8 Worst Things About the App Store on the iPhone

Ken Ishii/Getty Images

Ken Ishii/Getty Images

If you have an iPhone, chances are good that you’re just as familiar with the App Store as you are with other important apps, like Mail, Messages, or even Apple Maps. And like every app that you probably spend a lot of time with, there are probably a few things that you sort of hate about the Apple App Store.

As Mike Beasley reported some time ago for 9to5Mac, the App Store has been around since iOS 2.0, back when iOS was still called Phone OS. Since then, the store has been through numerous major redesigns, added countless new features and functions, and has become the home of 1.5 million apps. But along the way, it’s gained some annoying quirks and has neglected to address some usability concerns.

Unfortunately, a few of those mistakes are still hanging around, so Apple has plenty to fix with future versions of iOS (we’re looking at you, iOS 10). Read on to learn more about some of the worst things about the iOS App Store — and to start thinking about how much better things would be with the solutions that we’re hoping Apple will implement in the future.

1. Poor discovery options and no recommendations

If you want a new app or a new game but don’t know exactly what you’re looking for, it can be pretty difficult to find something to download. The Featured tab on the App Store attempts to solve the problem by surfacing apps in a number of categories, including the Best New Apps, Best New Games, Popular Apps, Popular Games, and a continually rotating selection of collections (like the best apps optimized for a new iPhone or the most festive holiday games).

Where things get more interesting is when you tap the Categories option at the upper left corner. You can browse dozens of different categories, all with their own unique collections. Apple could make it easier to take advantage of all of those curated lists by surfacing them on the main Featured page. After all, it knows what apps you’ve downloaded, so how difficult would it be for the App Store to offer you smarter, more personalized recommendations of new apps you might find interesting?

Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

Apple logo | Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

2. The absence of lists curated by other parties

On the topic of wishing that we could get smarter recommendations of apps to download, how great would it be if you could browse collections of apps curated by your favorite photographers, the staff of that magazine you can’t put down, or a respected website on an interesting topic? Apple does have its own curated lists, and lots of them, throughout the App Store. But curated lists of apps from individuals or publications you respect could give you some insight into the apps and tools that people are actually using, particularly for things like mobile photography.

3. Frustrating search functionality

Apple recently updated the App Store’s search algorithm to give you more accurate results when you search with a keyword. But it’s still more difficult than it should be to find an app when you don’t know what it’s called. Think about it: You can pretty easily find an app if you know its name (or at least part of its name). But when you’re searching for an app that can complete a certain task, all bets are off. Inputting a keyword usually returns hundreds of results, but there’s no way to filter by free or paid apps, and no functionality to further refine the search. The App Store does show you related keywords, but that’s usually little help.

4. No way to try an app before buying

App developers and iPhone users alike have long complained that there’s no way to try a demo of an app before purchasing it. That’s led a lot of developers to create free, limited versions of their paid apps, or to make the initial download free and offer core features as in-app purchases. But the App Store would benefit by adding a demo feature, enabling you to get a free trial of an app before purchasing it. The feature could also give you some peace of mind if you’re considering spending more than a dollar or two on app; if there’s an option to try the app and then get your money back if you don’t like it, users might be more inclined to give premium apps a chance.

iPhone covers are displayed during a press preview of the new flagship Apple Store

iPhone covers are displayed during a press preview of the new flagship Apple Store | Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

5. No social features

Ever wonder what apps your friends have downloaded, or which ones they’ve added to their wish lists to download later? If so, too bad, because the App Store won’t tell you. Apple could add a number of different social features to the App Store. Consider, for example, how much easier it would be to get your friends to try out that new messaging app or photo-sharing app if you could share apps right in the App Store (not by sending a link via iMessage). And think about how much easier it would be to follow the lead of your app-loving best friend — who always has the best apps before anyone else has heard about them — if he could selectively share his recommendations in a list you could browse right from the App Store.

6. No way to find sales and deals

There are tons of tech blogs and Twitter accounts that can alert you to great apps that have temporarily reduced their price, or are even free to download for a limited period of time. But the App Store, inexplicably, offers no easy way to find those deals without relying on an outside source. In the future, Apple could add a section to highlight those limited-time deals and special sales — something that both app developers and iOS users would undoubtedly appreciate.

The Uber app logo is displayed on an iPhone

The Uber app logo is displayed on an iPhone | Carl Court/Getty Images

7. Untrustworthy reviews

It’s a problem that many users became familiar with when news broke that many of the reviews on Amazon are fake: While you might comb through user reviews to determine whether an app is worth the download time or purchase price, you probably can’t trust all of those reviews. Many less-popular apps only have a few reviews to begin with, and it’s disheartening to realize that a portion of those reviews are probably left by the people who made the app (or their friends or employees). You might argue that this isn’t really Apple’s problem, but the App Store could require users to spend some time with an app before reviewing to try to guard against fake reviews. In the meantime, it’s best to read real reviews on trusted blogs if you’re concerned about wasting money or time on an app.

8. No updates for Apple’s own apps

While you can update all of the other apps on your iPhone right from the Updates tab in the App Store, there are never updates for the apps that come preinstalled on your iPhone. Why is that? Because Apple fixes bugs and adds features to those apps through iOS updates. That means that even when there’s a simple bug in Apple Music or a straightforward feature to roll out to Mail, you have to go through the lengthy process of installing an update to the phone’s operating system. In the future, Apple could deploy simple fixes for its own apps through the App Store, which would make them just as painless to update as any other third-party app.