If apps replace the mobile web, and along with it, traditional search, then the search engines need to figure out how to adapt. Yahoo is taking a tiny step towards embracing mobile apps with a few new products for searching apps. It is launching both iPhone and Android apps for app discovery, as well as desktop app search experience.
The iPhone app is called Yahoo! AppSpot, and I’ve been trying it out a little. AppSpot is about app discovery, much like Chomp, Appsfire, or Disrupt startup Do@. It scans your apps so that it won;t show you apps you already have in results, and also takes into account what you own to show related apps. AppSpot gives you daily recommendations in various categories (music, games, news, social networking, travel, utilities) with the now-familiar slot-machine rolling UI. It also lets you search for apps by keyword, and returns results based on title, description, popularity, and other factors.
The results aren’t horrible, but they aren’t spectacular either, from what I can tell. A search for “music” brings up Pandora Radio as the top pick (duh), followed by Shazam, Last.fm, Yahoo Music, and NPR Music. Well, at least it got the first one right.
A search for “photo” apps beings up Shuuterfly for iPhone as the top result for me, followed by PhotoFunia, PhotoSync, and Photo Frames LITE. Wrong. To be fair, I have most of the usual suspect photo apps already on my iPhone (Instagram, PicPlz, Path, Color), but still there are so many like Hipstagram or With that I don’t have and didn’t even show up. Quite frankly, I’d be better off using Alexia’s flow chart. (Although, PhotoSync does sound worthwhile, until iCloud turns its wireless syncing into a feature of iPhoto).
At least AppSpot is an improvement over the native app search in iTunes. It’s faster, and there are more ways to search. It doesn’t just give you the top 100 apps in each category when you are looking for recommendations. Given that the App Store now has more than 425,000 apps, that’s a good thing.
I haven’tested out the Android app, but I suspect it works pretty much the same, except for Android apps. There are 200,000 of those. The Website delivers results along with a QR code that can be scanned by the apps so that you can basically transfer a search result over. Although if you have to open up your app to scan the 2-D barcode from your screen, you might as well just search on your phone.
Yahoo is making a play here for the app discovery market, but the app discovery startups out there need not shake in their boots just yet.