It’s undoubtedly a wonderful time of the year where we can enjoy egg nog, relatives, presents, and the crippling inability to update our apps or boost app rankings.
Each year in December, Apple is kind enough to give its App Store team some well deserved R&R.
While it’s an admirable sentiment, there are huge implications for any mobile team as holidays are often the busiest time of the year for mobile.
What is the Code Freeze?
The code freeze is an annual shutdown of iTunes Connect, usually lasting about 8 days. Last year, the code freeze spanned from Dec. 22nd up until Dec 29th. During this critical period, there are 2 main implications every mobile team has to consider.
App Store Rankings Get Frozen
The first significant effect is that App Store rankings are frozen for the entire duration, meaning the top apps during that crucial period get to stay in top charts throughout the entirety of the code freeze. It’s a huge deal because the holiday period brings a huge spike in downloads and traffic.
Flurry found that there are 2.5x more app installs on Christmas Day than any normal day in December. It makes sense when you think about it. On Christmas, thousands of new phones are gifted, and those users want new apps on their phones. The most likely place they’ll go to look? The top charts of the App Store.
In addition to the spike in installations, 70% of all traffic comes from mobile during the holiday season. While mobile normally only accounts for 50% of all traffic, the increase makes sense as I’m sure I’m not the only one who whips out their phone while the family watches A Charlie Brown Christmas for the umpteenth time.
Teams Can’t Update Their Apps
The second major effect is that teams cannot submit any new updates during the code freeze. That means no new features, and no bug fixes. Only pre-scheduled app releases (or pricing changes) will go through. This makes strategizing for the holiday a bit difficult, especially given that the holiday period brings that crucial spike in downloads and traffic.
“If you plan to schedule app releases or price changes to take place during this time, make sure these changes are scheduled, submitted, and approved by December 18.” -Apple Letter to iTunes Connect Users.
The holidays are a huge opportunity for additional business. Apptentive predicts that there will be around $55 billion spent on mobile this holiday season. If we don’t strategize accordingly, we’re going to kick ourselves for it later.
This means that your app has to be rock solid to deal with the holiday traffic, and ensure that there aren’t bugs that would affect your users during such a critical time.
How To Prepare
There are a few different ways to deal with this, and ensure your app is ready for the 2015 holiday season. Apptimize customers also have a huge advantage as they’re able to update their apps and make changes, even during the freeze.
Make sure you release any new features well before the code freeze, giving you plenty of time to QA, work out any bugs, and optimize your app for the holidays. Last year, the last accepted changes needed to be approved by December 18th.
Try not to schedule releases to ship during the freeze. While it may seem like a good idea to schedule a change in advance, it also has the potential to break your app. With no updates going through, any bug will persist for the duration of the freeze. Alternatively, you can use Apptimize’s feature flagging and staged rollout to gain granular control of the release and even roll it back if something goes wrong.
Use Instant Updates to make any UI changes to your app on-the-fly, without having to go through Apple. Even if iTunes Connect is down, you’ll be able to make changes on your app and consistently provide the best experience possible for users. You can watch Roby add a holiday theme to Hipmunk’s app in just seconds below.
Speaking of instant changes, you can also use Apptimize Dynamic Variables to make more complex changes during the code freeze. You can see how the Retale team quickly tested and optimized their Black Friday strategy, all without having to go through the App Store.
Plan your ASO strategy to ensure you rank as high as possible during the holidays. You’ll want to optimize your push, and the timing so as to rank as high as possible.
Keep an eye out for the official announcement. While the official dates haven’t yet been released, it’s likely to be the same as last year. Check out last year’s official announcement below, and make sure you’re checking your emails!
iTunes Connect Holiday Shutdown
December 8, 2014
As a reminder, iTunes Connect will shut down December 22-29 for the winter holidays. If you plan to schedule app releases or price changes to take place during this time, make sure these changes are scheduled, submitted, and approved by December 18. Users who are currently testing or have been invited to test your pre-release apps with TestFlight will not be affected. Sales and Trends reports will also remain available through the Autoingestion tool.