Apple Changes App Listing Behavior in AppStore

Apple made some changes to the AppStore recently. Many blogs miss the actual meat, but focus on blocking fake reviews part of the update. The meat is, Apple changed the way the applications are listed in each category. Let ms explain this in detail.

Previous Behaviour:

In AppStore, all the applications are categorized based on ‘released date’ by default. But in the previous versions, the ‘Release Date’ was actually the last updated date. This means, if an App was released on Sep 1st and updated (with a new version) on Sep 28th, the released date of the app that was considered was Sep 28th. With this approach, the following were the issues…

  • The applications that were updated appeared as new applications (which was misleading)
  • When an application was listed on the first page in a category, the sales of that application immediately jumped up (because it is displayed on top in iTunes and even on iPhone for that category)
  • Because the sales jump up high for every update (because the app shows up on the first page) the developers focused on updating existing apps (and improve their sales) rather than invonation with new apps
  • As the developers push the updates frequently to keep their sales high, the users are often fed-up with updating their apps frequently

Don’t believe in what I am talking about? Here is the sales for one of my apps. As you notice, it hits the peaks when the app is on the first page in a category (which happened whenever I did an update) and it slowly drops down as it moves down to other pages.

Current Behavior:

With the latest update to the AppStore, the above behavior is no longer holds true (and I am glad it doesn’t). This is because the applications are now categorized according to the ‘Actual Released Date’ rather that the last updated date. This means…

  • Developers cannot forcefully push out ‘dummy’ updates just to appear on the first page and increase their sales
  • Competing Apps can now focus on real innovation in functionality rather than focusing on who pushes the update first.
  • New Apps appear on the first page in each category for longer time (which gives them enough time to prove their worth)
  • The first few days where the app is on the first page in a category will be the most profitable time from a developer’s stand point.

Impact:

Overall, from an ‘AppStore as a platform’ perspective, this is a great move. Sure, developers will hate this as they cannot keep on pushing the updates every week and make more money. But from new application development point of view, this will spur innovation as developers will now be focused more on creating new applications rather than pushing out updates to the existing apps.

But this approach also has its own negatives. As updating an app doesn’t benefit the developers financially, they will focus on rolling out new apps rather than improving existing ones. This is bad for users.

Apple has learnt quickly that many developers are gaming the system and fixed it with the recent update. Sure, we will see many others gaming the system in different ways (like we see with Search Engines). I think Apple has to be on top of these to keep the innovation flowing in AppStore .

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18 comments so far

  1. Brendadn Duddridge on

    Hi,

    Well, my application (Tap Forms) just finally got published on the App Store tonight. I originally submitted on September 16th. Unfortunately, the release date is the date that I first uploaded my app to iTunes Connect. So now I’ve missed out on having my app show up on the first page sorted by release date.

    They appear to have used the upload date as the release date instead of the date they released it for sale.

  2. Brendan Duddridge on

    oops. Noticed my name is misspelled in the previous post. Doh! Brendan… not Brendadn. :-)

  3. touchmeme on

    @Brendan, Great App. If the submitted date is considered, it’ll be a problem for the apps that are already submitted as they won’t show up on the first page. I think this will be the case till the current queue is cleared.

    I hope Apple addresses this.

  4. Neil on

    Actually I believe you’re wrong about the update date. It’s a known bug that sometimes it wouldn’t set the correct date after an update.

    There’s a workaround, if you change the submission date in iTunes Connect it’ll fix it.

  5. Scott on

    I think there is more going on. The “All iPhone Apps” link is completely gone now.

    Some categories, like “Productivity” are showing updated apps at the top with the latest release dates, not new apps.

    The “Games” category is only showing two pages if you click on “New Games”

  6. Tamstoker on

    Our company has been sending out useful updates to our applications that have been on the store since July 11th. These updates were fueled financially by the sales jump that comes after updating.

    Our latest updates, which added additional languages and features, had no perceptible affect on sales for apps that have been around since July 11th.

    This new policy may cause us to discontinue updates for applications that are already low on the release date list, as it provides us with little benefit. Be assured, this will result in even lower software quality for the App Store as a whole, and will do little to spur innovation by developers, who already have incentives to innovate from other sources.

    We are mostly students, and are idealistically committed to quality software, and will be updating our apps for the few users that will notice them. I doubt that the majority of software companies will be so altruistic.

  7. […] “Astroturf” a competitor’s application with fake reviews. Applications will also now be listed according to their original release date; before this weekend, an update to an application reset the release date to the time when the […]

  8. […] “Astroturf” a competitor’s application with fake reviews. Applications will also now be listed according to their original release date; before this weekend, an update to an application reset the release date to the time when the […]

  9. THETA Poker on

    Excellent news! Absolutely perfect timing too, as THETA Poker, the strongest and easiest-to-use Texas Hold ‘Em game for the iPhone, was just released in the App Store. Unfortunately, I don’t see it on the New Apps page yet, although you can search for it.

  10. Justin on

    Why not keep those 3 links just fro NEW apps, and install a 4th link JUST for updates.

    A LOT of us like a daily browse for apps- and find more like this than a search.

    It is also nice to track an apps updates until it gets the features that you desire before purchase.

    This new listing has removed all that, it simply needed a seperate filter just for updates.

  11. […] than those that stay “hidden” at the bottom. According to more than a few published reports, some programmers have been using this system to their advantage for some time now. Apple is […]

  12. Brendan Duddridge on

    Just to chime in here. I did go into iTunes Connect and reset my publish date. I thought maybe my email to Apple caused them to fix it, but perhaps I really fixed it myself by resetting the availability date. Who knows. But Tap Forms now has a release date of September 28th, 2008 instead of my original upload date of September 16th.

    Here’s to hoping that Tap Forms 1.0.1 will get approved soon!

  13. […] of the changes affects the way applications are listed in their category. There’s a good blogpost by Krishna Vegesna which describes the consequences of the previous ordering of the applications. […]

  14. John Jusayan on

    I just noticed something today (Oct 14). On the front page of the Utilities category, Luminaire and Clinometer are both showing Release dates for Oct 14 and Oct 13.

    They’re both established apps, so these look like updates. Did something change today?

  15. Zerogate on

    Hello,

    Nov. 3rd, 2008

    Does anyone know why the store is only showing the first 100 apps? I can only “load 25 more” four times from my phone. I have ATT. Is this happening everywhere?

    Thanks,

    Mark

  16. touchmeme on

    Mark,

    This is not specific a specific. I think they changed the behavior for all users. It is an interesting move.

  17. […] bumping to the front of the queue via overly frequent app updates […]

  18. Ortwin Gentz on

    I agree that your solution would improve the App Store quite a bit. It’s probably the single easiest measure with the largest impact for Apple to take.

    But it’s just one piece in the puzzle. IMO, the root of the problem is the bad visibility of quality apps. So, in addition to that I propose to

    – split Popularity into Sales Rank (based on gross revenues) and Customer Rating and offer sorting on either one
    – change the default sort criterion in iTunes and on the device (genre section) to the Sales Rank instead of the Release Date
    – Indicate the rating and number of reviews in the listing page in iTunes same as on the device
    – offer collaborative filtering or Genius™: “these apps could be interesting for you” based on other customers with similar purchases

    Also, to me it looks like the last update date still governs the sort order and not the first release date. see http://twitpic.com/n23e – these apps are not new by far.


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