Apple's iOS App Store heavily favored the company's iPhone and iPad apps and ranked them higher than more popular third-party options until a recent algorithm change, according to a new report from The New York Times. Visibility and position in App Store search results can be a make or break proposition for developers and startups in particular.
Apple told the Times it made the change to help users better find the apps they are looking for.
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For example, the Times discovered in its own earlier analysis that Apple's Wallet app vaulted to the number one spot on App Store searches for terms like "money", "credit", and "debit" only one day after Apple announced the Apple Card on March 25.
Searches dating from 2013 show the proliferation of the company's software, with some results showing as many as 14 Apple apps before an app from another publisher appears, according to the Times.
Prior to 2016, Apple did not actually list its own apps in the app store, since those apps were included pre-installed on the company's devices. Instead, they said that the company's apps generally get higher placement in search results due to their popularity and because the rather generic-sounding names of these apps more closely resemble the search terms being used by consumers. Apple executives Eddy Cue and Phil Schiller, who oversee the App Store and many of Apple's apps in it, acknowledged Apple's ranking advantage but denied that it was intentional.
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The algorithm examines 42 different signals, they said, including an app's relevance to a given search, its ratings, and its popularity based on downloads and user clicks. The plaintiffs argue that the 30% cut that Apple takes on revenue generated by app sales, subscriptions, and in-app purchases leads them to pay higher prices since they are forced to make these transactions inside the App Store. But the company says that its search algorithm has now been "adjusted.so that fewer of its own apps appeared at the top of search results". So, as the App Store catalog continues to grow at a rapid rate, getting your titles into search results is more important than ever.
If you were to type "music" into the app store last spring the search results would look something like this: Apple Music, GarageBand, iTunes Remote, and at least five other Apple apps. Two of those apps (iMovie and Clips) had nothing to do with music and Spotify was down to number 23. Schiller and Cue said the algorithm was "working properly" at the time, but "simply chose to handicap themselves to help other developers", according to The Times. "It's improved", said Cue.
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That is particularly apparent at the shorter end of the curve, with two and five-year rates affected more than 10-year securities. Days with fewer tweets tend to see positive returns of 5 basis points on average as per the report.