Blog Post

App Store Organization: One Problem, Four Current Solutions

Apple (s aapl) 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.

App Store Featured Apps

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

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?

24 Responses to “App Store Organization: One Problem, Four Current Solutions”

  1. Hi Guys,

    Theres actually a new site that just launched called Appboy, its the only social network for App developers and Users. Where people can comment, vote and share apps. Developers can promote their apps with their own viral url which becomes their personal appstore, and users can submit ideas which the community votes on to get developed or not. Its cool site, got a great review here if your a developer you can add any app to the site in seconds, its been creating a lot of buzz


  2. Akopian

    What we need are better subcategories of applications. For productivity you could have General Organizers; Calendars; Collaboration Apps, etc.

    None of the websites above list subcategories. If somebody wants to truly make a splash in setting their website apart from the others, they will devote significant time to simply categorizing applications as best they can in a more reasonable manner.

  3. slimmy451

    My favorite way to browse for apps is using the iPhone program AppSniper. You can set price point alerts, filters, browse new additions, block apps by specific developers and more. Much more useful than using the AppStore program directly and best of all, unlike a website only solution, this works directly on your phone.

    The actual app buying still happens through the AppStore app so you never give the AppSniper program any confidential information either. Probably the best program on my iPhone because it lets me find whatever else I’m looking for *and* save money on future purchases at the same time.

  4. also allows you to get alerts (email or via Twitter) when apps change price or new apps appear that match your interests.

    You can also see charts for price and popularity history (go to the Top 40 Apps ‘paid’ tab and click on one of the charts).

    A recommendation engine is in the works.

  5. SimpleLife

    Nice article. There’s so much potential for iPhone apps, but there is a lot of fluff or mediocre apps out there. Blogs really help me save time in finding good old or new apps. Thanks for the helpful suggestions.

  6. All you Windoze and Mack people talk about finding stuff through iTunes. I can only guess what you mean, since I use Ubuntu, and the iTunes app doesn’t work worth a darn there.

    Le Sigh.

  7. Matthew,

    Thanks for the overview of all the options for finding apps. I appreciate you including AppBeacon in your review. I do like your suggestion about recommendations. It is something we can incorporate in the future after we finish our base feature list (price change notifications, etc).

    The key point to this article is that none of the available options for finding apps is going to suit all users. I don’t think that is possible. So, everyone, please experiment with AppBeacon, AppShopper, Apptism, and iPhonexe to see which works for you. I know I welcome suggestions for features and am sure the other site’s developers do as well.

    Justin Noel

  8. Elliot Bowes

    Actually, developers don’t pay (or even ask for) those featured placements. Usually you get a call from Apple asking if they can have some artwork for them, and that’s the first time you’ll know about being featured.

    This occurred for our application Vicinity, and we were featured on both the US and UK stores.