'Genius' And Previews Added To Apple App Store

Apple has tweaked the App Store a bit and added a couple of new features for the iPhone and iPad.
iPad users should be happy to discover that the iPad App Store now includes a "Genius" section, which is tasked with helping users find new applications.

The new feature was added to the iPad-specific version of the App Store at some point in the last 24 hours. iPad users will notice that it is located at the bottom of the storefront, situated next to the Updates button. I tested it out a bit and found it to be pretty good at coming up with recommendations (though I didn't actually buy any new apps).

First-time users need to agree to the new terms of service to unlock the functionality of the iPad Genius tool. Similar to the way Genius works for the iTunes Music Store, it parses a user's previous app downloads and matches them up with new content that is similar and that they might enjoy.

I only have a couple dozen applications installed on my iPad, and most of them are music and/or news oriented. The iPad Genius recommended that I look at a number of different music and news apps, some of which I'd considered before.

I noticed a few times that the Genius tool recommended apps with one or two stars. That to me says the feature needs tweaking. I'd never download an app that only has a two-star rating.

In other App Store news, iPhone users will note that Apple has cobbled together a number of "Lite" apps in one place. The App Store doesn't allow trial downloads. In order to get around that limitation, developers create "Lite" versions of their applications that have limited functionality when compared to the full app. The "Lite" version is free, which lets users give the application a test run before committing to purchase it.

This is a half-hearted solution at best. Apple would do better to allow timed trials for applications. Rather than test a crippled app indefinitely to see if you want to purchase it, the App Store should offer full apps that users can test for, say, a 24-hour period. After the 24 hours is up, the software expires and is removed from the device. Apple already does this with movie rentals. It shouldn't be too difficult to do for apps, too.

Until that happens, iPhone app shoppers will have to get by with this limited "try-before-you-buy" approach.

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