By Harry McCracken | Friday, June 17, 2011 at 10:58 am
The iOS and Android application marketplaces may both stock hundreds of thousands of programs–a reasonable percentage of which are pretty darn impressive–but it can be surprisingly tough to find the good stuff. Neither Apple’s App Store nor Google’s Android Market does a fantastic job of steering you towards every program you might find useful and/or entertaining, giving third parties such as Chomp an opportunity to full the void.
Now a very large third party is entering the fray: Yahoo. It’s launched an app search engine for iOS and Android designed for desktop browsers, plus an app called AppSpot, available in iOS and Android versions, that recommends apps and lets you search for them. I’m glad it’s doing it–this is a logical challenge for a search engine to take up–but the results so far are mildly pleasant at best.
The desktop version has a nicely-done interface–even if you’re looking for an app for a phone, the extra real estate makes the process easier. And the mobile apps are fun to use, although they aren’t a great leap forward beyond Chomp and other existing options. They’re just another source of app recommendations, and another way to search for relevant keywords.
AppSpot brags that it provides “Picks Just for You” and asked for permission to “see app information on your device” when I installed it on my iPhone. But if it does indeed provide customized recommendations out of the box, I’m not seeing anything uncanny–it had some suggestions that weren’t revelations (such as Angry Birds) and some that didn’t come within a country mile of my interests (like one that would let me “keep up to date with Emma Watson, no matter where you are”).
(Two other apps recommended just for me were something called Instant Lyrics and a game named Justin Bieber Revenge. Curiously enough, Eric Blattberg’s AppSpot review over at Wired says that AppSpot also recommended these apps just for him.)
Of course, maybe AppSpot will understand me better if I continue to use it. I’ll stick with it awhile and see what happens.
My favorite AppSpot feature is a nifty bit of integration between the browser-based version and the apps: once you’ve located an app you’d like to try in your browser, you can pull up a bar code and take a picture of it with your phone to pull it up in the application store. Sure, it only saves you a few taps over finding the app yourself, but it’s still clever.
In my time with AppSpot so far, I’ve discovered one piece of iPhone software that has a shot at becoming one of my most-used apps: a Gmail interface called iMailG. That alone has made the AppSpot experience worthwhile. But I’m still looking for a transcendently useful way to find smartphone software–something that’s as much of revelation as Yahoo was in 1994 or Google was in 1998. Anyone have any recommendations?