Apple is requiring developers to optimize all app submissions for iOS 7 by February 1st, 2014, according to a new posting on its developer portal. That includes new apps and updates to existing apps. In order to optimize apps for the new operating system, they must be built with the latest version of Xcode 5 which includes 64-bit support and access to new features like backgrounding APIs.
Apple has been on a push over the past couple of years to encourage developers to support the latest editions of its OS faster than ever. To do this, it’s made a habit of pointing out the adoption rates of new versions of iOS, which are extremely high. Nearly every event mentions iOS 7 adoption, which now tops 76% of all iOS users, and Apple now publishes current statistics on a page on its site.
It’s likely that Apple is more anxious than ever for developers to update their apps to fit in visually and mechanically with iOS 7, as it’s the largest change in the history of Apple’s mobile software. iOS 7 introduced a much more complex physical language while stripping out many of the visual cues that developers had relied on to instruct users. For better or worse, this has created a new aesthetic that many un-updated apps did not reflect.
However, from the wording of the notice, it appears that this requirement is more about the underlying construction of apps rather than their appearance. You can ‘optimize’ an app (whatever that means) for iOS 7 and build it against the new Xcode without redesigning it. That being said, many of Apple’s standard UI elements have changed in its new SDK so most apps being built in the new tool will need some re-working in order to look and function correctly.