iOS 9.3 is coming in the Spring and will introduce Night Shift as well as a number of other new features.
Apple Implementing Changes to App Store Rankings to Promote Better App Discovery
According to app marketing service Fiksu, app rankings began fluctuating in late July, favoring apps with ratings of four or more stars in the App Store. While those apps jumped to higher positions without a corresponding increase in downloads, apps with poor ratings saw their rankings fall.
Historically, apps have been ranked based on both download volume and velocity, allowing apps that garnered a high number of downloads in a short amount of time to shoot up the App Store charts. Fiksu also notes that App Store rank positions, which were previously updated in 15-minute intervals, now update once every three hours to prevent underhanded rank-gaming practices.
We suspect they are adding a 'buffer' period to prevent rank manipulation through short download bursts often associated with robotic downloads and other actions not in the best interests of the app ecosystem. Three hours allows enough time to identify anomalies and remove apps before they suddenly appear at the top of the rankings.Niren Hiro of SearchMan told TechCrunch that user engagement may be a factor as well. Time spent within apps, the number of app opens, and ongoing usage are affecting category rankings, as noted in the chart below.
App Store search algorithms may also be changing, favoring improved app discovery. MobileDevHQ CEO Ian Sefferman cites an example involving a search for iPhone apps from the iPad. While such a search used to return an identical list of apps on both the iPad and the iPhone, the results are now different.
It remains unclear whether Apple is merely experimenting with its App Store rankings with these new inclusions or if it is in the process of making sweeping changes to the ranking process. App discovery has long been a work in progress for the company and efforts to improve its ranking algorithms could help users locate higher quality content.