After experimenting with app pre-orders like Super Mario Run last year, Apple is opening the App Store functionality to all comers, a major shift in how the online storefront operates.
Like Super Mario Run in 2016, developers can put their app up for pre-order on the App Store up to three months prior to actual release, allowing customers to browse product pages before an app hits virtual store shelves. Previously, an app's page would go live on Apple's public-facing servers only when the software saw release.
The policy change grants developers an additional marketing window and provides key insight into pre-release interest.
Under Apple's system, customers who committed to a pre-order are notified when that app sees release. The title is then automatically downloaded. In the case of paid apps, customers are automatically charged prior to download.
Setting up app pre-orders is a straightforward process accessed through the iTunes Connect homepage. Developers interested in taking advantage of the feature submit their app for review and choose a release date between two and 90 days in the future. If and when the app is approved, it can be made available for pre-order by selecting the "Release as Pre-Order" option from the Pricing and Availability section in iTunes Connect.
Developers are allowed to submit new versions of the app or change final pricing during the pre-order period. If an app's price is shifted higher, however, customers will be charged the lower price they first accepted.
Finally, Apple notes developers can set up in-app purchases during the pre-release period, but those assets will only appear on an app's product page after the title goes live.