To question the success of the App Store would be to question the existence of the human race.
After all, it has been responsible for over 60 billion downloads, and continues to house over a million apps. But with great power comes great responsibility, and thanks to issues within the functionality of the App Store that was most recently highlighted by the Flappy Birds saga, it may well be time for Apple to start pulling its weight when it comes to nurturing its huge user-base and its thirst for new and innovative apps.
As a little helping hand, we’ve assembled a list of the major issues within the App Store, and a little advice to Apple on how to approach fixing them, if it really wants to drag its aging shop front into 2014.
What’s the issue? Why is the App Store still a window into the preference of the masses? With over a million apps in the App Store the ability to view by your own taste is long over due.
Currently, you either have to know what you’re looking for, or you trawl the top charts for the popular apps – an epic feat as those that found much beyond a Flappy Birds clone in the App Store a couple of weeks ago will attest to. The point is, the one-size fits all approach outgrew itself a long time ago.
What can be done? Apple needs to take a leaf out of the Netflix book. Though it takes awhile, the site’s rating system allows you to influence your homepage to produce something that can eventually halfway match your personality. Digging a bit deeper, you can actually find scores of preference options that deeply personalizes the experience.
If Apple were to implement a similar set-up, using a smartphone would be instantly transformed into a much more personal experience.
2. Improve Search
What’s the issue? It’s now been two years since Apple took a bite out of the search market with its acquisition of Chomp, but many of the system’s key features are yet to surface on the App Store.
Chomp was a search engine that allowed users to search for apps by category rather than just name or keyword, but despite the takeover and subsequent shutdown of Chomp, the App Store still lacks this functionality.
The result is unpredictable and often sees well-hyped apps impossible to find. Results aren’t based on review score either making it hard for users to find the best app for their needs.
What they should do: Apple is still sitting on a lot of that technology. While they implemented the card interface a trick was truly missed by failing to implement the search by category option.
However, Apple still owns this technology so a solution might be closer, or certainly easier, than we might think.
3. Ranking charts
What’s the issue? This one is tied closely to the one size fits all problem. Users are left frequently at the whim of a meme and the result could be a whole range of apps that appeal to a less than majority user group.
According to a study back in 2011 only 26% of apps are used more than once. But it doesn’t mean they didn’t have considerable download numbers. Developers can ‘game’ the charts by using popular keywords or name their app creatively which could see useless apps climb up the charts to be ranked number one.
What they should do: Apple needs to wrestle the control of its charts back from its users. Charts based on usage would be a start, to see which are actually the most popular. Add in some restraints on the amount of times an app can be renamed or implementing keyword abuse rules in the review process and we might be on our way to a relevant ranking chart.
Another boost to the ranking system would be to rank by category as currently games have the ability to frequently swamp the charts.
4. Social integration
What’s the issue? In a time when any blog post, news article or product can be shared to innumerable social networks – the App Store’s limited social network integration seems positively archaic. While you can share direct from your iPhone, integration within the App Store itself is opaque.
What they should do: Make it more obvious how to like an app and share it directly through the App Store. The ability to like and share via social networks would not only modernize it and bring it inline with user expectations, but the number of shares or likes through the App Store can be attributed and contribute to a more accurate charting system.
5. A developer relationship
What’s the issue? A number of issues within the Apple/developer relationship has a knock on effect for users. The ‘Flappstore’ controversy has given light to the issues of App Store guidelines and the need for an update to stop the charts being clogged up by clones again.
Additionally, developers are left unable to respond to reviews, outside of releasing an update – by which time that, and many other users may be long gone.
What they should do: First, a formalization of the review progress would do wonders – for example, imposing limits on the number of name changes or keywords will stop developers capitalizing on hype.
A developer response function in reviews would also help develop relationships and create trusted developers that currently don’t have the facility to explain what could be a misunderstanding. In reality – a more intricate app could be a great piece of kit, but is easily bumped down by angry tech support rants.
It’s a fix
The App Store is a hugely innovative piece of kit that launched a whole industry. But it is also a megalithic, and now outdated platform which is not easily fixed. However, if there’s one company with the ability to do something great with it, it’s Apple.
We can only hope that by highlighting these issues more that someone, somewhere at Apple HQ will take the brave decision to finally fix the