new capabilities and drastically improve your App Store Optimization, UA and Mobile Growth game.