The iPad is fairly impressive out of the box, but taking on the formidable challenge of replacing a Windows 7 PC as a primary computing device requires a mix of apps to fill specific needs. Today, I am taking a closer look at the Apple App Store since it is the only (legitimate) gateway for acquiring the apps you need.
The Apple App Store is the portal to the more than 425,000 apps currently available. Apple recently revealed that it has sold more than 15 billion–with a “B”–apps. It is a pretty impressive feat in and of itself, but when you look at the limitations of the App Store it seems even more remarkable.
An average iOS user downloads 83 apps at an average cost of $1.83 per app. Granted, those are averages. I have 109 apps currently, so somewhere out there is an iOS user with only 57 to offset me so we average 83. I also paid $29.95 for the LogMeIn Ignition app, so there have to be a whole lot of 99 cent apps or something to bring that average down to $1.83.
Trying Apps. Sure, there have been 15 billion apps downloaded. How many of those apps are still installed or used on any sort of regular basis? I have 109 apps on my iPad now, but I have probably paid for or downloaded at least 150–maybe 200. Sometimes an app sounds promising, so I download it and then figure out it doesn’t do what I thought, or doesn’t fit my needs so I remove it.
If the app was free, no blood no foul. But, I have spent a decent amount of money just this month buying apps to check them out for this series, then tossing them aside after a matter of only a few hours. Apple needs a better system for allowing users to try apps out without taking their money.
Many app developers offer a Lite version and a Full version of a given app. The Lite version is typically an ad-supported free version to let you try it out, and if you like the app and don’t want the ads you can buy the Full version.
There are two problems with this approach. First, it skews the app volume numbers. If there are 425,000 apps, and 100,00 of them are Lite versions then those shouldn’t count as a separate app, and there are really only 325,000 apps. Second, the iOS device treats them as separate apps as well. If you get the Lite version, and then decide to get the Full version, you end up with both and you have to delete the Lite version. It should treat it as unlocking the Full version, or at least replace the Lite version as an upgrade when the Full version is purchased.
Really, Apple needs to implement a system more like the Android Market. There should be some established period of ‘buyer’s remorse’ that enables users to download an app and try it for some period of time before the transaction is processed, and lets them uninstall the app and cancel the transaction if the apps doesn’t meet their needs.
Finding Apps. How do you find what you are looking for when there are 425,000 options? The App Store app defaults to the Featured view which shows a handful of apps currently being promoted in a large banner at the top, and a section dubbed “New and Noteworthy” below. If you scroll down, there is also a section called “Staff Picks”, and a section of Quick Links that lead to the iPad Apps Starter Kit, iPad Hall of Fame, and other similar collections.
Across the bottom of the app, you can also choose from Genius–which analyzes your past app purchases and makes recommendations for you, Top Charts–which displays the Top 10 paid apps, Top 10 free apps, and Top 12 highest grossing apps, and Categories–which lets you browse apps grouped by category. At the top of the app is a search field where you try to find apps based on title or keywords.
Finding an app in the Apple App Store is a lot like finding tools in the Ubuntu Software Center. It takes some conditioning to search effectively. For example, on Day 12 when I wanted to find a Quicken equivalent, I searched for Quicken. That search was not as useful, though, as my subsequent search for the more general keyword “invoice”.
There is no perfect way to search through 425,000 options and find the right tool. Keyword searches depend on which keywords the developers choose to file the app under. Categories may not always be intuitive.
It would help cut the noise and clutter if multiple versions of the same app were combined into one listing. If there is a Free version and a Full or paid version, and separate versions for iPhone and iPad, an app may be listed four separate times. It is just one app. List it once and let me choose which variation I want from within the app listing.
What would be nice, though, is a better way to filter results based on the user feedback ratings. Even better, let me filter the results based only on user feedback ratings assigned over the past month or so–because apps that have gone through multiple iterations because I am only interested in what users think about the current release of the app in question.
Updating Apps. The App Store app has an Updates button. The app automatically detects if any of the apps installed on my iPad have updates available, and displays a badge on the button letting me know how many updates are available.
I can tap the Updates button to see which apps have updates, and tap Update All to download and install the updates. But, why do I need to do that? Of course I want the update. Apple should at least provide an option to automatically apply all available updates without waiting for me to initiate the process.
It is nice to know that there is virtually nothing I can think of that doesn’t have an app of some sort, but Apple has some kinks to work out that would really make app buying experience much better for all involved.