Apple Introduces Design Changes to App Store

Apple rolled out some aesthetic changes to the App Store over the weekend, increasing the size of App logos, shortening descriptions and presenting more screenshots upfront of how an App will look running on an iPhone or iPod Touch. Apple's App Store expanded to more than 100,000 Apps in 2009, and is expected by one analyst group to grow further to 300,000 apps by the end of 2010, raising calls from outside groups for Apple to apply more regulation to app developers. Apple has also introduced an RSS feed for iPhone developers to learn more about submissions and reviews.

Apple tweaked the look and feel of its App Store over the weekend of Dec. 12, cosmetic changes that nonetheless emphasized how the company is attempting to readjust certain aspects of its online storefront in light of its explosive growth.

Logos for the App Store's mobile applications have been enlarged, with a more prominent purchase button beneath each, and the App Store itself now features a white background. Descriptions of each app are now shorter, but placed in a more prominent position to the right of the logo.

As opposed to the older version of the App Store, which included a single screenshot (which could be changed by clicking a tiny circle above the image), the new App Store layout is more graphics-intensive, with a number of screenshots tiled beneath the top description.

In sum, the App Store has been redesigned to integrate more fully with iTunes; now, the aesthetic differences between where you buy your apps, and where you buy your music or movies, has been minimized.

The end-user tweaking to the App Store follows the launch of new features for app creators. On Dec. 8, Apple announced an RSS feed for iPhone developers, creating a new communication channel dedicated to news and announcements surrounding App Store submissions and reviews.

"You can now subscribe to a new RSS feed that will allow you to instantly receive updates to the iPhone Developer News and announcements," read the posting on Apple's Developer Connection site. "Get the latest information on a wide range of topics including tips on submitting apps to the App Store, current turnaround time for app review, program updates, development and testing techniques, and much more."

A link was also provided for subscribing to the RSS feed.

Also on Dec. 8, Apple announced that iTunes Connect, a tool for managing applications and accessing reports, would be unavailable from Dec. 23 to Dec. 28, with service resuming on Dec. 29.

Apple has enjoyed considerable success with the App Store, which by November had grown to more than 100,000 applications, but that growth has also come with some issues. Apple has begun weeding out developers of useless or fraudulent apps, including some 1,100 mobile applications from developer Molinker that were pulled on Dec. 7 after complaints of fake positive reviews.

Apple has pulled mobile applications in the past, notably in response to outcry over a particular program's content. In April, for example, the company removed a "Baby Shaker" app after groups complained that shaking a virtual infant to death on an iPhone was not exactly a socially redeemable activity.

Whether Apple will follow calls by outsiders for a tighter and more structured regulatory system remains to be seen, but nonetheless the App Store's growth is expected to accelerate throughout 2010: research firm IDC predicted in a Dec. 3 research note that the storefront will expand to around 300,000 apps by the end of 2010.

However, the note from IDC also predicted that Google Android's apps could expand "by a factor of five or more," raising the prospect of increased competition in the mobile-application space over the next 12 months and beyond.