As first noted by developer Olga Osadcha, Apple is testing a related search suggestion feature on the App Store, which started rolling out earlier today for iPhone users on iOS 7.

The new menu, a scrollable bar with suggestions for searches related to the current search, allows users to discover more apps in search by tapping on suggestions, receiving a fresh set of results. Multiple suggestions can be selected in a single session: searching for “indie games”, for instance, displays suggestions for “action games”, which include “action RPG” into their own suggestions. The new suggestion bar doesn’t alter the way search results are displayed – Apple is still using a cards layout on the iPhone – and, for now, the feature doesn’t appear to be available on the App Store for iPad and desktop computers.

The new related search suggestions mark one of Apple’s first attempts to augment App Store search results with visual semantics for apps. In testing the feature, I was able to get suggestions for specific sub-categories such as “business news” and “video game news”, “writing” and “story ideas”, or “healthy cooking” and “food recipes”; each set of related searches included new results that were more specific and relevant to the suggested search. A suggested search can branch out to more sub-suggestions (that was the case with the aforementioned games example), but I also noticed related searches that had no additional searches inside them. Aside from the additional bar for suggestions, results were displayed as normal cards with no additional changes.

It’s unclear whether this new feature could be based on Apple’s curation efforts with custom sections, keywords chosen by developers for their apps, popular searches on the App Store, or a combination of all these existing pieces of metadata. Over the past few years, Apple has built a large catalogue of curated sections (called Collections), which, however, don’t appear to be the primary source of search suggestions. Related searches ranged from generic terms and phrases like “writing” and “news” to mixes of company and product names such as “word excel” and “game loft”, suggesting that Apple may indeed still be testing and tweaking the feature before a wider rollout.

With over a million apps on the App Store, search has often been mentioned as one of the areas where Apple could make significant improvements to enable customers to discover relevant apps more easily. Two years ago, Apple acquired App Store search engine Chomp in a move that was believed to bring new user features for App Store search and recommendations, which, however, didn’t materialize with iOS 6 and iOS 7.

While the company introduced a feature to discover apps popular nearby last year, the new search suggestions could provide a general layer of filtering that is independent from geographical location. At this point, it’s not clear whether Apple may be optimizing search suggestions based on user taste and purchase history – first tests suggest that related searches are simply based on app category rather than user personalization; right now, it’s hard to tell whether some search suggestions may have been manually curated by Apple or not.

In the past year, App Store optimization (or “ASO”) has become a common practice for third-party developers willing to ensure their apps would rank highly in Apple’s search algorithm – which the company also tweaked multiple times. With more specific searches directly suggested to users when searching, Apple could alleviate the problem of good results being buried below worse results with higher ASO values, giving users more relevant and specific apps in an increasingly crowded marketplace.

Brandon Sheffield, writing for Gamasutra:

Frogmind was founded in 2012, by two developers from Trials developer RedLynx. In 2013, they released their first game, Badland, and immediately got 100,000 downloads at $3.99, which was great, but sales took a nose dive after the first weekend, going down to 1,000 downloads per day, and eventually less.

Badland is a fantastic iOS game that's truly built with touch controls in mind. In Frogmind's GDC session, CEO Johannes Vourinen shared some interesting numbers that iOS game developers thinking about other platforms (Google Play Store, Amazon Appstore) should take a look at.

Also interesting is his report on temporary sales and Apple's “Free App of the Week” initiative (which Badland participated in, although during the special App Store anniversary week) – because the game is typically a paid download with no In-App Purchases, the result after the promotion wasn't what most people think it is.

Following a weekly refresh of the App Store’s featured content, Apple has started highlighting indie games in a section called “Indie Game Showcase” today, presented on the App Store’s homepage.

The new section, available on iTunes here, will presumably highlight indie developers on a regular basis, featuring a selected game from the development studio and offering a glimpse into the favorite games of an indie development’s team. This week, Apple started by featuring Simogo, the independent, award-winning studio behind Year Walk, Beat Sneak Bandit, and the widely acclaimed Device 6.

From Apple’s Indie Game Showcase page:

Often made up of just a few dedicated members, independent studios prove that what really matters is the size of your dream. In each Indie Game Showcase, we celebrate a popular game and its creative team, highlighting the developer’s titles along with their favorite games from other studios.

In featuring Simogo’s Device 6, Apple notes that the experience was “tailor-fit for iPad, iPhone, and iPod touch”, resulting in a game that was included in the list of runner-ups for the App Store’s Game of the Year collection in 2013 from a company that has made “outstanding games exclusively for the App Store”.

Apple’s Indie Game Showcase comes at the end of the Game Developers Conference, which saw an increased interest in indie productions by larger companies. Among various announcements, Sony unveiled improved development tools for indie developers on PS4, Microsoft showcased games part of the initial rollout of the ID@XBOX program, Nintendo showed the capabilities of its Web Framework, while both Epic and Crytek announced subscription services for their game engines, a move likely aimed at smaller, independent developers.

Alongside the Indie Game Showcase, Apple also featured its “10 Essential Indie Games” section on the App Store’s Games category page again, including recent releases such as Nyamyam’s Tengami and Sirvo’s Threes.

Mar
13
2014

Paper is one of our must have apps, and it’s recently been updated with iOS 7 in mind. While the app’s design and personality free it from many of iOS 7’s visual styles, popovers and menus have been refreshed with a flatter, cleaner look.

Two additional small but important changes to Paper’s drawing tools should make drawing detailed characters, things, and environments much easier than before. When using the loupe to zoom in, the drawing tools you use will adjust their size as well, giving you finer control over all of the smaller details. And lastly, drawing dots has become much easier, with long presses generating bigger dots.

Paper is free to download in the App Store, with tools available for sale in the app individually or as a bundle.

Previous owners of Verbs, an instant messaging app for iOS, will find a free update on the App Store that readies the app for iOS 7, while introducing a slew of new notification options, support for Jabber, and integration with Dropbox for sharing files and photos in chat. Verbs has also added a couple of read later options for sending links to Pocket and Safari’s Reading List.

As conversations take place outside of the conversation view, the status bar will flicker when new texts appear, much like status updates in Tweetbot or Mailbox. Inside the conversation view, Verbs has added some small contextual changes to message bubbles, changing their color when they’re delivered, and adding the option to use shapes to indicate your buddy’s availability status.

Dropbox integration with the app works out of the gate without a lot of setup. If you have Dropbox installed on your iOS device and are already logged in, you can pick a file and share the link with a friend. If you setup your Dropbox account, you can add files as well.

While I still don’t like how you switch between conversations views throw a Safari-like carousel, the remainder of Verbs feels fresh, and the app has always maintained a decided simplicity for simply sending and receiving messages from common services. If you don’t have Verbs yet, you can give it a try for $2.99 from the App Store.

Mar
5
2014

Your favorite customizable terminal app for the Mac is now available for iPhones and iPads, letting you wirelessly connect to any computer offering SSH access. The app gives you lots of control over its vintage look and feel, letting you change color, lighting, “shape,” and your choice of retro bitmap fonts. For iPad owners, the app supports Bluetooth keyboards, and works in both portrait and landscape orientation. Cathode supports multiple sessions and can automatically connect to nearby computers using Bonjour. For the geeks out there, Cathode costs a cool $5.99 from the App Store.

 

If you just want to keep tabs on your expenditures and income without the overhead of managing a budget, My Finances is a lightweight iPhone app that gives you a glance at how you’re spending your money and what your net worth is at any given time. Put expenditures into categories, track how you’re spending over time, and make quick decisions on whether you’re spending too much. To begin tracking, My Finances lets you enter a starting value in the settings to create a baseline. The app doesn’t connect to your bank to automatically track spending, but it does you mindful since you have to enter each transaction yourself. Setting up basic categories for gas, groceries, public transportation, and eating out can go a long way towards becoming aware of where your money is really going. The app is free to download, but an in-app purchase for $3.99 unlocks all of the features.

Provided you use Subsonic, Audiophone lets you take your personal music collection with you wherever you go. As an alternative to online storage solutions like Amazon’s Cloud Player, Google’s Play Music, or iTunes Match, Audiophone is about giving you direct access to your library from your personal computer. Want to listen to songs encoded in FLAC and WAV on your iPhone? Because it’s a music player that piggybacks off of Subsonic, the music can be transcoded and pre-buffered so that your streamed tunes can make the most out of your available bandwidth, no matter where you are. Like Genius in iTunes, Audiophone can also generate playlists based on your favorite songs on the fly. Plus, it includes support for AirPlay so you can stream music to a pair of speakers through an AirPort Express or your Apple TV. The app is $4.99 on the App Store, designed for listener who wants to end-to-end control over their music streaming experience.

There’s lots of task managers on the iPhone, but how many break down just how good you are at getting things done? Zippy adds some recent features that have found their way into apps like Mailbox, such as a flyover grid of options for snoozing tasks until a later date, and maintains a list of completed tasks and whether you’ve completed them on time. Tags help keep your tasks organized so you can attribute things to home, work, and personal projects, and view tasks per tag. Perhaps the only improvement Zippy could make is the ability to add tags when creating tasks themselves. The insight’s tab is Zippy’s most original feature, and it breaks down things like when you complete tasks, how good you are at planning in advance, and what times of the day you’re most likely to mark things as done. Analyze your daily routine and replace your stack of sticky notes with Zippy, which is only a dollar until March 4th. Grab it from the App Store.