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Ten ways Apple could improve the iPhone App Store

Our wishlist, with a games focus

Ten ways Apple could improve the iPhone App Store
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The App Store has been live for a few weeks now and as you can imagine we've been pretty heavy users, browsing, buying, downloading and syncing iPhone games and apps on a daily basis.

It's working well, but like most heavy users, there's stuff we'd like to see improved or changed. With that in mind, we've put together a wishlist of how we'd like Apple to evolve the App Store to be even better.

See what you think, and suggest your own if you think we've missed anything.

1. Separate out New and Updated games

The fact that a game is treated as 'new' if it's simply been updated is something we've moaned about before. Go to the App Store's list of all iPhone games sorted by release date, and despite all having today's date, many of them actually came out weeks ago, but have just been patched.

It should be easy to have one list of games sorted by their actual release date, and another for those that have been most recently updated. It would also ensure that crafty developers don't release an endless series of updates with minor (if that) improvements just to get to the top of the App Store.

2. Have gameplay videos on each product page

We'd like Apple to take a leaf out of its own book here. On the regular iTunes Store's iPod section, every game has its own demo video showing off the gameplay – but there isn't the same on the App Store.

You can't beat seeing a game in motion when deciding to buy it, so it'd be great to have a similar feature on the App Store for iPhone games. Of course, this may involve Apple providing tools to help smaller developers create such videos to the required quality – perhaps one reason why it hasn't been done already.

3. Make it faster to sync apps onto your iPhone

Why does it take so long to sync a game onto your iPhone? Okay, so we're heavy users who've been buying and syncing as many as 5-8 games at once, which isn't the standard usage pattern. But even so, there have been plenty of complaints online at the sheer time it takes to get an app onto your iPhone.

And while we're at it, those enormously long backups that seem to happen every time we plug our iPhone in… What's that about? Is it necessary to back up every single game we own every time we connect, even if we haven't played them since the last time?

4. Don't let people review games they haven't bought

This is something that's been suggested to us by several developers and publishers, worried about the negative reviews they're getting from people who haven't bought their game.

There's two reasons. First, people saying "I wouldn't pay £5.99 for this, what a rip-off", and second, the threat of competitors sending hundreds of staff in to diss the competition. Is that a big problem? Who knows, but it'd surely be simple to only let you review apps that you've actually bought.

5. More sorting options when browsing games

The App Store could do with some better sorting options when you're looking for a game to buy – and one thing we'd love to see introduced is the ability to sort by user ratings.

Right now, if you type in 'Sudoku' to the Power Search box on the app store, 30 games come up, but there's no option to sort them by their rating, so you have to click each one individually to see whether people think it's good.

It's the same when you click through to the genre lists – Action, Puzzle, Racing and so on. Here, you can sort by Release Date, Name or Most Popular, with the latter seemingly based on number of downloads. What about an option to sort by User Ratings?

The same request holds true for the App Store on the iPhone itself, by the way.

6. Introduce a shopping cart

Again, maybe this is a request driven by our heavy usage, but it'd be nice to have a shopping cart, like you do for the regular iTunes Store.

So instead of buying games individually with the 'Buy App' button, we'd like to be able to add them to a cart (along with music, films or whatever else we're buying at the time).

The option would still be there to buy individually, but it seems puzzling that the existing shopping cart option hasn't extended to the App Store.

7. Sort out the Updates functionality

This morning, my iPhone is saying six of my installed applications need updates. iTunes on my PC is saying just three do. Why there's this difference isn't clear.

The Updates section works well on the iPhone itself, with a dedicated page in the App Store app to show you what's updatable. But Apple could improve the way iTunes handles this – perhaps even with a pop-up message when you login that says "x of your games have updates available", rather than making you click through to the Applications option in the left-hand menu to find out.

8. Let me sign up to developer/publisher alerts

Say I've bought a game from Gameloft, or Publisher X, or any one of the many small developers plying their wares on the App Store. It'd be good to be able to set up some kind of alert so that I'd know when any new games from them go live on the App Store.

Some websites do this – Ticketmaster emailed me this week saying Primal Scream are on tour soon, because I set them up as one of my favourite bands a while ago.

Given the issues finding genuinely new releases (see point 1), this would help keep track of titles by developers whose previous games we've enjoyed.

9. Introduce 'Just For You' personalised recommendations

This is something Apple does on the regular iTunes Store homepage – serves up a chart of stuff you might like based on previous purchases. Mine's currently suggesting tracks from Glasvegas, Crystal Castles, Elbow and, ahem, McFly.

It's not surprising this wasn't on the App Store from launch – after all, people have to buy a bunch of games before they can be recommended the best iPhone games to others.

But it's something that'd be great to have, again as a way of highlighting stuff we might like, but might not find unless we're on the App Store every day scanning the new releases.

10. Encourage more demos of games

Some publishers are cannily releasing free 'Lite' versions of their iPhone games, to let people have a go before deciding whether to buy the full version. We'd like to see more of this kind of thing, and Apple may be well-placed to encourage it.

Think about what Nokia has done with N-Gage, getting every publisher to supply a demo for every game. Apple might not need to make this a requirement, but it could at least create a dedicated iPhone Game Demos category to nudge developers along that path.

It's possible to deep-link from within apps to the App Store, so if these demos were time-limited, developers could put buttons in saying 'Buy Now'.

That's what we'd like to see, but you can also read what we actually think will happen to iPhone gaming.