Discover App Store Bargains with AppShopper:

Hoarding vast quantities of apps has been a time honored tradition for iPhone owners since Apple began allowing 3rd party development in 2008. However, with over 250,000 apps available from the App Store, finding those that are worthwhile isn’t always an easy task.

Enter AppShopper for iPhone: an app that helps you find other apps at a bargain.

Overview

AppShopper’s main goal is to keep you informed about the newest App Store apps, sales, and freebies. Where it really tends to shine is in its ability to sort apps into categories that Apple’s App Store simply doesn’t support. This depth of sorting makes it a snap to find applications that are having one-day sales or have recently been updated with new features.

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App Shopper

AppShopper also features apps from smaller developers who don’t get as much exposure as some of the mainline shops. You’ll come across applications in AppShopper that you wouldn’t have considered otherwise; as we’ll see later, this can be both a good and a bad thing.

Getting the Most Out of AppShopper

AppShopper is most useful when you create an account on the AppShopper.com website. Though it’s not necessary for basic use of the app, signing up for an account enables all kinds of nifty features, such as wish lists for apps you’d like to download later and cataloging of apps you already own.

Signing up for an AppShopper account is a relatively straight-forward affair. Choosing the “Create Account” option kicks you out to a simple web page via Safari; pick a username and password and you’re done.

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Signing Up

Once you’ve set up your account, AppShopper can email you notifications when any of the applications on your wish list are updated or go on sale. This feature would be more useful if AppShopper utilized push notifications, but the developer says that feature is being added in a future update.

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Wish List and My Apps

Getting Around

AppShopper has a fairly intuitive layout. It’s not a gorgeous app: icons for the list of apps are pixelated, the sorting options seemed crammed together, and iAds dominates a large amount of screen space at all times. Still, its looks are serviceable and it packs a lot of options into a small space.

There are five major sections to the app: Popular, What’s New, My Apps, Wish List, and Search.

The Popular and What’s New sections are sortable by platform, category, cost, and type. Given the small amount of screen real estate, AppShopper makes it simple to swap out all of the different options and browse through its listings.

Apps are listed with sparse information: name, category, price, and icon. Price drops, updates and the like are noted under the price tag.

Selecting an app will take you to a separate page displaying that app’s description, screen shots, and recent updates. You are also presented with check boxes allowing you to instruct AppShopper to add the app to your Wish List or My Apps sections . As long as you are logged in with an AppShopper account, your Wish List and My Apps will update as you give feedback to AppShopper.

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App Details

Unfortunately, the most notable omission is the Customer Rating feedback from the App Store. It’s impossible to sneak a peak at the reviews for any of the applications unless you choose to leave AppShopper and enter into the App Store. This doesn’t make for a very seamless experience and can result in continuously swapping back and forth between these two applications. Click on the price tag for the app and the App Store launches where you can read the reviews and make your purchase.

At the bottom of each app’s dedicated page are the options to view its activity and other apps available from the same developer. I found the activity page to be interesting as it shows all of the updates and price changes over the course of the app’s life enabling you to see at a glance if you’re getting it at a good price or if you should perhaps wait for the app to go on sale.

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App Activity

Hidden Treasure or Prominent Crap?

With the constantly shifting prices of the App Store, it should theoretically be possible to find great deals by using AppShopper. For instance, you could sort AppShopper to display popular iPhone apps that had recently undergone a price change.

Now you would certainly hope that this would result in discovering new unknown gems for a great price or locating popular well-known titles at deep discounts. And while this happens occasionally, the odds are much higher that you’ll end up being presented with a mountain of applications that are unknown for a good reason: they suck.

Of the first 20 apps presented to me in the Popular section of AppShopper, only five had a 4 star rating or higher. Three of them hadn’t received a single review and eight of them were rated at less than three stars. Most of them were apps that duplicated functionality found in other, higher quality apps and some of them seemed completely useless.

I realize you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover or an app by its icon, but as my eyes began bleeding from looking at the horrific icon designs of the first 20 apps in the Popular section, I started to have serious misgivings about finding any diamonds in the rough.

I’m also unsure of what criteria AppShopper uses in placing a given app in its Popular section. AppShopper.com has a list of the “Top 200” current downloads from the App Store, but clearly this list has no bearing on what the iPhone app lists in its Popular section. Are developers paying to be included here? Is it based on clicks from the AppShopper.com website? And why does the iPhone app not contain the very handy “Top 200” section like the website?

Concluding Thoughts

AppShopper really shines when it’s pointing you to limited-time deals on apps, alerting you of a price drop for an app you’ve been eyeing, or keeping track of your existing app library. As a free application with the ability to save you money on future app purchases, it’s hard to complain too much about its limitations. However, its clunky UI and limited ability to aid in the discovery of quality applications detract from its overall value.

Download it for the bargains; just don’t expect it to change your iLife.


Summary

AppShopper’s main goal is to keep you informed about the newest App Store apps, sales, and freebies. Where it really tends to shine is in its ability to sort apps into categories that Apple’s App Store simply doesn’t support. A unique app for finding bargains in the App Store, but doesn’t live up to its promise of helping you discover hidden gems.

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