In iOS6 the visual layout of the App Store has changed considerably. Unsurprisingly, the layout now more closely matches that of the app discovery app Chomp, which Apple acquired earlier this year.
The starkest change, for me, is visible when you first open the App Store app: it is the change in scrolling direction from vertical to horizontal. In the past, apps were displayed in a vertical table view, 25 apps at a time. Now, when you look at the charts you will see three horizontal scroll views. This means that fewer app icons – only 3.5 per row – are now visible at any one time. Once you tap “See All” the view reverts to the standard vertical scrolling table view we are more familiar with. Also note, when scrolling through the apps there is no longer a 25 app limit per screen – you are now able to seamlessly scroll down through the top 300 apps.
Firstly, I’d like to address the switch to horizontal scrolling. On a device that is taller than it is wide, horizontal scrolling through app icons does not make sense from a usability perspective. So why have Apple made this change? In my opinion, it must be designed to enable Apple to promote selected apps more aggressively. If your app happens to appear in the first 4 of the horizontal scroll view, you are going to get the lion’s share of the downloads. Apple will be able to focus more attention on the apps it wants to promote. For me, this isn’t going to make for a better app discovery experience for the end user – just a more Apple centric one.
However, I do like the way you are now able to scroll seamlessly through the top 300 apps without having to tap the reload button every 25 apps. I believe that this will help app discoverability and it will mean a more even distribution of downloads across the top 300 apps, where previously the top 100 apps may have received the vast majority of downloads.
Search has also changed. Now, instead of a table view with a long list of of apps being returned from a search, you will see the horizontal scroll view initially displaying the closest match. I don’t have a problem with this. When you search for an app you are usually going to be looking for something very specific, so it makes sense to show a specific result. In the past, you used to see a jumble of apps – the vast majority of which didn’t relate to your search term. Also, the horizontal scrolling works better in this instance as you are scrolling through full pages that display useful information rather than icons.
Do any of these changes mean much for independent developers? I don’t think so. The fundamental issues involved in promoting your app and acquiring users remain the same.