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

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.

app store iphones
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."

Top Rated Comments

BigBoy2018 Avatar
38 months ago
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.
Score: 21 Votes (Like | Disagree)
MacUser09425 Avatar
38 months ago
As a Dev I don’t have a problem with this.... IF it’s a direct match (for the functionality).

What really irks me is having my apps buried behind giant corporate apps that are only tangentially involved in the area of interest.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
1050792 Avatar
38 months ago
This means they were prioritizing their Apps after all. Bad Apple.
"After Realizing Many Apple Apps Dominate Search Results", or more like, after getting sued over it? Get your facts right.
Score: 16 Votes (Like | Disagree)
needfx Avatar
38 months ago
so the algo was preferential in the first place
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
apolloa Avatar
38 months ago
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...
Score: 11 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Khedron Avatar
38 months ago
So after all the people jumping to Apple's defence saying they did nothing wrong, Apple admits it did something wrong. Again.
Score: 10 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

iPhone 14 Pro Purple Rear Flat MacRumors Exclusive

iPhone 14 Pro Predicted to Start With Increased 256GB Storage Alongside Rumored Price Increase

Wednesday August 10, 2022 11:14 am PDT by
Earlier today, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo claimed iPhone 14 Pro models will be more expensive than iPhone 13 Pro models. Kuo did not reveal exact pricing, but he said that the average selling price of all four iPhone 14 models will increase by about 15% overall. While higher prices would be disappointing for customers, it is possible the iPhone 14 Pro and iPhone 14 Pro Max will offer increased...
iOS 16 battery percentage

Apple Limiting iOS 16 Beta 5 Battery Percentage Display to Select iPhones: Here Are the Supported Devices

Tuesday August 9, 2022 2:51 am PDT by
Apple this week brought back one of the most highly requested features from iOS users since the launch of the iPhone X in 2017: the ability to see your battery percentage directly in the status bar. Ever since the launch of the iPhone X with the notch, Apple has not allowed users to show their battery percentage directly in the status bar, forcing them to swipe down into Control Center to...
iPhone 14 Pro Lineup Feature Silver

Kuo: Apple to Increase Prices of iPhone 14 Pro Models

Wednesday August 10, 2022 8:22 am PDT by
Apple plans to increase the prices of iPhone 14 Pro models compared to iPhone 13 Pro models, according to analyst Ming-Chi Kuo. Kuo did not reveal exact pricing for the iPhone 14 Pro models. However, in a tweet today, he estimated that the average selling price of the iPhone 14 lineup as a whole will increase by about 15% compared to the iPhone 13 lineup. In the United States, the iPhone...
ios 16 beta 5 battery percent

iOS 16 Beta 5: Battery Percentage Now Displayed in iPhone Status Bar

Monday August 8, 2022 10:43 am PDT by
With the fifth beta of iOS 16, Apple has updated the battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the specific battery percentage rather than just a visual representation of battery level. The new battery indicator is available on iPhone 12 and iPhone 13 models, with the exception of the 5.4-inch iPhone 12/13 mini. It is also available on the iPhone 11 Pro and Pro Max, XS and XS Max, and...
battery percentage ios 16

Here's Why the iPhone Battery Status Icon in iOS 16 Is So Controversial

Wednesday August 10, 2022 4:34 am PDT by
In the latest iOS 16 beta, Apple has updated the status bar battery icon on iPhones with Face ID to display the exact percentage remaining rather than just a visual representation of battery level, and while the change has been largely welcomed, some users are unhappy with the way it has been implemented. In iOS 15 and earlier, battery percent has not been present on iPhones that have...
iPhone 14 Pro Purple Front and Back MacRumors Exclusive feature

iPhone 14 Is Just a Few Weeks Away: Three Tips to Prepare for the New iPhone

Wednesday August 10, 2022 4:08 am PDT by
The launch of the new iPhone 14 is just a few weeks away, meaning millions of iPhone customers will soon upgrade their existing iPhone or perhaps get an iPhone for the first time. Exclusive MacRumors iPhone 14 Pro renders by graphic designer Ian Zelbo Whether upgrading from an older model or this is your first iPhone, we've rounded up a few tips to help you prepare for the next flagship...
iPhone 14 Lineup Feature Purple

Color Options for All iPhone 14 Models: Everything We Know

Monday August 8, 2022 3:59 am PDT by
The iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro models are rumored to be available in a refreshed range of color options, including an all-new purple color. Most expectations about the iPhone 14 lineup's color options come from an unverified post on Chinese social media site Weibo earlier this year. Overall, the iPhone 14 and iPhone 14 Pro's selection of color options could look fairly similar to those of the ...