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Forget Maps and Scratches, Apple Has a MUCH Bigger Problem with its App Store

Forget Maps and Scratches, Apple Has a MUCH Bigger Problem with its App Store

By: Hillel Fuld (@hilzfuld)

In case you haven’t heard, September 2012 was named “Trash Apple” month. Apple launched the iPhone 5 along with iOS 6 and the complaints just don’t seem to stop. Of course, Tim Cook’s apology gave some legitimacy to all the hatred the new maps are getting but that is only the beginning.

The new iPhone apparently scratches a lot easier than the 4S its predecessor, and some users claim they are getting their iPhones out of the box with scratches on it. That is a problem.

Then there is the whole data/Wifi bug, in which users, myself included are finding that their data plan, which was more than enough before, is now being consumed a lot faster. I used to consume two to three GBs of data on an average month and it looks like this month I will hit ten gigs. That too is a problem.

However, given all the complaints generated by this new release, I think the biggest is yet to show its face. Apple, and the mobile world as a whole, has struggled with app discovery for a while now. You see, with 700k live apps in the App Store, there has to be some system in place to facilitate easier and more effective App Discovery. There is of course search but that only helps when I know the name of the app or use the right keywords when searching.

How well does the App Store search work? Well, I read about a new app this morning called App Map, searched the App Store for it, and the results are below…

There is of course the top charts of the App Store but those are pretty much just a popularity contest and since there are many ways to game the system, the top ranking apps are rarely the best apps.

So how is a user supposed to discover the apps that truly interest them?

Well, there are many solutions, my favorite one being Appsfire Deals. In general, these 3rd party solutions recommend apps to you based on many different criteria. What your friends are using, what apps you have installed, what people nearby are using, as well as price drops in categories you configure.

Great, problem solved, right? Wrong. Thanks to Apple.

You see, Apple recently added a clause to its app approval process. The new clause reads as follows:

2.25 Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected.”

You can read more about this restriction here.

Wonderful. So, Apple offers a sub par search experience in which you actually search for the name of an app and it provides a completely irrelevant result, its top charts are completely useless, and the only hope for consumers to find relevant apps just got axed by Apple.

Of course, Apple’s discovery disaster does not end there. With iOS 6, Apple redesigned the App Store in a way that it displays one app at a time in a card-like design. That means that the one app Apple decides to display will get the promotion it needs. The others? Nothing.

Not only is this a huge problem for users who want to find relevant apps but something tells me, over time, it will become a serious problem for iOS developers as well. Remember, if users can’t find your app, they won’t download it. No downloads means no revenue.

Of course, Apple knows this is a problem and that’s why the company acquired Chomp but so far, a lot of good that did…

So can we all just agree that while maps are a problem, as time goes by and more people use them, they will improve. The App Store, on the other hand is a complete mess from pretty much every perspective.

Since the “ecosystem” is what sets Apple apart from its competition, unless Apple does something drastic and it does it fast, the complaining we have seen over the past few weeks will pale in comparison to the backlash Apple will get when users and developers realize just how much of a mess the App Store really is.