App Store Category Abuse


You won’t usually find me browsing the finance apps in the App Store, ask Jeff or our book keeper and they’ll tell you it’s hardly my forté. I usually struggle to stay awake during any meeting discussing the books or *snore* tax. But last night as I browsed the App Store categories screen something caught my eye. The number one, top selling, best, most amazing finance experience on iPhone is… an Emoji App?

To be honest I’ve been a little irritated lately by apps such as an iPhone background generator and a fart app appearing in the Lifestyle category along with OzTV. Surely these apps are more Utility and Entertainment than Lifestyle, but given the lack of a real definition, I’ve not let it bother me too much.

Exploring the issue a little further reveals it’s not an uncommon problem, as, along with Finance and Lifestyle, both Productivity and Reference have also been “emoji’d”. I can only imagine the confusion for new iPhone owners, browsing the App Store to see the same bunch of smiley faces for every category.

As with the recent rumblings about new ranking systems and Apple rejecting pay per install apps, the real issue here isn’t a new one. These are all merely symptoms of the lack of discoverability provided by the iPhone App Store.

As an app developer you rely upon every aspect of promotion and find-ability. From New & Noteworthy and What’s Hot to Search and, of course, the Category list, it all matters. I’m sure these apps don’t really want to be in the wrong category but are doing so because of the increasing difficulty in being found. Unfortunately they are ruining the taxonomy, hurting developers who have chosen to list their app correctly and creating a mildly confusing experience for App Store users.

Obviously the quick fix is for Apple to properly review the categorisation of each new app, and this needs to be done but it won’t fix the underlying issue of discoverability.

Whether it be adding New & Noteworthy sections for each category (as in online), introducing new categories or even *gulp* providing for paid promotion of some type or the other, it’s time to acknowledge that there are no longer just a couple of thousand apps out there. It’s now big business with tens of thousand of apps jostling for shelf space and many people relying upon app sales to make a living.

I’m not saying there’s an easy fix, nor that I have the answer but surely it’s time for some serious open discussion by Apple with the many developers that it makes money from and that help create the infamous iPhone/iTunes eco-system stickiness.

In the meantime though, I’d just really appreciate it if you could all stop downloading fart apps.

About the author

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Co-Founder / Designer - Cook and OzTV. @alexjston.

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