Search problems blight new App Store in iOS 6

There are thousands of great apps for iOS around, but thanks to some upcoming ‘improvements’ to the App Store it could be harder to find what you’re looking for.

The official release of iOS 6 on September 12 should implement all of the features announced at WWDC 2012, along with a revamped App Store. The new App Store will include some important additions, such as Genius recommendations, easy re-downloading of apps, and search support for podcasts.

The search function of the App Store is arguably the biggest change though, but after testing the latest build of the iOS 6 developer beta, I was less than impressed with it. In fact, searching apps in the new App Store can be very frustrating.

How has searching on the App Store changed?

As opposed to having a list of relevant searches, the App Store now presents individual app results that you have to scroll through. Depending on the search, the results can bring in thousands of possible apps. The search algorithm that the App Store uses is also a bit skewed because searching for popular franchises showed strange results.


Problems when searching the new App Store

Searching for apps with specific and recognized titles easily show up at the first result. But search for a more general term and you will see some questionable results.

For example, searching for Final Fantasy resulted in Zenonia 4 as the first result and the second result was Final Fantasy. It’s possible that the App Store pushes free apps before paid apps in each search result.

iPhone version:

iPad version:

Grand Theft Auto was another search I did and it brought up Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars Lite as the first result. That wasn’t too weird, but the second result was an obviously poorly developed app placed in the App Store before even Grand Theft Auto III. I thought that ratings could affect the results, but both GTA: Chinatown Wars and the second result have lower ratings than GTA III.

iPhone version:

iPad version:

I’m not sure how the search algorithm in the App Store works, but the general user interface of the search is very time-consuming as you wait for results to load. A lot of the time, the result I was actually looking at wasn’t the first result or was placed behind related, but not relevant free apps.  It also appears that the results will differ depending on the device used, segmenting iPhone and iPad apps.

iOS users can consume a lot of apps and use the top charts, but the search function is an essential part of the App Store experience. Even with Apple’s app review process, a lot of useless apps get released and when these apps appear in search, it can easily frustrate users.

Granted, the App Store in iOS 6 isn’t finalized, but this new search function isn’t going to be user friendly and may force users to only rely on the top charts. Free apps are a big part of the App Store and the search focuses on that kind of app, but at the expense of the actual title you’re looking for. There needs to be a quick improvement.

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