WSJ: Apple Apps Unfairly Dominate App Store Search Results

Discussion in ' News Discussion' started by MacRumors, Jul 23, 2019.

  1. MacRumors macrumors bot


    Apr 12, 2001

    Apple's mobile apps are often first in App Store search results ahead of competitors, according to a new analysis done by The Wall Street Journal.

    For basic searches like "maps," Apple's apps ranked first more than 60 percent of the time in the WSJ's testing. Apps that generate revenue like Music or Books showed up first in 95 percent of related searches.


    Apple, in response to questioning from the Wall Street Journal, did its own testing and said that it had different results where its apps didn't rank first.

    Apple says that it uses an algorithm that uses machine learning and past consumer preferences, leading to app rankings that often fluctuate. Apple suggested that its apps ranked first in the WSJ's testing because those apps are popular with consumers. Apple says that all apps are subjected to the same search algorithm, including its own.
    Many of the Apple apps in the App Store are installed by default on iPhones and iPads, though they can now be deleted if desired. Having them available in the App Store lets customers who have deleted them restore them when needed.

    In one example, the WSJ highlights the audiobooks search category. The top spot was held by for two years before it was unseated by the Apple Books app last September, which led to a 25 percent decline in's daily app downloads. Apple Books ranks first for audiobooks, books, and reader searches, leading the audiobooks category because of "user behavior data" and the "audiobooks" keyword, says Apple.

    Similarly, Apple Maps ranks first in a search for "maps," while the TV app and the iTunes Store come up first in searches for keywords like "tv," "movies," and "videos."

    The Wall Street Journal suggests that Apple's App Store dominance gives Apple an upper hand, especially as many default apps are not held to the same standards that third party apps are required to adhere to. Many Apple apps, for example, do not feature reviews or ratings, which is one of the factors that influence search results along with downloads.

    There are a total of 42 factors used to determine where apps rank in search, but the factors with the most influence are downloads, ratings, relevance, and user behavior. User behavior includes the number of times that users select an app after a search and then go on to download it, according to Apple.

    Apple is facing legal battles over its App Store policies. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in May that a lawsuit accusing Apple of anticompetitive behavior for requiring apps to be sold through the App Store could continue, and the European Commission has asked Apple for answers after Spotify accused it of anticompetitive App Store business practices related to the fee that Apple collects from app developers.

    The Wall Street Journal's full report on Apple's App Store search rankings can be read over on the WSJ website.

    Article Link: WSJ: Apple Apps Unfairly Dominate App Store Search Results
  2. TonyC28 macrumors 65816


    Aug 15, 2009
    If I owned a store and made products that were sold in it I'd probably put my stuff up front too.
  3. Icaras macrumors 603


    Mar 18, 2008
    California, United States
  4. dominiongamma macrumors 68000

    Oct 19, 2014
    Tempe, Arizona
    WSJ seems desperate with this article for people to click on
  5. IAmGLaDOS macrumors newbie


    Apr 23, 2015
    I feel this is done to help those who have "deleted" the stock app from their device to find it easily and "reinstall" it.
  6. gaximus macrumors 6502a

    Oct 11, 2011
    So do Walmart products in a Walmart Store. Why is this a big deal?
  7. testcard macrumors 68040


    Apr 13, 2009
    Northumbria, UK
  8. Quu, Jul 23, 2019
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2019

    Quu macrumors 68030


    Apr 2, 2007
    Yet another WSJ hit piece on Apple. Jeff Bezos must still be pissed his phone did worse against the iPhone than Microsofts Zune did against the iPod.

    EDIT: I got The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post mixed up. My bad!
  9. az431 macrumors 65816


    Sep 13, 2008
    Portland, OR
    Whoop dee doo. The shocking part is that some people expect Apple to not place its own apps front and center in its own App Store. Or that an app called "Maps" would not be first when people search for "maps." Shocking!

    WSJ doesn't seem to have an issue with their locked articles being placed front and center in Apple News to get people to sign up for Apple News+

    Thanks for the click bait WSJ.
  10. hortod1 macrumors regular


    Jan 26, 2009
    Was on the other day and the only cars that came up were Toyota’s. Completely unacceptable. Needs to go to the Supreme Court.
  11. Hodar1 macrumors member


    Nov 30, 2011
    In the middle of the Rocky Mountains, for now.
    In other news, Pepsi vending machines must now feature Coke products, because ..... fairness
  12. Scottsoapbox macrumors 6502a


    Oct 10, 2014
    Sure, we trained the AI on customer interactions with the prior search that listed Apple apps first, but now it's completely unbiased AI serving the results. ;)
  13. Baymowe335 macrumors 601

    Oct 6, 2017
    Why should it be any other way?

    It doesn’t make it a monopoly.
  14. norbinhouston macrumors 6502

    Oct 14, 2011
    Now Ford dealers must sell Chevrolet cars as well.
  15. ersan191 macrumors 65816

    Oct 26, 2013
    Apple’s apps are free and functional - they should be listed first.
  16. 69Mustang macrumors 604


    Jan 7, 2014
    In between a rock and a hard place
    Not that I agree with the WSJ assessment... but your analogy. It's terrible and wrong. Walmart does not feature it's own products in store. They feature branded products more prominently. Most stores feature the branded products.
  17. Kaibelf Suspended


    Apr 29, 2009
    Silicon Valley, CA
    Um..... Bezos has nothing to do with the WSJ.
  18. Crowbot macrumors 6502


    May 29, 2018
    And how critical is it to be the first listing? I certainly don't stop after the first citation in a web search.
    --- Post Merged, Jul 23, 2019 ---
    WSJ is owned by Rupert Murdoch. Bezos owns the Washington Post. So by stretching a bit it could be a hit piece on Apple from the right. ;)
  19. markosb macrumors 6502


    Mar 19, 2010
    WSJ should do a write up on all other stores as well. Walmart puts their brand in favorable spots as well, as does Target and most Grocery stores. This isn’t news, it’s fact.
  20. shplock macrumors regular

    Dec 25, 2015
    Somewhere in a Galaxy far far away
    I think that the WSJ no longe has any credibility and needs to shut the **** up. It is Apple's ecosystem. Apple are the ones who design the products, Apple are the ones who build the products(Foxconn etc actually build them but Apple are essentially in charge), Apple are the ones who advertise the products and sell them and Apple are the ones who run the App Store as well as collect revenues.
    So the WSJ and Spotify want to essentially get a free ride. They wish to not contribute to Apple in any way and have Apple run their eco system in a way that best benefits them.

  21. thisisnotmyname macrumors 68000


    Oct 22, 2014
    known but velocity indeterminate
    or, you know, Apple customers just more commonly use first party apps. Apple's explanation makes perfect sense to me. I'll generally start with a first party app even if it's slightly inferior and only move to a third party solution if there are sufficient pain points.
  22. 69Mustang macrumors 604


    Jan 7, 2014
    In between a rock and a hard place
    How are you people coming...

    up with the same terribly themed analogies?

    What the WSJ is claiming, from an analogy standpoint, is this:
    Apple is a flea market that charges it's tenants yearly rent for their booth and takes a cut of each of the tenants sales. But to get to the tenants booth, you have to run the gauntlet of Apple booths before getting to the tenant.

    They are claiming Apple is the landlord, business partner, and -here's the crux- competitor that puts it's wares up front.
  23. longofest Editor emeritus


    Jul 10, 2003
    Falls Church, VA
    Yup, and that algorithm just happens to weight apps where the developer == Apple significantly higher than others. Nothing to see here! :rolleyes:
  24. BlandUsername macrumors 6502


    Jan 18, 2016
    In yer server room, fixing the tubes

    When app developers can pick and choose where,when, how they can sell apps, then these cases go away. Vendors are locked into a singular place to market and are handcuffed by apples rules. The deniers will say apple owns the marketplace, too bad. OK, cool, you keep on doing that, but it then becomes litigation heaven if you do that.
  25. Appleman3546 macrumors member


    May 13, 2019
    It isn’t monopolistic to (intentionally or unintentionally through the use of their own search algorithms) promote your own apps over competitors in search results or take an unreasonable high cut from those competitors...unless there are no other avenues for that competitor to avoid competitive interference such as by encouraging downloads from a website or rival App Store

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224 July 23, 2019