Monday, August 2, 2010

iPad App Discoverability

Can someone help me understand what that image on the left side of this post does for me?  It's a screen shot of appstream, a free tool that I mistakenly thought might help me with the problem of iPad app discoverability.

As I write this post I see there are now more than 18,000 iPad apps in the App Store.  Wonderful.  Now how do I find the truly great ones?  The same problem exists for iPhone apps, only it's ten times worse because there are a lot more of those apps out there than iPad ones.

I was looking for some help uncovering some of the better ones when I recently stumbled upon appstream.  What you see on that screen shot is pretty much what you get though.  It's a largely unfiltered look at what's currently available in the App Store.  What I need is something that offers me a filtered look at all those apps, not a raw feed of them.

How about settings that let me see only those apps with at least an average of 4-star reviews?  Or how about only those apps with 4-star reviews in the utility category?  How about 4-star reviews, in the business category and released in the past week?

If these guys would go back and add this sort of functionality to appstream they could convert it from a free app that serves almost no purpose to one I'd pay five dollars for.  That's right.  Five bucks, which means it would join an exclusive club on my iPad.  I've only paid that much for Wired (initial issue only; no way I'll pay that much for newer ones...not $3.99 either, especially when I can get an entire year in print for $10!), The Elements (worth every bit of $13.99) and MLB's AtBat 2010 (an app that I'm unlikely to buy next year, although I'll continue buying the iPhone edition).

Discoverability is the largest issue plaguing the app ecosystem.  It affects both buyers and sellers.  Sure, Apple lets you filter apps in a few different ways and the Genius feature is nice on the iPhone (but where is it for iPad apps?).  Those are still minor attempted solutions at a major problem.  Something like appstream could be a better alternative, but not in its current state.


  1. People who love brick-and-mortar (and paper-and-glue) bookstores moan about how ebookstores lack the serendipity of a physical shop. I think that's silly, and this app goes a long way towards proving that. Isn't a neverending march of app icons pretty much the same thing as walking into a Barnes & Noble to see a display of book covers? Both are trying to catch your eye. Neither is particularly curated, sorted, or effective.

    The price was right. They did a stream of free vs. pay apps, so I would assume some other filtering could be done -- BUT Apple has restricted 3rd parties from querying their star review system.

  2. This isn't about serendipity. What I'm looking for here is being able to find something. And after all, if serendipity is the answer, why have the larger brick-and-mortar stores added computer kiosks throughout, so that you can quickly search their entire store from one convenient location?...