After exploring iOS UI Animations I wanted to take a look at iOS App Previews as well. Normally these kind of posts are not so easy to write for me because, the readers get to see a long list of complaints from someone about “how something is the worst, and could have been so much better if they hired them instead”. I’m not a huge fan of those. I don’t want to go there. With this post my goal is to give a neutral, and constructive overview of some App Previews that are either:

  • Produced well
  • Incomprehensible, not clear enough, etc.
  • Seem to violate Apple’s terms

Looking at many App Previews they generally go in these directions. The problem most iOS App Previews suffer from is that it is not clear what the developers exactly want the viewers to see and why what is shown is of advantage to a customer.

I wrote about this in the past, and it is also a part of my book 10 Tips for Creating Engaging Product Videos. When a viewer watches a video, and all they see is someone clicking through the interface, it does not become inherently clear how all the clicking improves their own workflow. It becomes worse, when a lot of clicking and tapping happens, and more and more screens are shown, it just becomes confusing.

To get around this problem, you can use text overlays, or a voice over. In both cases it is very easy to just tell the viewers what they see, and how it augments their workflow. Both are legitimate to use by Apple, and both are recommendable tools. If all you use is music, then what you show needs to be clear enough to be understood by itself. From years of experience I can say: “it is rare that an app is able to do that”.

General Notes

Apple’s allowed maximum length for an App Previews is 30 seconds. While most App Previews are exactly, or almost exactly, 30 seconds long, some play extra safe an try to be a couple of seconds shorter, even. Shortest I’ve watched is around 25 seconds. From experience I would recommend to aim for 29 seconds, maybe a couple of frames longer, but stay at least 10 frames from the whole 30 seconds.

The easy easy easy way to create a new App Preview, for novices, is iMovie. Create a new App Preview there. iMovie sets the right limits for you so that you will not get into trouble for your video; except the length.

Most iPhone App Previews are portrait, while games are landscape. On the iPad there are more landscape videos than portrait.

Incomprehensible App Previews

SoundCloud

SoundCloud has a really nice designed app, but from watching their App Preview, I have no idea why I would want to do all the things they show. I’m asuming they have some sort of music app, but is their app the best because I can download music, or do I have to be online, or is SoundCloud more like a big platform where artists can showcase their music? Is SoundCloud so useful because the audio quality, is higher than anywhere else? Is the music player just 80% more useful than any other player? I see in the video I can follow a picture of an artist, does that mean I get new uploads from the artist, the genre, or the label? You get the idea. I can ask many many stupid questions about their video, because they don’t actually mention all those things. Not a single frame is wasted with “Hear the world’s sounds. Zeds Dead and millions of other artists share their tracks on SoundCloud”. This is taken from their website. Why would they not pitch their product in the App Preview?
SoundCloud is a big title though, which means they still get high download numbers. In the case of SoundCloud most users go back to the app description, or just rely on friend recommendations. Considering how big SoundCloud is though, I really question why they didn’t make a more comprehensible App Preview.

Matter

Pixite is making some really nice photo apps, some of which have a special use case. Matter for example adds various 3D rendered objects to a photo, that can reflect the surrounding areas, or have a special texture. What I like about this video is how good their musical choice actually fits the apps’ objects, especially when animated in the last passage. However it doesn’t become clear why adding a textured object to a photo improves it. They could also have a different message. Matter could be an app that allows users not to improve their pictures, but the way they add objects to an image is special, and therefore it is reasonable to buy the app. Is the app unique because the design itself is so unique? Who knows. Users will certainly not read the app description. As it is well known, screenshots first, if those don’t sell, the rest doesn’t either. With App Previews, that’s the first thing people see. App Previews come even before the first screenshot. Make it worth their while.

Yarnee

I couldn’t figure out what Yarnee actually does. I think it’s some sort of picture diary. Even after watching this App Preview multiple times it didn’t become clear to me.
The app was featured by Apple on the main front page of the App Store, some weeks ago, otherwise I wouldn’t have found it.

Yarnee stands out because not only is the App Preview incomprehensible, but also the video itself has issues. No, I did not forget to record the audio, the App Preview doesn’t have audio. And no, the jumping artifacts you see are in the actual App Preview, too. It is said that the app review team doesn’t do a good job at the moment. But I can’t see how issues like this could have passed app review, and then even got featured by the App Store editorial staff. Someone on either team must have watched this, right?

To be fair, Yarnee has a YouTube channel (with one video) where they have a real explainer video showing their app. Produced with a lot more effort and not that bad overall.

Well Produced

1Password

1Password has a nice App Preview. They essentially take their viewers through one cycle of using their app. They give good reasons to check out their app.

Here’s what they say:

  • 1Password […] stores all your personal details securely in your pocket.
  • It creates strong and unique passwords.
  • You can log in to websites, and fill long registration forms all with a single tap.

This all while they are doing everything they say, within 1Password. The best part is the roundup, where they start right at the beginning of the video.
Throughout the entire App Preview they pitch their app, but also don’t forget to showcase it.

Some critical thoughts:

  • The preview misses tap animations. With those they could emphasize the “all with a single tap”, even more.
  • This kind of background music is common nowaways, but I don’t think it adds to the experience of the app video. That said, this kind of music is easily adaptable, because you don’t need to cut your video to the music.

Carrot Fit

This one is fun to watch and engaging. The one thing that sets this App Preview apart is that they don’t go into the detail of their app. They show some basic functions, but after the video, you don’t really understand how the app works, but what you certainly get is what the app does for you. It supports your way as “chubby human”, with an “hilarious seven minutes in hell workout”, and if you do survive the workout and lose weight, you’ll get “fabulous prizes”. That is their claim.
Carrot Fit doesn’t have a human voice over either, but instead they used the dictation feature. Siri is the thing that lives inside the phone, somewhere, and she is here to assist and help. Using her voice they easily create the connection that their app is similarly magical than Siri, but they also make Siri sound like GlaDOS. Just a tad creepy.

Violating Apple’s Terms

Toywheel

A friend told me about this app. Toy wheel has a short 4 second passage where they clearly show a human hand, cutting something out, the Toywheel app printed. According to Apple regulations, an App Preview can only show the app itself. It is not allowed to show anything else.

Toywheel is special though. It’s an augmented reality app. That means they have an excuse to show something outside the app. It makes sense for them to show that users need to print something out, before the app functions properly. An App Preview is meant to teach users how to use the app.
That doesn’t mean, however, that what they are showing couldn’t have been done through other means. They use text screens already. They could’ve shown a screen that said “print out and put on floor”. But instead they chose to make a small scene about it, and then switch back to the app again. It’s interesting to note because I have had instances where we did something similar, and didn’t get through app review.

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