Why the App Store Is the Biggest Pain on My iPhone

I’m used to reviewing apps. I’ve reviewed quite a few over the past months, and I plan on reviewing many more. I purchase each application that I end up reviewing (as well as many others), so I spend a lot of time in the App Store.

Using the App Store has been more painful than I would first imagine. If you only use it every once in a blue moon I’m sure that it’s fine, but for someone like myself, Apple’s marketplace is sorely lacking. Today I want to look at what the App Store could improve upon in order to create a compelling, enjoyable experience.

Problem One: Fragmentation

The App Store is available across three different devices: the iPhone, iPad and Mac, via iTunes. The Store is different on each device, leading to confusion and a lack of unified experience.

Consider the differences between the iPhone and iPad. Some are to be expected, like laying apps out in tables instead of lists; the iPad is a larger device, and this change makes sense. Changing the navigation bar along the bottom, however, doesn’t. This area should be the same between the different versions of the App Store, but manages to be different.

Why, for example, is the Purchased section hidden under the Updates section on the iPhone, while it’s right there on the iPad’s main navigation bar? Why is there a default Search tab on the iPhone but not a dedicated search are on the iPad? I see no reason for these to be different across platforms and it can get confusing when I’m switching between devices.


Do I really need to tell you how awful iTunes can be?

Do I really need to tell you how awful iTunes can be?

With the Mac this is compounded with being managed through iTunes. Not only do you have to skip around other content with any search or launch of the app, but the App Store section is also painfully slow. Each selection takes a maddeningly long time to load, making me want to skip the App Store on my Mac altogether.

Problem Two: In and Out, In and Out

As I said before, I purchase a lot of applications. Often this will happen at the beginning of the month or the end of the week, when I’m looking for new apps or Apple’s Featured section switches out for some new entries.

This all gets old very, very quickly.

This all gets old very, very quickly.

Let’s say that I want to buy three apps. I tap Download for the first one and I’m prompted to enter my password, which is fine; I’d rather keep my iPhone secure, that way no thief can steal my iPhone and ring up tons of charges in app purchases. Apple also made it so this entry counts for fifteen minutes, meaning I won’t have to enter it for the other two apps.

I do, however, have to enter the App Store again, find the other application I wanted to buy, and then repeat for the last application. This is a lot of jumping in and out between views and could be avoided by allowing someone to create a queue of applications that they would like to purchase.

This could also make it easier to manage your money (which Apple doesn’t want) by showing you the total for all three (or however many) applications. You decide what applications you’d like to buy, add them to your queue and then enter your password once. Your downloads begin, you get charged once and everyone leaves happy.

Problem Three: Genius? Not So Much.

Genius sounds like a good feature. You like applications, Apple likes selling you applications and sometimes it can be hard to find some new good ones (apparently some people don’t read AppStorm — scandalous). Genius would use the applications that you already own and recommend some new ones, like that one friend who knows all of the bands in the history of music and can recommend some new stuff when you feel like branching out.

Unfortunately, Genius is less of a genius and more like that one guy that keeps telling you that Miley Cyrus is the future of music. While he listens intently while you tell him what you like, he doesn’t take the quality of his recommendation into consideration. Miley Cyrus is a group of lackluster applications in this extended metaphor, the type of thing that Genius insists on churning out despite one-star ratings across the board.

Genius also feels the need to look at applications that you have purchased but deleted in order to make recommendations. This would be fine if it means that Genius would rule something out based on your previous decisions, but it doesn’t. Instead, Genius says ‘Hey, you hated Evernote? You still downloaded it, didn’t you? Download Evernote Food.’ While Evernote Food is a good app, if you didn’t find a use for Evernote you probably wouldn’t use their food-centric application.

In short: Genius is less of a genius and more of that one person you always felt needed a helmet while they were walking around.

Problem Four: All or Nothing

There is no way to test an application for a short amount of time. This would be handy for people like myself that would like to test a bunch of different apps but don’t want to pay for something that I end up hating. I don’t necessarily know how this would work in the App Store, but the Windows Phone Marketplace gets this right: you can download a paid app for a trial period, no charge necessary.

So I can rent The Dark Knight but I can't... what was I writing?

So I can rent The Dark Knight but I can't ... what was I writing?

Not only would this make it easier for people to make an informed decision on whether or not they would like to purchase an application, but would also cut down on ratings with comments like “Not worth the price” or something similar.

If Apple can figure out a way for us to rent movies (which has been around for a while) they should be able to figure out a way for me to rent an application.


If this were a review I wouldn’t recommend the App Store. Sure, it works and gets the job done, but I feel like Apple really dropped the ball here. Instead of creating a unified, enjoyable process, Apple has created a disjointed and neglected experience for the central focus of the company’s most popular product.

I love using my iPhone. I love buying apps and supporting developers that have put their own time and money into building something great. If Apple were to remove the problems I’ve outlined above, I would have a significantly easier time finding and using quality applications. Let’s hope they do.