Way back at WWDC in June, Apple demoed how easy it is to open Xcode and create an iOS 10 sticker pack for Messages. Unlike iMessage apps, you don’t need to be a developer or know any code. You just need a Mac with Xcode, a paid developer account, and an idea for a sticker pack.
I’ve had a paid developer account since iOS 5 beta, but I’ve never submitted an app or opened Xcode for anything meaningful before. I’m definitely not a developer so I wanted to put Apple’s pitch to the test and see just how easy it is to create sticker packs.
I’m happy to report today that my ridiculous idea for two sticker packs was a success and both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump sticker packs are available on the App Store.
It wasn’t quite as easy as drag-and-drop. I needed plenty of help from two actual developers for all of the administrative work, and I spent way too much time using the iPad Pro and Apple Pencil (sounds like the next Apple ad) to turn photos into decent-looking stickers.
It was a super fun experience in the end and I got exposed to what actual developers have to deal with after actually creating a new app. From navigating Xcode to submitting an app to TestFlight and adding testers, it takes a lot of effort to do the most basic tasks! I also got to witness the app review process including TestFlight submissions and App Store submissions. You go through all the motions as an app developer after you create your stickers!
Now I have no expectations that my ridiculous sticker packs will last long. They made it through TestFlight review which wasn’t a surprise, then I had dozens of testers reach out and ask to try them ahead of time. Adding new testers from scratch is not easy, and iTunes Connect could make the process much easier on iOS, but I’m pleased so many people were interested in trying my stickers ahead of time.
Both of my sticker packs also made it through standard app review which was a surprise. I wouldn’t be shocked if these sticker packs are pulled for obvious reasons. I figured with apps like ‘Whack A Hillary’ and ‘Trump Dump’ on the App Store (these are real but I really don’t want to link), my sticker packs were fair game.
I made the Donald Trump sticker pack first from publicly available images of the Republican presidential nominee. I saved dozens of photos to my Camera Roll then edited each image down to just the face (or hair) using Procreate on the iPad Pro with Apple Pencil. Then I AirDropped each simplified image to the Mac and sized them appropriately using Preview.
For the Hillary Clinton sticker packs, I repeated the same process using publicly available images of the Democratic presidential nominee. Each sticker has a maximum size requirement of 618×618 pixels. Then you need to create a sticker pack icon and App Store icon with way too many size requirements to list. I used makeappicon.com to help.
For step-by-step help for managing Xcode and iTunes Connect, I leaned heavily on my colleague Benjamin Mayo and developer friend Eytan Schulman. Benjamin has a sticker pack of his own called Monstermoji and Eytan has a funny Presidential Sticker Pack. Thanks to both of them and the dozens of beta testers who expressed interest along the way including our 9to5Mac Happy Hour podcast listeners.
Finally, I spent some extra time making the Trump sticker pack accessibility-friendly with VoiceOver support. If these last a few days and don’t get pulled, I’ll do the same for the Hillary sticker pack. The easiest way to toggle VoiceOver is with Siri if you want to try it for yourself. I’m half considering the VoiceOver labels Easter eggs for all users, but they do add context for users that rely on VoiceOver as well.
So that’s my story. Hillary Sticker Pack and Trump Sticker Pack — Make Emoji Great Again (someone already has the shortened name) are available for 99¢ each on the App Store. They’re surprisingly expressive and satisfying regardless of your personal political views! Grab both while they’re hot (and before someone complains and they disappear).