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Apple Pursues New Search Features for a Crowded App Store (bloomberg.com)
25 points by walterbell on Apr 15, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments

I would like Apple to fix search before they start asking devs to pay for placement. For such a simple data set, their search features are completely non-existent. Search terms look to need to be pretty close to exact, the search results are artificially limited by some mechanism, no ability to search multiple terms, no ability to create custom lists, no ability to filter based on more than their two or three meaningless filters, etc.

I suspect that after nearly a decade of no meaningful enhancements, this is done by design and helps push specific apps up the list in some manner.

Adding paid search capabilities helps no one except Apple and large development companies that can now blow through their marketing budget even quicker. Great for them not so great for Jane Doe's app which suffers under this type of oppressive change.

> no ability to create custom lists

What do you mean by this?

> no ability to filter based on more than their two or three meaningless filters, etc

What kinds of things would you want to filter on? (Not disagreeing, just honestly curious.)

One of the biggest problems in the App Store is discoverability. The only options are to search for specific keywords or to browse one of the few lists offered by Apple. User-created lists add a bit of human perspective on the problem of finding related items. For example, on YouTube I consider lists as being very important for navigation.

Reviews are easily gamed, which seems to be the number one way to rank higher, and releasing a new version of an app wipes out reviews, which penalizes apps that are frequently improved and rewards forgotten apps. This is also driving the development of frameworks and tools that allow app updates without going through the App Store, such as react native, which I assume Apple doesn't want to encourage. Please reward apps that provide real value, that people constantly use after installing, rather than apps that game the system.

Apple's app store is crowded in the sense that developers, in total, have spent far more worth of development hours building stuff for the app store than the app store generates in revenue.

That is why only very few make money, most make nothing, nearly all make less than their cost of development and advertisement.

Apple now appearantly plans to ask developers to pay for search position, in addition to what they already are paying for advertisement and development.

This will only make the problem worse.

If I was tasked with creating a system that only benefits those ALREADY doing well in the app store, and hurts indie developers I would come up with exactly what they're proposing.

I really hope this doesn't get implemented. There's low hanging fruit that could really help with the discoverability issues:

  More categories
  Better search (the matching is crap)
  More curated lists
  GET RID OF THE GARBAGE (old, broken and outdated apps should be removed)
Fixing those issues, and making a trial/paid upgrade path for apps would help and make developers happy. Unfortunately I guess there's more money in soaking up some of the ad money companies spend on Facebook. With paid listings expect to see Clash of Clans listed for.. everything

Apple seems destined to repeat their previous mistakes.

They had a big lead in with Apps, but now their phone market share must be approaching their desktop market share.

They owned the app store, but then they did such a lousy job: no paid upgrades, very poor policing of fake reviews.

Interesting. This would seem to imply that revenue is flat or down given Apple's previous intransigence on this front.

Personal experience tends to back this up. I can't think of anybody in my immediate circle who actually paid for something in the last year on their iPad/iPhone.

Not necessarily revenue - they might have "early warning" metrics (# of downloads, turnover in top lists, # of new apps meeting a certain download threshold) that alert them to potential problems in the health of the ecosystem, long before it shows up in revenue.

Relying on anecdotal evidence is always tricky - nobody in my immediate circle ever paid for anything on their iPad/iPhone. But anecdotally, most iPhone devs I know consider discoverability to be a potentially platform-killing problem, and are finding that they can't make a living as indie devs because it's too hard to surface their app. Other platforms like the web don't have this problem, which might explain why webapps still get a lot of attention even though the iPhone userbase is now a much larger share of time spent online.

The only time I buy anything on my android phone is after I've downloaded the free version first, found it was actually useful, and then upgrade and get the pro features. Apps are so cheap I have no problem spending the money, but testing the app out first is crucial because there is so much crapware on the app store!

I literally do not trust buy-only apps anymore because of it. For example I wanted to log my gym progress in an app, and I had to go through at least 10 different apps before I finally found one that had the functionality I wanted (fitframe devs thank you!).

Yep. A really simple thing they could do is have like a “one hour timer before payment” that basically says you have a chance to download and tinker with something first, and if you delete the app then you will never pay for it.

I personally have bought about a dozen apps over the past 12 months, some for myself and some for my kids. $.99 to a couple of dollars is really not that much to me or most people.

If their concern is helping developers create sustainable businesses on the app store they should at least provide more monetization options.

- Why won't they do timed free trials for paid apps? How many years now have developers been crying out for that, at this point its just cruel to not provide this option.

- How about SaaS? Paid subscription for access to an app. A developer chooses a tier to charge and a period, the OS does the rest. Make it easy. Paid subscriptions on the app store are plagued by pointless rules.

If the users don't like it, businesses that use these techniques won't prosper. Leave it to the market. Let the developers choose.

If its easier to monetize per download the problem of search is reduced… its hard to get found, but if you can make some money when you are found it matters less.

Improve search too but its not all there is.

Monetisation is a bigger problem ; A refusal to address it has led to a library of unsupported apps. The new apple tvs app library is an embarrassment, where are the killer device selling titles?

Why are so few apps supporting new device features like 3D touch? Theres also very few apps taking advantage of the iPad pro.

Its monetization apple. Why don't they do anything about it?

I know it’s Apple’s style to try to do everything themselves but search has simply never been their strong suit. (Even now, I work around Spotlight using 3rd party software; and Spotlight integration in things like Apple Mail is so messed up that I see it inanely failing to find words in messages that I am currently LOOKING AT.)

It is time to team up with Bing and/or Google and just make external search the default.

It should be possible to use things like "appstore:ios" as a filter term much like "site:xyz.com", etc. and just offload the entire summary page of every app for indexing. The summaries for apps seem to be rendered as web pages anyway, since the App Store acts like some kind of web view.

And when search results are constructed from such filters, all the default links would be formatted by Bing/Google to open the appropriate app store page.

All this stuff exists in bits and pieces now, and has for years, it just hasn’t been put together anywhere. It really does seem as simple as dumping every app web page somewhere, indexing it with Google, converting all the results links to use an app-store URL, and saying “done”.

Am I wrong in suggesting that Apple created this problem and is now asking developers to pay to "fix" it? Why wasn't search already better?

Search in the App Store is broken and useless. Also, the bread crumbs categories is limited to the US store and missing from the Canadian store. Where are my bread crumbs, Apple?

This is good for Apple: It's a good incremental revenue opportunity. Facebook makes a lot of money helping app developers find their way to installs.

This could be good for developers: If Apple follows this to its logical extent, they will also let developers A/B test art and copy for their app, making it easier for app developers to find the parts of their app that really resonate with users and get installs.

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