Improving App Discovery

How do you discover new apps to download to your iPhone?

Most people download apps based on word of mouth and recommendations from friends. Others rely on online searches or ratings. All these methods are ineffective. Over the past few years, I have certainly spent a few hours looking at lists of the “top 50 apps” most of which proved totally useless and irrelevant. Sure, Apple has a “genius” discovery feature for apps, but I don’t think I have once found anything worthwhile from their recommendations. 

Thee app store’s 5-star-rating system and rankings is just as ineffective. I am very skeptical of the ratings. The system is plagued by false, manipulated voting and most of the time the top apps are mindless games that are utterly irrelevant to me. There are over half a million apps. No one can navigate through that on their own. Apple is sitting on data from my phonebook, twitter account, facebook, gmail, and basically every social network I participate in. It knows who I am and it has the ability to know exactly who my friends are.

An improved app store would show what apps my friends use and how often. It would leverage data from my social networks and contact book to recommend applications. 

A better app store experience would not only show download frequency, but also active usage rates.

This would show which apps truly engage users and provide lasting value. Often, I look at my friends’ home screens to see what apps they feature on their main page. I think its a good way to get to know what is important to people. Here is a screenshot of my home screen.


I’d love to see a list of the apps most commonly appearing on my friends’ home screens as well. At a minimum, users would benefit from a simple “sharing feature” to share and recommend apps to friends. When a wave of my friends suddenly switched to iOS, many of them asked me for app recommendations and there was no easy way for me to provide them with a list of my favorites. Right now, its incredibly hard to even tweet or email a download link for an app. Apple could easily build this directly into the existing app store. These feature not only benefit users, but also developers who will profit from network effects as the most “successful” apps diffuse through social networks. Apple is aware that this is a big problem. Just as I finished writing this, Apple announced its acquisition of Chomp, an app search tool. While Chomp will help improve keyword search functionality, I hope that Apple incorporates social elements and active usage rates as those are big drivers and indicators of an apps value and success .

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