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Why is there so much junk in Apple’s App Store?

After 4 weeks with Apple’s iPhone 4 I’m mainly impressed with everything other than the call quality (I am in a poor signal area for O2). I’ve been exploring the App Store though, and while there are many great apps there, there is also a huge amount of junk. Here’s a review for an app I was looking at:

This app is such a con. The adverts are deliberately put in the most awkward places so they get pressed accidentally; there is no “would you like to make a call” dialog box, nothing, it goes straight to an 090 number and even if you cancel the call instantly you are still charged … Apple should be ashamed for letting this little con artist on to the app store!

Other users report frequent crashes, lost data and so on.

With over 200,000 apps available, it’s not surprising that some are duds. However, given Apple’s insistence on checking every one, I’d expected the overall standard to be higher. Apple cannot easily judge how useful an app is, particularly in a niche area, but things like instability or unfair advertising practices should be caught.

Another odd thing: if you browse the store on the device, you cannot sort by rating, as far as I can tell, making it hard to find the better apps quickly. I guess this could be designed to mitigate the “winner takes all” factor: if one or two apps in a common search category achieve high ratings, it is difficult for newcomers to get noticed sufficiently to drive up their own ratings. Still, give the amount of dross in there, it would help to have this as an option, even if it were not allowed to be the default sort.

The existence of so many poor apps also puts into context the Thoughts on Flash posted by Steve Jobs. I kind-of understand why Apple wants to exclude the Flash runtime from its device platform; but that does not explain the ban on Adobe’s Packager for iPhone, which compiles a Flash application to an iPhone binary. That might make sense if Jobs could point to the consistent high technical standard of iPhone Apps; but that is simply not the case.

Related posts:

  1. Mac App Store, Windows Store, and the decline of the open platform
  2. No Java or Adobe AIR apps in Apple’s Mac App Store
  3. Microsoft’s Windows 8 app problem will not be solved by incentivising junk
  4. Apple’s lock-in works. Can anyone improve on App Store?
  5. Living in an App Store world: what are the implications?

2 comments to Why is there so much junk in Apple’s App Store?

  • Couldn’t agree with you more about the App Store search. Even when I have the name of the program I want iTunes will struggle to find it. Relying on it to find interesting applications just doesn’t work.

    I’ve learnt to ignore the reviews – especially the overly-negative ones – as they don’t reflect my own experiences. eg When looking for a daily newspaper for my iPad the reviews for “The Times” were all dreadful, while for “The Financial Times” (which is fine, but doesn’t really use the device the way “The Times” does) they were enthusiastic. In reality I think “The Times” has one of the best interfaces and REAL use of the new format of any other that I’ve tried and I’ve not had a single crash from it.

    O2 coverage seems to be rather poor. I’ve stuck with them because I thought they weren’t too bad, but for my iPad I switched to Three. Over the last week or two in London, Milton Keynes, Winchester and the train journeys between the iPad using Three has had significantly better signal than O2 (and they offer much better value for money on the data front too), which is bizarre given that I gather they actually use the O2 backbone for most of their coverage. Alas for the iPhone 4 the only available choices were Orange (in Wichester) or O2 (in London) but as soon as my contract’s over I think I’ll be making the switch to Three on my phone.

  • Similarly, why doesn’t Google, who ostensibly “uses Bayesian filtering the way that Microsoft uses the if statement,” do anything about the rash of spammy “reviews” in the Android Market? The simplest Bayesian spam classifier available would easily eliminate 99% of the problem, since they already have spam/ham user ratings. Instead, though, when you look at the reviews for any popular app — notably, Google’s own apps — you’re just about guaranteed to see ads for the same sites.