Why I Love and Hate the App Store

To appropriately mark the downloading of the 25 billionth app, I think it’s important to take a fresh look at the App Store itself. Some of you might argue that I should tone down my approach, surely it’s a grave misnomer to use such strong language in reference to an imaginary (or at least virtual) shop. Much like the way it’s slightly creepy and weird to refer to the iPad, or any other technology for that matter, as sexy…

Love and hate are strong emotions, but I’m feeling opinionated so I’ll stick with them for sheer simplicity. Today I want to look at the App Store, a place we’re all abundantly familiar with, and why I think it’s a brilliant nightmare, a terrible masterpiece.


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Love

Let’s start with the good stuff, the reasons why the App Store is such a powerful weapon in Apple’s corner.

Beautiful Simplicity

It can’t be denied, the App Store is beautifully simple. Downloading applications (I think they used to be called programs) has never been so easy. No figuring out whether it will work on the particular device you own, no sequence of options and menus and prompts, no crossing your fingers and hoping it’s not malware. Everything just works.

You want Angry Birds? Just click that button right next to it! We’ve already got your details, you can be playing it within the minute. The App Store is a wonderland of instant gratification.

I’m not going to take issue with the overall design aesthetic of the App Store, I like the intuitive use of tabs and the lack of any physical textures. It’s not revolutionary, but it works perfectly for its intended purpose.

Before I move on from here I want to again emphasise the importance of simplicity in the success of the App Store. The seamless nature of downloading an app can’t be underestimated. Show anyone how to do it once, your Grandma, younger sister, electrician, or masseuse, and they’re set. They understand. They’ll be into Temple Run’s successor before you’ve even heard about it.

Bigger Is Better

The second thing that’s undeniably great about the App Store is just how stupidly big it is. It brings to mind the famous Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy quote about Space;

“Space,” it says, “is big. Really big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mindbogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space, listen…”

Quantity isn’t quality, there are endless thousands of terrible apps, but in an ocean this wide (and deep) there are more than enough great apps to satisfy even the most thirsty customer. The rapid expansion of the App Store has helped the platform gain both traction and the valuable attention of developers. Can you believe that there’s now a version of Photoshop that’s not only easy to use, but cheap?

Adobe Photoshop Touch came out last month and is only $9.99 – we reviewed it today!

This is what 25 billion apps looks like...

Hate

There are numerous things I can’t stand about the App Store, but here are the main culprits…

Searching the Blasted Thing

Apple loves to tout the enormous size of the App Store, the perfect case-in-point being the countdown to 25 billion downloads. Why on earth haven’t they implemented a comprehensive search function?

Let’s disregard entirely the use of iTunes on a Mac to browse and search the App Store, that’s an experience not worth getting into…

Searching the App Store on the iPad is frustrating at best, with limited options for sorting through the mass of apps available. If you know what you’re looking for you’ll be fine, but searching for a specific type of app is impossible, mostly because there isn’t a keyword search – you’ll only get apps that have the thing you’re looking for in the app name.

Where are Snapseed and Photoshop Touch?

The restricted search options lead you to depend more heavily on browsing, and the issues continue into this area. When browsing a category you are given three options to sort the thousands of apps available, these are;

  1. Name – what an entirely useless and random way to browse through thousands of apps.
  2. Most Popular – the only useable option here, but one that still turns out a slightly disorientating smattering of apps.
  3. Release Date – almost as useless as Name, why would I want to download an app just because it’s recent?

Not-so-useful sorting options!

I’d love to see Apple implement a vastly more intelligent search feature, one that understands what I’m looking for when I search for a Budget app – rather than just giving me all the apps with budget in the name, a less than comprehensive roundup. This could even be extended by allowing you to see the apps that your friends are using, although the privacy ramifications of this might be a little difficult to overcome.

Top Charts

I dislike the great emphasis given to the Top Charts, especially the often trashy Top Free Chart, but I have to concede that narrowing down the charts by category can be a useful way to find the kind of app you’re looking for.

Genius

I won’t go into this again, but let’s be honest, Genius is rubbish.

Your Thoughts

The App Store has been instrumental in the grand success of iOS devices, that being said, there’s definitely room for improvement. In many ways it’s still comfortably ahead of the Android Market, but I’d love to see it grow and flourish as the demand for apps increases.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts – simply post a comment below! What do you like about the App Store, and what gets on your nerves?