(Welcome Reddit and HN visitors!) As the post-launch hubbub over iPhone 5 and iOS 6 dies down, developers and some users are pointing to a big problem with the updated App Store experience on iPhones: It’s not possible to sort by release date.
In iOS 5 and earlier versions of the App Store on iPhones, each category has three sort options: Paid, Free and Release Date (see inset photo). Paid and Free are for top apps, and almost all of them are the hugely popular apps that have become mainstays of people’s mobile lives — Angry Birds, Instagram, Facebook, etc. The sort by release date option serves as an alternative discovery method for users who don’t want to rely on the “top rated” criteria to find new and interesting apps to try out.
However, in the iOS 6 version of the App Store on the iPhone, the sort options are Paid, Free, and Top-Grossing. Although it is possible to find new apps via search or Genius recommendations, there is no way to see the newest apps in the App Store’s category view. Users have noticed, and are leaving comments like this on forums and other social media:
In the App Store the tab that I always use to look at was the “release date” tab. However when I compared Games-Action-Release Date to the ios 6 Games-Action-New they were different in what they had in them. They need to bring this tab back since a lot of home developers apps will get overlooked and the fun of discovery for me and a lot of others will be gone.
It’s not just users who are concerned. The developers and companies which make apps are also worried. This is especially true of makers of local apps, niche apps, experimental apps, and apps from obscure studios and brands that are difficult to discover through the category lists or featured rankings. Even though only a fraction of users on older versions of iOS click on Release Date to browse these apps, iPhone ownership is so widespread that most newly released apps will experience a small rush of new users in the first day or two after launch. This opening bump was a good way to get some early user feedback, and in some cases, resulted in a cycle of early positive reviews and downloads that helped get apps into the top 100 of their respective categories. As noted by Chris Newman of the Lightwood Games blog:
For a small developer, this is terrible news. Although it’s only for a short period, the “new release” exposure is extremely valuable. It’s our opportunity to grab people’s attention, build the initial user base and gauge the public’s reaction without needing to spend a fortune on marketing.
Practically speaking, what does this mean for developers? Getting early users certainly becomes much more difficult, and leads to delays in building feedback loops and traction. Developers (or the owners of the app) are then forced to search for alternate means of getting the word out, generating feedback from mobile users, and getting reviews in iTunes. Neemware’s in-app messaging, feedback, and cross-promotion modules let developers make these connections with their users; to learn more visit the Neemware features page).
One interesting note: On the iPad, the situation is a lot different. Installing iOS 6 updates the App Store interface, but it’s not as restricted as the iOS 6 version of the App Store for the iPhone. It is also possible to sort by new releases within the categories. There is also a prominent “New and Notable” listing, but the list appears to be hand-picked and includes many apps that aren’t new at all.