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 either by 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 picks (see screenshot below). Essentially, iTunes editorial staff pick applications to feature in those areas (they are not sponsored ad spots). This leaves developers largely at the mercy of iTunes staff to get their application seen past the “New Apps” block.
The large majority of apps are relegated to being found only but the iTunes search functionality. Unfortunately the results from searches return Albums, Applications, Podcasts, and more, requiring even more clicks to funnel down to what you really want to find.
Lucky for us, since the App Store’s launch, some creative third parties have gone ahead and built web sites that have more information than what the App Store provides. Let’s take a look at each one.
The primary value proposition behind AppBeacon is app discovery. First, you 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 while it does make finding new apps a bit more intuitive, it still doesn’t really solve the discovery problem that it actually aims to fix. AppBeacon’s biggest plus is filtering but what would really take this to the next level would be to see recommendations a la Amazon’s discovery engine (people like you bought such-and-such app, and you might like it too).
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.
iPhonexe, unfortunately, 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?