A few days ago I was trying to find two new-ish apps, Jelly and Secret and I went to the App Store and just tried to find them via search. The results were not encouraging. I got a lot of results that were not at all what I was looking for. It turns out that the fastest way for me to find both applications was to actually just do a search on Google and click on the iTunes link that pointed to the app install pages. I shared this tweet and got a lot of interesting results from developers and others:
It's a sad state of affairs when it's easier to find iOS apps by name with a Google search than the native App Store search on iOS.
— Charles Hudson (@chudson) February 2, 2014
Only Apple Can Fix iOS Search
Apple will never let a 3rd party take over its App Store search. They have been pretty consistent about that. I don’t think we’ll see another situation like where Google powered search on Yahoo – nobody will be given that opportunity. And anyone who has tried to create a recommendation or discovery layer that puts their company between Apple and the consumer gets shut down or decides to do something else. I think the reason is very simple. Apple, like most other companies that own their own search engines, understands that owning the data on search intent is valuable and critical to understanding how consumers are ultimately finding the content they desire. And I took Apple’s acquisition of Chomp nearly two years ago as a signal that they were going to devote more resources to improving the search experience.
I don’t know much about how the Apple App Store search algorithm works, but I do know that it rarely seems to return my intended result at the top of the list. In many ways it feels like searching the Internet before Google had PageRank up and running. There’s lots of obvious keyword stuffing and title or description manipulation designed to capture people looking for popular apps. In my experience, the App Store search engine seems to do a poor job of disambiguating app names and category names. It’s hard for me to understand how search results are ranked when I do get results for queries. Overall, it’s a frustrating experience for me in searching for apps and most times it just feels easier to use Google.
At some point I hope that Apple App Store search feels more like Google, with largely relevant and consistent results, than the Internet pre-Google. But only Apple can make that happen and I hope they are continuing to make progress on that front.
As always, feel free to leave a comment below or send me a message on Twitter @chudson.