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Will Genius Fix the Apple App Store?

Posted by: Olga Kharif on September 9, 2009

Along with new iPods, today Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced App Store Genius, a recommendation engine for the iPhone and iPod touch that suggests apps you might like to download from the App Store.

Genius, which works similarly to the iTunes music recommendations engine, looks at your past purchases, as well as at other people’s purchases to figure out what additional games, e-books and productivity applications you might like. And it could go a long way in boosting consumers’ App Store purchases and reviving interest in the App Store among software developers.

Before Genius’s arrival, some developers have begun losing interest in the Apple App Store. One software company exec I’ve talked to last week said her company is considering cutting its iPhone app development budget, and for good reasons: With more than 75,000 apps in the App Store, it’s increasingly hard to rise above the noise. Most developers’ App Store revenues are down dramatically year over year, even though they now offer more applications through the marketplace, and there are more iPhone and iPod touch devices out there to take advantage of them than in 2008.

Many consumers are frustrated as well. The number of apps an average iPhone or iPod touch user downloads today isn’t dramatically different from last year’s, even though there’re a lot more interesting applications available. Part of the reason could be, consumers don’t know which apps they might like. Many consumers still find out about cool new apps from Apple’s TV commercials.

Will Genius turn the App Store into a better place for developers and consumers to be? That remains to be seen.

Have you tried Genius yet? Did you like its suggestions? I’d love to hear about your experience with the technology.

Reader Comments


September 9, 2009 7:18 PM

Genius can recommend apps based on what you purchased before. This is great for the gamer mindlessly filling the iPhone with yet poorly done game, but fairly useless for those wanting a single good application of each type.

For most of us, having one flashlight app or one grocery shopping app is plenty.

We don't need a second or a third weather app, or yet another streaming music app.

Genius equation

September 9, 2009 10:05 PM

Geniuses creates the program, idiots uses the program.

Idiot pays genius to make more programs.

That's when you get a marketer + tech guy at work.


September 9, 2009 10:19 PM

Tried Genius and I am unimpressed. The biggest problem is that it primarily recommends "identical" apps. Here are some examples:

* "Read It Later Pro" because I have "Instapaper Pro"
* "iPhlix" because I have "PocketFlicks"
* "The Weather Channel" because I have "WeatherBug Elite"
* "Hallelujah Button" because I have "Service Bell"

See a trend here? Does Apple really think I want to go out and buy all the competing alternatives for the apps I already own? I don't want identical apps, or even similar apps. I want to know what apps are popular among people with my taste in apps (as opposed to 13 year old girls, or 13 year old boys for that matter).

Genius is only 1.0 and hopefully they'll improve it, but I'm shocked they didn't fix these issues before they released it.


September 10, 2009 6:06 AM

The Apple apps store is like a bad library without a Dewey classification system. For a company that supposedly focuses on 'the user experience' Apple does a lousy job of making the site easy to navigate. Do they really expect users to wade through 100's of pages in the hope they will find an application of interest? Why not provide a proper index to classify apps? A much more sensible start point than Genius which can only provide recommendations based on past purchases. Imagine Walmart without aisle signage, but instead told you that hey you bought some nice apples last week, fancy some nice red ones this week!


September 10, 2009 11:28 AM

Genius could be helpful if there were more try before you buy apps. I'd love the ability to try something for a week and then determine if I'd like to buy it. Genius could present similar apps to help weed out the irrelevant ones. I agree with other posters that the app isn't helpful when it recommends things similar to what you already own. I don't need to "own" five twitter clients, six Netflix clients, four RSS readers, etc. But I sure would like help finding the "one" app best for my needs before I pay for it!


September 10, 2009 11:51 AM

2Bob: If you haven't noticed, the apps are divided into catergories, with some categories divided into sub-categories. With this they are listed according to several parameters, including those that are highly rated, highly downloaded, free, etc. This is the way it has been from the start.

Joe Remo

September 10, 2009 10:21 PM

No, the Genius will not fix the Apple App Store. The App Store will get better but not because of Genius. The best foreseeable method to finding the app one wants will be by word of mouth or authoritative recommendations.


September 13, 2009 8:18 PM

Developers of really cool apps should quit crying and invest in their own advertising to promote their works. It seems they all sit back and wait to get a free ride from Apple TV commercials or visibility in the Top 25 or other "hot" lists. With 75,000 apps, that's increasingly unlikely for all but the most mainstream programs. If you want to stand out in the crowd, do it yourself. Don't wait for a free ride.


September 14, 2009 9:29 PM

They should let people preview apps (videos or demos) from the app store. I don't own an iphone so maybe that's already been tried. palm pre ftw.


September 16, 2009 8:49 PM

Some good ideas were mentioned by the posters above:-

- more intelligent recommendations rather than pure semantic comparisons of app names / features

- use of previews to allow users check out the apps before finally buying them

- forcing developers to invest more in their own marketing

I'll add:

- Add a tab for random recommendations - focusing on top paid, top free creates a vicious circle for the apps that don't break into the tops.


September 18, 2009 7:28 PM

Well, if more sub catigories where added into the app store, that would help a lot! Possibly adding a "most recent" section, or having genius compare TYPES of apps (action, RPG, puzzle, ect) instead of comparing the KIND of app (similar apps). If Genius where to be fixed tn those ways, the App store would be improved 10x's over!

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.



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