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Apple Chomps At App Store Search? Developers See Shift In Search Results

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Apple is making potentially significant changes to the search algorithm in the App Store, at least according to some app developers. If you’re a developer or publisher counting on a well-chosen name to help with visibility, things could get tougher from here on out. But if you’re a popular and well-reviewed app, things might be looking up.

This could be an early step in the general revamp of App Store search and discovery that MG Siegler heard about when he broke the news in February that Apple had acquired app discovery startup Chomp.

Basically, it looks like App Store search is now weighting app names and keywords less heavily in its search results. Previously, if you were searching for something like “san francisco parking”, apps whose names included those search terms would rank more highly. Or if you searched for something like “traffic”, you’d get a bunch of games with names like Traffic Rush. Now, you’re more likely to see apps that aren’t just a simple keyword match. In traffic, for example, you see more actual traffic/navigation apps — and yes, a few games thrown into the mix.

We’ve heard a couple of possible explanations about why this is the case. Ben Sann, founder of BestParking.com, first tipped us off to the change, because he noticed that the Best Parking app had suddenly jumped to the top of a number of searches, including “chicago parking,” “dc parking,” and “sf parking”, in each case ranking ahead of apps that were a closer match for the search term. Sann’s theory: Apple is now putting a heavier emphasis on app downloads, so that BestParking has pulled ahead of apps with better names (at least, for a given search) but fewer downloads. If Sann is right, that could mean developers who built localized versions of their apps to target different search terms are going to get screwed, while more generalized apps that serve multiple geographies (like BestParking) will benefit.

Matthäus Krzykowski, cofounder of app search and data company Xyologic, has another explanation. He says that Apple has been incorporating download numbers into its rankings for a while now, and he suggests that what really changed is that Apple has gotten better at “topic detection”. In other words, it’s now better able to infer what you’re looking for when you type in a search term, so if you type in the word “gas”, you probably want apps that help you find gas stations or low gas prices, rather than driving games or apps that happen to have the word gas in their title (like fart apps). His team also says that the search rankings seem to be looking at other indicators of popularity, like ratings and comments.

That theory seems to be backed up by Chomp’s description of its technology: “Chomp’s proprietary algorithm learns the functions and topics of apps, so you can search based on what apps do, not just what they’re called.” In other words, if Apple is getting better at topic detection, it’s plausible that Chomp’s technology played a role.

And the change doesn’t seem to be rolling out in every country. It’s hard to do an apples-to-apples comparison for different geographies, because they have different apps and different languages, but our own Ingrid Lunden says she’s seeing similar changes in the UK’s App Store search results. And Krzykowski sent along screenshots of a search for “gas” or “benzin” (German for gas) in Germany and Poland. He notes that in Germany, the results include a lot more navigation apps, while Poland’s results include more random games, suggesting that the change has happened in Germany but not Poland.

In other categories, the change seems to be more subtle. I spoke to one mobile app developer who said that his apps seemed to be ranking higher in multiple categories, with some low-quality apps removed from the rankings, and the search results now matching up more closely with the App Store rankings. However, the change wasn’t dramatic enough that he could say for certain.

We’ve contacted Apple and will update if we hear back.


Apple Chomps At App Store Search? Developers See Shift In Search Results

Mobile Parking Service Pango Makes Official U.S. Debut With New App, “Smart Garage” In NYC

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Anyone who’s ever driven in a city can attest to the fact that it’s an utter pain in the rear to find somewhere to park. New York in particular is a nightmare for skittish drivers (like myself), but mobile parking service Pango is poised to help ease the hassle of city cruising and parking.

After launching in Israel in 2007, their zeal for expansion has prompted Pango to take their first official step into the United States with the launch of their mobile app and their first so-called smart garage in New York City (on 77th and Lexington, to be more precise).

Here’s the onboarding process in a nutshell — after installing the app (available on iOS, Android, or BlackBerry), potential parkers are tasked with creating an account and will need to plug in their license plate number and credit card credentials in order to be properly tracked and charged.

After that process is over, users will be able to search for different Pango locations to park at, but for now users in NYC need only pull into the smart garage and press a button to summon a valet. Once users are done poking around the Guggenheim (or whatever it is people do in the Upper East Side), they can use the app to alert the garage that they’re on en route back to their car, so the vehicle can be prepared to go. The amount owed is charged directly to the card on file — the service doesn’t currently cost anything beyond the garage’s usual fees — so all that’s left is to hop in and speed off.


And this is just the beginning — Pango told TechCrunch that they’re targeting other major metro areas to expand into, as well as bringing their on-street and non-valeted garage parking models live over the next few months. In fact, they’re already made some progress on that front as they soft-launched their on-street mobile parking service in Latrobe, Pennsylvania of all places last month.

It’s a funky concept to be sure, but it’s one that certainly seems to be doing the company well. At last glance, the company has entered into app-friendly partnerships with parking garages in 50 cities across five countries — Israel, Poland, Germany, France, and the U.S. What’s more, the company handles more than 2 million parking transactions monthly, and make their money by splitting revenue with the garage proprietor or the owners of the areas where they plan to set up their Pango parking meters.

Now there’s no shortage of services looking to disrupt the odious process of parking — Panda and Disrupt Battlefield finalist KurbKarma immediately spring to mind — but what makes Pango such a compelling option is the lack of friction involved. Exchanging pleasantries with the valet aside, the entire process essentially consists of a few button presses. At this stage though they’re being outpaced by some of the competition (Panda is currently live in Baltimore and Washington D.C. with two more cities waiting in the wings), and while their momentum has seen them take hold in 50 cities in just under five years, only time will tell if they’re able to replicate that level of success in the States.


Mobile Parking Service Pango Makes Official U.S. Debut With New App, “Smart Garage” In NYC

Xyologic Releases Hundreds Of Reports Detailing Worldwide Mobile App Trends

Xyologic

App search company Xyologic is today releasing a total of 220 app download reports, featuring detailed data on Android, iOS and Windows Phone trends across 29 countries worldwide. The reports track statistics like the number of downloads per platform/per country, growth rates, country rankings, number of paid vs. free apps published, app revenue and details regarding app publishers’ individual rankings.

Unlike app store rankings, Xyologic’s reports use raw download numbers to rank apps, as opposed to complex algorithms often meant to boost app discoverability. Ranking by downloads per month also means that some of the most popular apps will be lower on the list because the majority of their install base already has the app on their phones. That’s why Facebook clocks in as the #18 free app on iPhone in the U.S., for example, while game maker Zynga comes in at #15.

As an example of some of the trends these reports can help spot, Xyologic doled out some interesting tidbits of information, like how Apple saw 1.45 billion app downloads globally in the month of August versus 0.64 billion app downloads on Android. If Android’s current growth rate continues, it’s on track to catch up with Apple in June 2012, says Xyologic, at which point each platform will reach 3.2 billion downloads. (See chart).

In select countries, Android is already beating iOS in monthly app downloads, including in the Czech Republic, Poland and Portugal. However, the mobile market in these countries is not fully developed.

Xyologic also forecasts that Android will catch up to iOS in terms of total app downloads by May 2013 and number of apps by August 2012, if current trends continue. (See below charts).

Digging into the reports for the U.S., you can find details as to the top 100 app publishers per platform, including number of apps (free and paid), downloads per month (free and paid) and estimated revenue. Reports are broken down into categories, with separate reports for top apps, new apps and an in-app purchase economy report. These are provided for each platform (iPhone, iPad, Android and Windows Phone) where available, for 29 countries.

Frankly, there’s a lot of data to digest here, so much that even Xyologic claims that it expects its partners and community to discover even more than it could on its own. That, in part, is why the company decided to make these app reports available for free and will continue to do so on a monthly basis. Yes, 220 reports, 4 platforms, every month, for free. Not bad.

If you work in the  mobile industry, this treasure trove of reports is definitely worth a look. You can access them all from here.


Xyologic Releases Hundreds Of Reports Detailing Worldwide Mobile App Trends