Apple has added a new App Store search suggestions feature in the US, Canada, Australia, and the UK, that might make it easier to find apps. Now, after typing in a search term, the App Store will attempt to predict what you’re looking for and offer suggested words that, when tapped, will further narrow down your search results and speed up your hunt for specific kinds of apps.
Search suggestions actually appeared on some iPhones earlier in April as part of a test, according to MacRumors, but now the feature should be rolling out to all iPhones in the supported regions.
Using search suggestions is pretty simple. Let’s say I’m looking for an app to help me make some pizza from scratch: I can type “pizza” in the App Store’s search field and see additional words pop up like “maker,” “game,” “call,” “calculator,” or “order.” Selecting one of those suggestions filters the results further, so choosing calculator will pull up apps for calculating the correct ratio ingredients for pizza dough (surprisingly there’s a lot of those).
Currently, not every search allows you to select multiple suggestions. I was able to refine Apple’s example of “food” with “delivery” and “Indian,” but my other sample searches only gave me one filter each. Not every search brings up a suggested filter, either. We’ve reached out to Apple for clarification on when suggestions appear.
What does consistently show up in search are ads, which Apple originally added to App Store search in 2016. It’s easy to see how my plan to make pizza from scratch could get derailed by a big Uber Eats or Papa John’s ad above my helpful dough calculator app. Ordering delivery is so much easier than doing math.
Those ads are likely to inflame Apple’s App Store critics further — they’ll no doubt argue that an indie developer trying to make it easier to figure out the ratios of water to flour in pizza shouldn’t have to compete with Uber’s ad budget, the same way they think competing apps shouldn’t be buying ads in front of one another’s products while Apple profits from the result. But every change to a search engine has winners and losers, and it’s not yet clear whether this one will make it easier or harder for small developers to get more exposure. They could wind up being helpful for everyone who uses the App Store.