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Apple Adjusts App Store Algorithm After Realizing Many Apple Apps Dominate Search Results


macrumors bot
Original poster
Apr 12, 2001

Apple recently adjusted its App Store search algorithm so that fewer of its own apps appear at the top of search results, senior executives Phil Schiller and Eddy Cue confirmed in an interview with The New York Times.

Specifically, the executives said Apple has tweaked a feature that sometimes grouped apps by maker so Apple apps would no longer look as if they were receiving preferential treatment. The New York Times claims that many Apple apps have dropped in the search results since the change was implemented in July.

Schiller and Cue both denied any wrongdoing on Apple's part, however, describing the change as an improvement rather than a fix:
On July 12, many Apple apps dropped sharply in the rankings of popular searches. The top results for "TV" went from four Apple apps to two. "Video" and "maps" changed from three top Apple apps to one. And Apple Wallet dropped from the No. 1 spot for "money" and "credit."

Mr. Schiller and Mr. Cue said the algorithm had been working properly. They simply decided to handicap themselves to help other developers.

"We make mistakes all the time," Mr. Cue said.

"We're happy to admit when we do," Mr. Schiller said. "This wasn't a mistake."
Even after the change, analytics firm Sensor Tower found Apple apps ranked first in the App Store for over 700 search terms, even when the Apple apps were less relevant and less popular than ones from its competitors:
On Aug. 21, Apple apps ranked first in 735 of roughly 60,000 search terms tracked by Sensor Tower. Most of the tracked searches were obscure, but Apple's apps ranked first for many of the popular queries. For instance, for most of June and July, Apple apps were the top result for these search terms: books, music, news, magazines, podcasts, video, TV, movies, sports, card, gift, money, credit, debit, fitness, people, friends, time, notes, docs, files, cloud, storage, message, home, store, mail, maps, traffic, stocks and weather.
A spokesperson for Apple said the company could not verify the data because it did not keep a record of historical search results, according to The New York Times. Apple's algorithm is said to examine 42 different signals, including an app's relevance to a given search, its ratings, and its popularity based on downloads and views.

The New York Times shared a particularly compelling example related to Apple's Wallet app following the Apple Card's introduction, but Schiller and Cue denied any intentional manipulation of the App Store search results:
On March 25, the company unveiled an Apple-branded credit card that can be used via the Apple Wallet app. The next day, Apple Wallet was the No. 1 result in searches for "money," "credit" and "debit." The app had not ranked for those search terms before then.

Mr. Cue and other Apple executives speculated that the team marketing the Apple Wallet app had added "money," "credit" and "debit" to the underlying description of the app, causing it to appear for those search results.

Then people searched those terms, found the Apple Wallet app and clicked on it, telling the algorithm that it should be the first result.

"We can just tell you that we've not done anything to drive that -- that is, other than launching a great wallet, an Apple Card and marketing the heck out of it," Mr. Schiller said.
Apple has faced increasing scrutiny as of late over the way it runs its App Store, ranging from Spotify's anticompetitive complaint in Europe to a class action lawsuit accusing Apple of operating an App Store monopoly in the United States, which the Supreme Court has allowed to proceed.

Apple recently defended its practices, noting that the App Store "welcomes competition" and was created to be "a safe and trusted place for customers to discover and download apps" and "a great business opportunity for all developers."

Article Link: Apple Adjusts App Store Algorithm After Realizing Many Apple Apps Dominate Search Results
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Oct 23, 2018
This is a good thing, but still has the whiff of Apple correcting something ONLY after people starting pointing it out and complaining about it. Kinda like the Siri monitoring issue.

Like they thought no one would call them on it ... and when people did, only then did Apple decide to make the change.


Oct 21, 2008
Time, because it rules EVERYTHING!
Yet more action indicating guilt from Apple, trying to head off the European competition investigation into the Apple App Store..

I don’t think anything Apple does now can avert a fine for the way it has been behaving.

This is in direct relation to the official complaint Spotify made to the EU commission, and I’d presume it’s on going investigation taken up after the complaint, and not Apple taking action for an issue it’s only just recently realised. As others have said, this is another exposure of Apple being guilty of something it rubbished before, it’s quite the common theme with Apple now and it is damaging trust I have with them, not sure about anyone else.
Because they do have access to an awful lot of data about you, health records and finances...
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"We make mistakes all the time," Mr. Cue said.
"We're happy to admit when we do," Mr. Schiller said. "This wasn't a mistake."

I'm home alone and still rolled my eyes when I read this. I can't ever recall being happy when I made a mistake. Lst's see; I was sick last month and forgot to pay my xyz bill on time, and yet I was 'HAPPY to pay the late fee! :)
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macrumors 65816
Apr 18, 2018
So after all the people jumping to Apple's defence saying they did nothing wrong, Apple admits it did something wrong. Again.
Read he article, carefully this time. they did not admit, nor is their guilt to be had. If you search for "music" invariable an app titled music might appear first, same with "TV" hmm app titled TV comes up, interesting. try things like "spreadsheet", "Word", "slides", "office". see a pattern yet?
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macrumors Core
Nov 14, 2011
This interview was confusing. Often times when I would search the App Store Google apps would show up first. I assumed it’s because they’re popular apps. If the App Store search algorithms are working as intended then the company shouldn’t be tweaking them just because a New York Times story claiming favoritism was going to drop.
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macrumors 6502
Jul 4, 2004
Personally I didn't see anything wrong with Apple promoting it's own apps. Apple's apps are free, exclude ads and in-app purchases.

On the other hand Apple has an incentive to promote paid apps. Maintain a healthy market place. Provide choice to users.
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now i see it

macrumors 603
Jan 2, 2002
There's this feature called "Scroll".When a search page comes up, you scroll down. Maybe they should try it.


macrumors 68020
Oct 15, 2008
The article speaks for itself.

The doom and gloomers are far more ready to bash Apple than the apologists are to defend it.

Apple isn’t worried about a fine anyway.

Not taking about doom and gloom here.

Talking about how Apple folks saying Apple never prioritized their apps in Search results.
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