Tuesday, Jun 01, 2021, 11:35 Software

"What's Wrong With The App Store" – Criticism From 2016 Still Valid?

Five years ago, we wrote a detailed article about three major problems with the App Store - the criticisms were primarily directed at the App Store for iOS software, but also applied to the Mac App Store. A lot has happened since then, for example, there was a general overhaul of the service with macOS 10.14, and under iOS already a year earlier with iOS 11. At this point, we now want to look back at the article at the time and check whether the situation has improved since then - and whether Apple successfully worked on the construction sites.

Thesis 1: You can't find anything
For years, the figurehead was how many apps could be found in the App Store. However, the fact that the proportion of unique and useful programs was mediocre at best was something that marketing let slip under the radar. Increasingly, this manifested the problem of how difficult it became to discover good and interesting apps. Above all, the extreme amount of games made for a poor overview - and it was exactly at this point that Apple applied important changes. Since the App Store separates games and apps from each other, the situation has already improved significantly. Apple also relies more on editorial content and recommendations, which also makes it easier for visitors to go on a shopping spree. It is still true that what is not highlighted by Apple goes down - yet not to the same extent as it was five years ago.


The new App Store, introduced with iOS 11


Thesis 2: Bad rating system
No matter how baseless the accusations in user reviews were, neither did Apple allow direct responses five years ago, nor could they have the comments removed outside the US. The latter is still a gamble, but at least there are now developer responses. However, Apple did not implement the often heard demand that other users should also be able to comment on reviews. Apple probably rightly fears the large administrative effort that would inevitably be required. As in the first thesis, it can be said that the situation is still not optimal, but Apple implemented sensible improvements.

Thesis 3: Support makes things worse
Whether the download failed, the billing failed, iCloud bitched or the product pages of the App Store did not work properly, Apple support always claimed that you unfortunately had to contact the respective developer for this. Even in clear cases, for example the conversion rates of the different currencies (set by Apple!), the support regretted the bad experience that the customer had to make with the respective product. This led to unpleasant situations for both users and developers - Apple limited itself to blaming others for the error, but the vendors, of course, could not help the customer either. Fortunately, this inglorious communication policy only lasts in rare cases. On the one hand, the store itself became more reliable, and on the other hand, various aspects are now more familiar to customers. The latter, however, is not Apple's merit; instead, in many cases it was the developers' task to explain to their users who the operator of the App Store is.

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Conclusion and closing
Certainly, there are some challenges that even the best system can't solve. Miraculously guessing which app is of interest to a particular store visitor now could at best be done through the most intensive tracking. The sheer mass of apps on the store also makes it impossible to simply "browse through the assortment". Nevertheless, Apple has taken some sensible steps in the last five years to at least better sort the huge jumble and to simplify navigation. The points mentioned in the 2016 article are at least better solved in 2021, although there is always room for improvement. If you look at the current discussions around the Store cosmos, questions about Apple's terms and conditions as well as protection against harmful apps have come much more to the fore in the meantime. The picture has changed - partly because Apple is increasingly in the sights of the competition authorities.

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