It appears that at least some of the innovations found in early 2012 Apple acquisition Chomp, a mobile app search and discovery platform, have made their way into the new iOS 6 App Store application. Screenshots from the beta version of Apple’s mobile operating system were posted by 9to5Mac.com and are now making their way around the web. The most notable Chomp-inspired characteristic in the new App Store design? Swipeable cards for browsing through apps instead of lists featuring small icons and text.
In Chomp’s original iOS application, app search is divided into a number of sections, like free apps, trending apps, new apps, apps on sale and more, in addition to more traditional top-level categories (games, music, social networking, etc.) However, in the updated version of iOS 6’s App Store application, it appears that Apple’s own system for organizing applications remains pretty much intact. That means Apple continues to offers apps divided into sections like Featured listings, Top Charts (free, paid, grossing), etc. Another change sees the Genius button now appearing at the bottom of the App Store app, inside of being tucked away inside the Featured section – but this detail was already known. Because of this, the “Categories” section no longer has a button at the button, which means that search and ASO (aka “app store optimization“) will become far more important going forward.
One caveat, of course: this is pre-release software, so anything and everything can still change. But it’s worth noting how much this redesign could potentially impact the long tail of app developers. A report from earlier this summer claimed that as many as 60% of iOS applications were never downloaded. Those figures may be a bit high (!!), but the general sentiment is on target – many applications that don’t make the charts are almost never found, installed or used. The long tail is really, really long: there are some 650,000+ iOS applications out there.
Thinking in these terms, Apple’s mobile App Store changes, which may seem like minor news initially, could potentially become earth-shattering within the iOS developer community. On the one hand, flipping through cards favors the iPad layout’s bigger screen. iPhone users may not “flip” deeper to find other apps further down in search results even when they would have been likely to scroll further down the page in the earlier list-like view. That could be a bad thing for smaller, less popular applications if lists were to completely disappear. (There’s always a chance that Apple could implement the option to change views, similar to how it works in iTunes).
But on the other hand, directing users to discover apps through different mechanisms – search, Genius selections, social sharing, an emphasis on the visual design of the apps instead of the icon – could help developers who had lingered out of the top charts a better chance to be found and appreciated. We’ll see.