Big baby. That’s how Apple’s App Store was born in 2008, offering consumers hundreds of cute, wiggly and robustly functional applications from the get-go. App Store has since grown rapidly, with more than half a million apps on its virtual shelves today capable of supporting virtually anything you want to do on your iPhone or iPad.
Chubbiness is cute in a big baby, but in a grownup, not so much. In fact, today’s enormous App Store may have a few fatty apps that you and your device can do without. Thankfully, there are guides you can use to fat-proof your iPhone or iPad and make the App Store’s bigness work to your advantage. With these tools, you can find and compare good quality apps with relative ease, protect your wallet and evolve into a truly discriminating app shopper in the process.
App Store Search Tools
Whether employing the App Store app on your iPhone or iPad, or iTunes on your computer, you can summon up app choices based on Featured, Top Charts, Categories and Genius recommendations. You can also type an app name or attribute in a search box. All search results display individual app ratings and cost information. Depending on your device, you can further sort certain search results further by relevance, name, popularity or release date.
To be sure, these approaches work well to satisfy an immediate hankering for an item that’s popular or recommended by Apple and its staff. But while these suggestions carry a lot of weight, they don’t quite address the hit-and-miss precariousness of paid apps, especially those that seem equally rated by users and don’t have free “lite” versions that you can test. What’s more, if you would like to see all your options before diving in for a specific item — say, an email signature or ringtone-maker app — App Store search tools can fall short. They often paint the “big picture” inadequately when you try to drill down into your choices and search results often intermingle the apps you are interested in with others that have no relation except for perhaps a shared word in its name.
That said, Apple’s mountaintop perspective and firsthand app intelligence remain inimitable, and it showcases these exquisitely in its compiled app guides. These guides are always worth checking out, if simply as a starting point when searching for a particular set of apps, such as for cooking, business or personal fitness. You can find these guides on Apple’s iPhone and iPad Web pages (see “Resources” below), their Facebook pages, the App Store app’s Featured pane on your device and iTunes App Store pane on your computer.
App Directories, Reviews and News Sites
To complement the App Store’s search capabilities, you can turn to the insight offered by various app guides, lists, reviews and recommendations on the Web. You’ll find more than 200 app review websites listed in a separate post.
Besides the good folks at Apple, technology experts, professional editors and seasoned iPad and iPhone users offer guidance through articles, directories, news and forums. Ultimately, their assessments can help you determine whether an established or emerging app is worthwhile, what your alternative options are and how they compare. You can even find guides on app collections that would serve you well in various scenarios, such as in your particular line of work or on a long road trip with young ones.
Tip: Seek advice from more than one review site. App assessment is an inexact science and subjectivity inevitably seeps into all reviews. Look for consensus among reviewers; ultimately, that’s your best defense against bias. Three websites in particular can help you gauge the level of agreement among reviewers. They aggregate reviews and ratings from various app reviewers and calculate an overall rating for each app. Check out iPhone Quality Index for apps in all categories; for games, visit GameStats and iGameStats.
Tip: Check for useful app reviews in the technology sections of mainstream media, such as USA Today, The New York Times or your local paper. To find app advice for a specific industry, profession or hobby, probe through specialty online and print publications. You’re bound to find editorial reviews of apps that are germane to their readership.
Tip: Look over books that serve as excellent app reference guides. You’ll find a few of them listed below in “Resources.” These books showcase apps that float to the top with a kind of classic appeal and functionality that will likely withstand the test of time going forward.
App discovery apps can deliver recommendations directly on your iPhone or iPad, along with time-sensitive push notifications if you allow them. While many of these apps link directly to the app review websites described earlier, the majority are standalone apps.
App discovery apps offer different strengths and emphases. Some play up user and editorial ratings, others price drops and social network assessments. Some simply present App Store information in a different way while others provide additional search filters, rating tools and information. All provide a handy button that connects you to the Apps Store when you’re ready to buy.
Tip: Use app discovery apps that offer a combination of app selection criteria to help you make sound get-don’t-get decisions. For example, shun the app that notifies you of price drops only and favor the app that gives you price notifications and user ratings for better quality app downloads.
The Buzz Factor
Developers rely greatly on app reviews and recommendations to market their apps. These reviews create the necessary buzz to first get your attention and then compel you to take apps for a spin. Unfortunately, app marketing has produced reviews that range from exquisitely helpful to downright deceitful. Sadly, opportunities abound for writers to earn money manufacturing bogus rave reviews and forum comments about certain apps.
Tip: Check out the member reviewers of “Got O.A.T.S.“ — the Organization of App Testing Standards. Each member has taken an oath to uphold unbiased editorial ethics and quality standards in their assessments, and bring you honest and accurate app reviews and recommendations.
- “Take Control of iPad Basics”; Tonya Engst; 2010
- “Take Control of iPhone Basics, iOS 4 Edition”; Karen G. Anderson; 2011
- “iPhone: The Missing Manual”; David Pogue; 2011
- “Five-Star Apps: The Best iPhone and iPad Apps for Work and Play”; Glenn Fleishman; 2011
- “Best iPhone Apps, Second Edition: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders”; J.D. Biersdorfer; 2010
- “Best iPad Apps: The Guide for Discriminating Downloaders”; Peter Meyers; 2010
- “Incredible iPad Apps for Dummies”; Bob LeVitus; 2011
- Apple: iPhone – Apps for iPhone
- Apple: iPad – From the App Store