Learning with the Intern: The App Store Algorithm, A Mystery Recipe for Mobile App Developers

The algorithm which determines the ranking of apps in the Apple® store is kind of like mystery meat loaf on the menu from when you were in elementary school. Remember that stuff? The recipe is pretty much unknown. Yet everyone would wonder and discuss what was in it. Just like that, developers and users continue to speculate about the factors that affect the app store rankings. And recent reports allege that the recipe has changed. Inside Mobile Apps first reported last week that more emphasis has been placed on daily and monthly usage. It may no longer be a function of just the number of downloads. Following this report, a burst of blogs and further speculation has ensued. What changes may have been made to the algorithm, and what these changes will mean for mobile app development and mobile app promotion in the app store are all big question marks.

There is no way to be certain if these reports are valid, since Apple has not commented. But these rumors are not completely unwarranted following consistent observations of changes in the ‘Top Free’ rankings. According to Flurry Analytics, the top free apps have fluctuated over the past week. Various apps have mysteriously noticeably changed position. For instance, Facebook has jumped to the top of the chart. Previously, the app was consistently ranked between 10th and 20th spot. Naturally, Facebook’s escalation on the chart has lead Flurry to question what could be causing this. Their conjecture is that Apple is considering more than just downloads in order to measure the popularity of an app.

With regards to mobile app development, Apple’s emphasis on active usage will incentivize developers to create higher-quality and more engaging apps. Apple’s latest changes to the bestselling app rankings have caused mayhem as developers clamber to adjust. But in the long haul, this is a win-win for users and developers. Developers are finding themselves challenged to come up with more innovative and appealing apps. What’s more, users will reap the benefits and ultimately enjoy Apple’s new recipe.At first glance, the new ranking system seems subtle. Nevertheless, it’s causing commotion amongst mobile app developers and promoters. The changes are favorable to development, but they add complexity to promotion.

The move will also have a significant impact on mobile app promotion. Free publicity and increased sales have accompanied the coveted top spot in the app store. As a result, top placement is critical to promotion of applications on the App Store and the general success of apps. But this may become more difficult to attain. Because user acquisition could come to be more difficult and unpredictable, well-established, popular apps could be harder to overcome, making it difficult for new apps to break through and achieve success. Word of mouth has previously been a central factor in the promotion on the app store, but these new changes could lead to slower measurable success since actual usage is not instantaneous like the number of downloads.

While the recipe may or may not have changed, Apple’s App Store remains a desirable goal for app developers and promoters. The top spot is an instant publicity surge which results in boosted sales. Hence, any game changers to the algorithm are vital to be aware of. So what these supposed changes will mean is yet to be seen. But to measure the actual usage instead of just downloads will be a more accurate judge of user popularity- which is great for everyone!

About the Author

Amadeus Consulting creates custom technology solutions that produce real results. As thought leaders in the technology space, Amadeus Consulting is excited to bring the latest news and tips about mobile development, search marketing, creative design and software technology to the forefront. This thought leadership allows Amadeus Consulting to stay on top of technological trends and changes in order to benefit our clients. To find out more about Amadeus Consulting’s end-to-end technology solutions, please visit our website at

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