Tech giant Apple has just acquired the weather app Dark Sky, a move indicates that the company will be further emphasizing its services division.
Unfortunately, this decision raises some red flags for the independent app industry. Those who use the iOS version of Dark Sky will continue to be able to use it. But those who use it on either Android or on a Google Wear OS smartwatch will only have access until July 1st.
What makes Dark Sky unique?
Dark Sky, like most weather apps, uses public sources like the National Weather Service to supply its data. The feature that really sets the app apart is that it uses machine learning models to predict the weather for a user’s hyper-precise location. The app can send a notification to a user that are as specific as telling them it will start raining right where they’re standing in 10 minutes. Dark Sky’s precision and accuracy make it stand apart in a fairly saturated market.
Apple might have also been attracted by another Dark Sky feature, as a supplier of data for many other apps. The company offers data on a pay as you go, model. Other data suppliers tend to have a tiered pricing model, which makes it fiscally impossible for small apps to use the service.
Why the expansion of Apple’s Service Division?
Over the past couple of years, iPhone sales have declined somewhat as consumers choose to upgrade their phones less frequently. Because of this, Apple is trying to steer away from the focus on devices while pivoting toward software products.
The services division includes subscription services like iCloud, Apple Arcade, Apple Music, Apple TV Plus, Apple News Plus, and Apple Care, as well as App Store purchases. With such a huge list of offerings, the division has actually begun to generate higher quarterly revenue than any Apple product beside the iPhone. Although the iPhone is still bringing in more money, its future earnings don’t inspire as much hope as the services.
The Dark Sky app sells for $3.99 on the Apple App Store, which adds another great revenue stream for the company. Also, the fact that Dark Sky has been an affordable data provider will mean that competing apps might be choked out of the market.
The Acquisition’s Impact on Indie Apps
Dark Sky will continue to allow existing users to integrate its data into their own weather apps until the end of 2021, though no new users will be able to access the data. This means that after next year independent weather apps, like Carrot, Partly Sunny, Appy Weather, and Weather Line, will see higher costs for the data they buy. That shift will most likely push some smaller apps out of the market and will definitely raise the barrier to entry for new players.
Compared to Apple’s acquisition of apps like Swell and Hopstop, Dark Sky got lucky. Those apps, and ones like it, were shut down completely following a purchase by Apple. The company just wanted them off the table. This acquisition, with its unique market position and its data business, seems like one that will stick.
This acquisition could be more harmful to the field as a whole because of Dark Sky’s data supplier status— and Apple sabotaging indie developers is far from a unique occurrence.