Apple has promised that it'll be making some changes to the App Store this year, introducing new features to make finding apps easier. There will be a new 'Explore' tab to help users find the apps they're looking for, as well as a 'Top Trending' search feature. Related Searches and Editors' Choice logos are coming too. The company says that it hasn't revealed all of the new features yet, though, so the team here at Macworld UK has come up with a wishlist of ways we hope Apple will improve the App Store, and the iTunes Store too. See: iOS 8 preview
The main thing that Apple needs to improve in the App Store is search. Right now, it's pretty terrible, as Macworld UK Editor-in-Chief Matt Egan has pointed out. "I wish Apple would make the search semantic," he says. "If you know what something is called you can find it. But other than that you are reliant on Apple's own judgment, or most popular lists."
Macworld UK Editor Karen Haslam has suggested that one search improvement could be a way to refine searches in the App Store.
"Right now it's not simple to browse the app store. If you don't know what you want then finding something is a little like searching for a needle in a haystack," she says. "For example, search for Gluten Free and you'll get 495 results, there appears to be no order to the results, no way of distinguishing between free, and paid for, no way to refine your search. Most of the apps that are reviewed are only reviewed by a hand full of people (probably those who made the app). We need a better method of refining a search. Perhaps you could then refine by recipe apps, or magazines, or diet."
Macworld contributor David Bradforth is hoping that the App Store will soon include demos. Some app developers already offer free versions of their apps as a taster of what you'll get if you purchase the full, paid version, but there's no App Store-wide demo system yet.
Lou Hattersley, another of Macworld UK's brilliant contributors, has suggested that Apple could introduce a refund system that would act a bit like a demo feature. "I'd like a one-day, no questions asked money back refund for any app you decide you don't want (at the touch of a button). I think it would help the premium end of the App Store tremendously if people felt confident they could pay for an app and get their money back if they decided they didn't want it within 24 hours," she says.
Apple has already confirmed that it'll be introducing the ability for developers to create short videos for 'App Previews' in the App Store, though, and it will also be launching TestFlight, which means developers can invite users to beta test their apps.
We'd like the App Store to get a bit more social. How about a way of seeing the apps your friends have downloaded, suggests Karen. "It might encourage you to think it's a good app if eight of your friends have downloaded it, for example. It would have to be possible to opt out of making your downloads visible to your friends to maintain your privacy, though."
Social features would work well in the iTunes Store, too. David would like to see apps, albums, movies and TV shows that his friends have watched and are talking about. "Seeing these at a glance would allow me to quickly purchase the same to keep within the conversation," he says.
Recommendations is another area of the App Store and iTunes Store we'd like to see improved. Right now, the recommendations system is almost non-existent, though arguably Apple's New & Noteworthy and Best New sections are a form of recommendation. Plus, as Macworld contributor Nick Spence points out, the 'Best New Apps' and 'Best New Games' categories can be misleading, as they often include apps that have simply been updated recently or have fairly negative reviews from users.
However, we want recommendations that are tailored to us as individuals. "I'd like to see more recommendations based on my other downloads and other information Apple has about me," says Karen. "Sure it sounds a bit like targeted advertising, but it's still got to be better than swiping through pages of results that tell you nothing."
Recommendations could also come from websites, magazines and professionals, suggests Nick. "For individual categories – iPhone Photo & Video for example – I would love to see curated lists of best and favourite apps put together by respected photographers, websites and magazines with a few thoughts on each chosen app," he explains. "This would not only be interesting, but offer insight to the working methods of individuals and give some guidance when choosing which apps to download."
There are hundreds of apps and other media on offer every day for a limited time in the App Store and iTunes Store. They might be free for 24 hours or half price for a week. As Nick points out, we rely on third party apps, websites and Tweets to discover which apps are temporarily free or reduced in price. "It seems such a shame that Apple buries these freebies among thousands of apps on the App Store, when they could be used as an incentive to visit the store daily," he says.
We know that Apple loves to tout the huge numbers of apps in the iOS App Store, but we're beginning to think it's getting a little crowded. "I think that this is the store's biggest problem," says Karen. "There are too many apps and there is no way of telling if they are rubbish. Apple need to be more choosy about what can get into the App Store and stop wasting our time."
Faster loading times
A vital thing we think Apple needs to improve with the iOS App Store and iTunes Store is the speed. Lou says: "I'd like Apple to just optimise the App Store so it loads faster. It runs too slowly, especially on the 3G/4G network."
Lossless music downloads
Macworld UK's Multimedia Editor Dominik Tomaszewski refuses to buy any music from Apple's iTunes Store until it offers lossless music downloads. He'll be pleased to hear that there are plenty of rumours to suggest that his wish will be granted this year. Find out more in our iTunes 12 release date rumours article. Read: 10 amazing tips and tricks for using iTunes on the Mac