App Store Organization: One Problem, Four Current Solutions [TheAppleBlog]

App Store Organization: One Problem, Four Current Solutions [TheAppleBlog]

Apple doesn’t want you to find quality apps in the App Store. Yes, I said it. The way the App Store is currently designed, Apple would rather you spend your valuable time discovering apps by either going category by category or making “staff picks” for you.

Alternatively, you can just purchase 99 cent flatulence apps — these tend to provide the most value, especially in a business setting. Detect the sarcasm?

One way to discover new apps is via the featured advertisements. Essentially, businesses pay Apple for better visual placement to help you discover their app. For example, Bank Of America recently released their 2.0 version of their Mobile Banking app. To market their app to a larger audience, BofA now has a preferred promotional placement. Here is a screenshot (note the orange highlight):

App Store Featured Apps

I am all for capitalism and for Apple making money when it comes to preferred placement. However, there is an inherent challenge for independent developers to afford this placement. Thus, these developers either rely upon someone from Apple’s App Store staff to make the app a “Staff Pick,” or they resort to marketing and promoting the app themselves on their own web sites.

I arbitrarily chose Darrensoft’s RoadTrip is an example of an independent developers promoting their own product. Let’s compare the App Store Promotional page vs. the developer’s own web site:

RoadTrip (App Store)
RoadTrip (Developer web site)

What’s unfortunate here is that the Darrensoft had to create a rich site in order to provide more useful information to the potential buyer. What would be more useful is if Apple enabled the developers to enhance their App Store product listings with a rich experience so that users would be able to make more informed purchases.

In fact, there are many developers who have created sites to display additional information about their apps. Some of these include very popular apps, such as:

Finding decent apps with iTunes isn’t impossible. The most popular apps (free and paid) are easily found as they have their own real estate on the main app store page. And, you can find the most popular free and paid apps in each category. It does take more time to do so, although it is possible to potentially find an interesting app.

Unfortunately, the iTunes built-in search mechanism isn’t very helpful here. Just type “Twitter” and you’ll get search results in Albums, Applications, Podcasts, iTunes U and more. Yes, you can click Apps, although the search should be smart enough to show you the most relevant results. Further, there is an Power Search, which does let you focus the results to just apps.

Since the App Store launch, some creative third parties have gone ahead and built web sites that have more information than what the App Store provides. Here is a sampling of what’s out there:

Let’s take a look at each one…


The primary value proposition behind AppBeacon is discovery. To really make use of discovery, you first need to create an account (free) and then begin to define which apps you own, which ones interest you (bookmark) and which apps you don’t like (sink). You can “sink all” apps in a specific category so that you can begin to filter out apps more quickly.

When you bookmark an item, you can then decide if you want to purchase or sink it. The problem with AppBeacon’s approach is that it doesn’t really solve the discovery problem. AppBeacon does help with filtering, although it would be really nice to see their discovery run via an engine that would make recommendations a la Amazon’s discovery engine (people like you bought such-n-such app and you might like it too).

App Shopper

App Shopper is designed to help you quickly filter the newest or updated apps in the App Store. What makes this service more useful is that you can also filter by an app’s price change. Seeing how it is difficult to find when a particular app decreases in price, this is a nice feature. App Shopper also has a nice leaderboard that shows the relative changes in popular apps (free and paid) on a daily basis.


Similar to AppBeacon, Apptism lets you create a free account to track the apps you own and create a watchlist of potential new apps you want to purchase. Further, Apptism has a pretty deep filtering mechanism. For example, you can filter by recent or most activity metrics, including recent reviews, comments, articles and more. This is a pretty useful way to see which apps are gaining more interest in the app-o-sphere.

Another great feature of Apptism is its new Preview listings. Essentially, Apptism is encouraging developers to provide early information to users about upcoming apps. This preview information includes a description, screenshots, and when the app should be generally available.

The service has a community forum for users to discuss the apps they use as well as a news section that aggregates information from the web about iPhone apps.

Overall, this is a pretty useful service and definitely adds value over the default App Store experience.


iPhonexe is just embarrassing. The UI is ugly, the name of the site implies a Windows-esque nomenclature and the ability to discover new iPhone apps is no better than what iTunes provides. I would say that the only real value to this site is its listing of jailbroken apps. If you have a jailbroken iPhone, then this service might be interesting to you. Otherwise, I recommend avoiding it.

What to do?

None of these services are perfect, although at least you now have options outside of the App Store itself to find iPhone apps of interest. Of the services mentioned here, it appears that AppBeacon and Apptism have the most value, even if they do require that you create an account. For my personal use, it seems that AppBeacon offers the most utility of all the services.

Is the App Store’s current method of organizing/finding apps sufficient for you? Do these services mentioned have any added benefit for you? What could Apple do to organize the App Store and make it more efficient for finding apps?

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