Apple has a sticky problem on its hands, and until it’s resolved, it’s a wet blanket on the experience of millions of people using iMessage and its new App Store.
Stickers are like emojis you can buy or download from the iMessage App Store and share in iMessage. If you’ve perused the marketplace since the launch of iOS 10 in September, you’ll know that they’re everywhere, and that there are increasingly stickers of all kinds.
There are cats shooting lasers, ugly sweaters, and stickers for video games like Goat Simulator and Galaxy on Fire.
These stickers increase the diversity for both cats and people. There were woman in hijab stickers on iMessage before the Unicode Consortium can finalize plans to release its hijab emoji next year. There are hundreds of millions of women in the world who practice the Muslim faith. Many wear the hijab, and had no representation of themselves in iMessage until stickers filled that gap, and that’s awesome.
Generally, the iMessage App Store and app extensions bring some of the best apps available inside conversations.
Some of my favorite apps like Evernote, Square Cash, and Canva have extensions in iMessage that make taking notes, paying friends, and sharing visuals I made pretty simple.
As I mentioned in an initial look at what I love and hate about iMessage a few months back, the experience is perhaps second to none when compared with other major chat apps or chatbots, and Apple smartly chose to lean against its robust existing App Store ecosystem.
But here’s the problem: Stickers are scattered in every category of the App Store. Sometimes they’re labeled as stickers and sometimes they’re not, so it’s extremely common to select an app, and instead of finding functionality that extends into iMessage, you get a collection of stickers.
If this happened on occasion you’d be annoyed or perplexed instead of totally turned off, but that isn’t the case. It happens all the time, and it muddies the waters and adds an unnecessary pain point to the iMessage App Store experience.
That’s why Apple needs to do something about these damned stickers, like, oh, I don’t know — leave them in the Stickers category, or put them in a subcategory of each store category.
Because it is not a pleasant surprise to download Trello in the iMessage App Store and then find out it has zero functionality and is just a collection of husky stickers. That’s not what you want out of your favorite productivity app.
Why the hell does Starbucks give me stickers in iMessage instead of its new AI assistant?
Why would HomeAdvisor, an app meant to help you find talented people to remodel your home, do anyone any good by sharing stickers of air conditioning fans or awnings?
Consumers need to be given the option to see the full force of what’s possible when the App Store comes inside messaging, not branding gimmicks.
I don’t need a sticker with slices of guacamole on toast from Whole Foods. I need the functionality of the Whole Foods app. Send people down this wrong road too many times and you risk turning them off to iMessage can actually accomplish.
It’s not all bad: Stickers do appear to be making some money.
Check the top 50 paid items in the iMessage App Store today and they are almost entirely stickers. But what is the purpose of the App Store? If the purpose is to create an ecosystem capable of making money from industry for Apple, developers, and businesses, then people need to be able to locate amazing iMessage apps without falling into a bunch of stickers.
Microsoft, Facebook, and now Amazon are all busy trying to build their own chatbot ecosystems, but they don’t have Apple’s head start. Apple could continue this way, but if bots are truly going to kill apps, who is the biggest loser among companies in the chat wars? Clearly it’s Google and Apple, owners of Google Play and App Store.
So Apple better get these stickers out of the way, or it risks being hindered by a lot more than delayed AirPods and the removal of the classic headphone jack.