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
58 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
58 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
58 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
58 months ago
so the algo was preferential in the first place
Score: 13 Votes (Like | Disagree)
apolloa Avatar
58 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
58 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

General Apps Messages

Apple Announces 'Groundbreaking' New Security Protocol for iMessage

Wednesday February 21, 2024 6:00 am PST by
Apple today announced a new post-quantum cryptographic protocol for iMessage called PQ3. Apple says this "groundbreaking" and "state-of-the-art" protocol provides "extensive defenses against even highly sophisticated quantum attacks." Apple believes the PQ3 protocol's protections "surpass those in all other widely deployed messaging apps," according to its blog post:Today we are announcing...
iOS 17

iOS 17.4 Will Add These New Features to Your iPhone

Monday February 19, 2024 6:52 am PST by
Apple last month confirmed that iOS 17.4 will be released in March, and the update includes several new features and changes for the iPhone. Key new features in iOS 17.4 include major App Store changes in the EU and Apple Podcasts transcripts. The update also adds new emoji and includes preparations for the launch of next-generation CarPlay later this year. More details about the new...
Beyond iPhone 13 Better Blue Face ID Single Camera Hole

Six Reasons to Wait for Next Year's iPhone 17

Thursday February 22, 2024 4:20 am PST by
Apple's iPhone development roadmap runs several years into the future and the company is continually working with suppliers on several successive iPhone models concurrently, which is why we sometimes get rumored feature leaks so far ahead of launch. The iPhone 17 series is no different, and already we have some idea of what to expect from Apple's 2025 smartphone lineup. If you plan to skip...
samsung galaxy ring

'Apple Ring' Allegedly in Development to Rival Samsung Galaxy Ring

Tuesday February 20, 2024 2:27 am PST by
Apple is speeding up development of a smart ring that can be worn on the finger to track users' health biometrics, claims a new report coming out of Korea. Teaser image of Samsung Galaxy Ring shown at Galaxy Unpacked in January Apple has toyed with the idea of a ring wearable for several years, as indicated by several patents, but with Samsung preparing to bring its own product to market, the ...
volvo s60 drivers apple maps

iOS 17.4 Beta Adds CarPlay Option to Show Upcoming Maneuvers in Instrument Cluster

Tuesday February 20, 2024 10:47 am PST by
The fourth beta of iOS 17.4 that Apple released today adds a new CarPlay feature, according to the notes that Apple provided to developers. In supported CarPlay vehicles, there's now an Apple Maps option to show information about upcoming maneuvers in the instrument cluster. CarPlay users will be able to swap the display type between the main and instrument cluster by tapping on the map...
Oled iPads and MackBook Pro Notch

Apple's OLED Roadmap: New iPad Mini, Foldable iPad Pro, and More

Wednesday February 21, 2024 5:29 am PST by
Apple is planning to launch at least nine new devices with OLED displays across the iPad and MacBook product lines, according to an updated forecast from research firm Omdia that sets out the company's plans in detail. As widely rumored, Apple's push to transition to OLED will apparently be jump-started by the release of new 11- and 13-inch iPad Pro models this year. The displays will...
iPad Pro OLED Feature 2

Apple's Upcoming OLED iPad Pro Models Rumored to Be Much Thinner

Tuesday February 20, 2024 1:39 pm PST by
Apple is planning to update the iPad Air and iPad Pro lineups as soon as March, and the new iPad Pro models will be significantly thinner according to dimensions shared by 9to5Mac. Citing sources with knowledge of Apple's plans, the site claims that the larger version will be more than 1mm thinner. The current 12.9-inch iPad Pro measures in at 6.4mm thick, but the new model is said to be 5mm ...
m3 macbook pro 14 16

Apple Now Selling Refurbished M3 Pro and M3 Max MacBook Pro Models

Monday February 19, 2024 5:04 pm PST by
Apple today began offering refurbished versions of the 14-inch and 16-inch MacBook Pro models with M3 Pro and M3 Max chip options, offering the machines at a discount for the first time since their October 2023 release. The release of M3 Pro and M3 Max models on Apple's refurbished store comes almost two weeks after the entry-level 14-inch M3 MacBook Pro first appeared on the store....