5 takeaways for iOS developers from WWDC 2013

Even though Apple’s(s AAPL) lead in mobile hardware has eroded with the rise of Samsung, third-party apps have become more important than ever. The biggest apps and developers still think iOS first — but fewer and fewer of them are remaining iOS-only. Apple’s platform and App Store provided others with a whole new livelihood, but the company is relying more than ever on third-party app makers to keep its platform ahead of the competition.

As such, WWDC was the time for developers to feel the love from Apple. But we also got to see some pretty striking changes to the now 6-year-old iOS that those developers will now have to digest. Here are the five main things to know.

$10 billion paid out to developers

$10 billion to developers

Apple said it paid $5 billion to developers in the last year alone in revenue from App Store sales. And that’s great: but the reality is that the dynamics of the App Store have changed rapidly over the past few years. With the rise of free-mium/pay-to-play, paid apps aren’t making nearly as much revenue as they used to for developers. The question a lot of developers seem to be struggling with right now is whether they should go free with in-app purchase or simply start embracing higher prices for apps.

50 billion total downloads

50 billion downloads iOS

There are 900,000 apps available — and if you divide that 50 billion evenly among each app, that would be about 56,000 downloads apiece. But that’s obviously not how it works: all apps are not created equal. There are apps that have millions of downloads and some that have 10. And Apple continues to have its work cut out for it finding and removing apps that are gaming the system or using spammy tactics to artificially inflate download numbers.

You have a lot of work ahead of you

iOS versus Android upgrade to latest version

But you already know this. iOS 7 is different in many ways from its predecessors — as we’ve covered extensively — and it’s going to require a larger effort to figure out how your app needs to adapt to the new OS than the usual yearly upgrade. Apps that don’t look like they belong in the new iOS 7 world will look outdated and put themselves at a disadvantage — current users may abandon an app and potential users may not download it in the first place if the experience looks inconsistent with the environment it’s in.

But, as the image above shows, the effort will be worth it. Apple has trained its iOS users well and they upgrade quickly to the latest version of the operating system — much faster than Android(s GOOG) users (who are held back by carriers and manufacturers).

The bummer for iPad app makers is they will have even less time than iPhone developers to figure out how to optimize their app for iOS 7. The iPad beta version of the software is still several weeks away from being released.

Get ready for an app approval logjam

Screen Shot 2013-06-10 at 9.54.38 AM

Did you notice your iOS app update taking longer to get approved than normal this week? Some developers are already starting to see this and the beta has been out for less than a week. As developers figure out how they will incorporate the new look — not to mention new features, services and APIs into their apps to get ready for the official release of iOS in the fall — that is likely going to get worse unless Apple decides to staff up its app review team. With such a big overhaul there’s a lot less chance some app makers will sit this change out than in the past with relatively less dramatic upgrades.

It’s probably not as bad as you think

Everyone and their mom seems to think they can do a better job at re-imagining iOS 7 than Jony Ive and his Human Interface team. Which is kind of hilarious, when you think about it.

Yes, it’s bright and yes it’s different, but this is technology: things change. Just like the when the internet recoils in horror at Facebook(s FB) design changes, we’ll all eventually get used to this very big change. (Or most of us, anyways.) Plus, there’s little chance of going back.

It’s true that there are some changes that are a bit off-putting, and plenty of details and elements that are not quite right yet — as several designers have told me. But remember: it’s been eight months since iOS 6 came out and iOS 7 is a pre-release beta. It’s a good bet that what Apple unveiled Monday is going to be tweaked and adjusted as needed over the next few months.

And even after it’s put on a new iPhone and shipped to the masses, that’s still not the end: the iOS 7 revealed this week, just like all Apple software, will continue to evolve.