Apple's App Store changed the smartphone landscape five years ago, but here are five things it still needs to do.
Apple iOS 7's Dramatic Design: Visual Tour
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This week, Apple is celebrating the five-year anniversary of the App Store. When it launched on July 10, 2008, the app store had just 500 apps for the iPhone and iPod Touch, but it forever altered how we think about smartphones and what they can do. From its humble beginnings, the App Store grew quickly to include apps of all kinds, including games, social networking, travel tools, augmented reality, weather, finance and much, much more.
Today, the App Store is home to more than 900,000 applications, and delivered its 50 billionth download on May 16. There are more than 350,000 applications dedicated to the iPad, and Apple has paid app developers more than $10 billion. No doubt, the App Store has had an impressive run, but it can do better. Here are five things we wish it could do.
1. Revert To Old Versions.
Apps are updated all the time. One of the key new features of iOS 7 is the ability for apps to update themselves automatically. That's great, but it doesn't always work out for users. Sometimes app updates break the functionality of the app or cause other problems. Aside from broken apps, some users dislike the changes brought by new app versions.
It would be helpful if iOS device owners could reinstall older, functional versions of apps (even if only temporarily) when there are problems with fresh updates.
2. Support Bigger Cellular App Downloads.
Right now apps that are larger than 50MB cannot be updated over cellular networks; they require Wi-Fi. Apple has been good about increasing the size of apps that can update over cellular, but more and more apps are larger than 50MB. Perhaps an increase to 100MB is warranted, especially considering how today's LTE 4G networks deliver speeds nearly as good as Wi-Fi.
3. Allow Scheduled Downloads.
As good as today's LTE 4G networks are, bandwidth can still be limited when on the road. Updating or downloading new apps can chew up bandwidth quickly, and, under tenuous network conditions, get in the way of productivity. It would be great if the App Store could build in support for scheduled downloads or updates. For example, let users set their phone to download apps only at night when the device isn't being used, or only when the available networks are at their best.
4. Improve Search.
Apple is very good at corralling apps into categories for easier browsing, but its search tool still has some limitations. This problem is brought on, in part, due to the App Store's rich selection of apps. For example, a search for "Vine" brings back hundreds of results that have nothing to do with the Twitter-owned Vine video app. There are many, many apps that have the word "vine" as part of their name or description. The App Store needs to do a better job of sorting through its 900,000 apps to deliver the results sought by users.
5. Provide Finer Controls Between Desktop and Device.
The App Store, when accessed via iTunes on the desktop, is an expansive place through which to search for and discover new apps. Using tools built into iOS, it is easy for device owners to control if apps, music or movies are automatically downloaded, but the App Store lacks fine-tuned controls.
For example, let's say I choose to download Infinity Blade II, which is free this week thanks to the App Store's 5th anniversary. I download the app, which is more than 1GB in size, to my computer, but I also want it to install on just one of my iOS devices (I have too many, I admit). It would be great if the App Store let me send the app to a specific device, say my iPad, directly from the desktop. The Google Play Store can already do this, and it would be a great way to push apps to iOS devices.
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