App Usage: The Data Is There Apple, Let’s Use It!

App Usage: The Data Is There Apple, Let’s Use It!

I have this weird habit of browsing my purchased apps every few months, mainly due to the endless amount of amusement that comes from seeing lists of erratic purchase behaviors like this one:

Now normally I could claim it is my duty to review all kinds of apps, but the truth is my son has commandeered the iPad and has become adept at manipulating either my wife or myself into purchasing or downloading apps that seem appealing to his 7-year old brain.

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Having been an iOS user since my iPod Touch 2nd generation given as a gift from some friends way back in the ancient days of 2009, my purchase history is a virtual museum of the app store. From legendary apps that boast millions of downloads to licensed TV show apps for now long canceled shows, to forgotten treasures that most people haven’t ever heard of, browsing this list brings about an odd sense of recent nostalgia. Now that there are millions more people with iOS devices, I have no doubt that this is becoming a more and more common thing. Unfortunately, even browsing this list there are apps I don’t even remember using, and apps I am striving to find again that I have memories of but don’t really recall the name or icon, both of which may have changed in the last half-decade since I last played it.

From time to time we get these little blurbs -usually during keynotes or presentations- from Apple that X users spend Y minutes a day playing games or comparisons of how frequently people access free-to-play games compared to paid apps. We know Apple has this information, so the question is how can it be used to benefit the App Store beyond internal metrics?

After poring over this very question I started to ask, what apps have I spent money on that have been forgotten for various reasons? Maybe some, like The World Ends With You, haven’t been updated in ages and don’t actually work on your modern device. Or what if you spend a considerable amount on a freemium game and want to give it another go for the holidays?

The simple answers are App Store Purchased App filters.

If Apple were to allow us to sort by various methods such as:

  • Time spent in-app
  • Amount of times app was opened
  • Most Recently Updated (not-installed)
  • Money spent on IAP
  • Apps updated for current iOS/Device

We could possibly see long-dead apps spring back to life. Developers currently have no reason to revisit old/defunct apps once they stop selling, which is why we have apps like Helsing’s Fire which was one of the most unique games on the App Store and highly reviewed upon release, but now it languishes and hasn’t been updated in over 3 years.

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I know I spent many hours playing it and if it were to be on a list of “Time Spent In-App”, Helsing’s Fire would easily be among the top 10 apps on my personal list.

Think about the benefits of being able to look at recently updated apps that you own but aren’t installed…it really is a no-brainer. Being able to see when an app you may have enjoyed but broke during an update was last updated at a glance may make you want to try it out again, and that would also encourage developers to look back at their apps when they see people are checking in after an extended absence.

The same goes for apps you purchased things in-app. Freemium games often update for holidays and have great incentives for logging in and continuing the addiction, but if it isn’t installed, you won’t have the slightest clue.

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Remember Pocket God? Did you know it was last updated on December 6th 2014? I haven’t played that game in over a year but just re-downloaded it since I saw it on my list and remembered the fun I had. I still love those pygmies!

The opposite holds true as well. You would be able to quickly determine that there are developers that just update a couple of times and then forget about all their apps, and in some cases entire libraries of developers have apps aren’t even functional anymore due to iOS changes or games that relied on services like Openfeint or Plus+ to be played. You can use this information to make wiser purchases.

The other feature that I feel would be an immense help is a “favorites” list. Apps you can tag as a “favorite” so you can easily browse those apps it if you ever uninstall them for any reason, like after getting a new device or having to remove apps due to space concerns.
Why not take it a step further and use the seemingly left-to-rot-by-apple Game Center to share your favorites list with your friends, not just your most recently played? Throw a “recommended” star and maybe you have just helped a developer sell a few more units to people looking for something different.

While this is mostly a rant and a bit of dreaming and I acknowledge they aren’t perfect solutions to the woefully underdeveloped and under-featured App Store, more granular behavior tracking would be a fantastic step in the right direction.

Why does this even need to be a discussion? Apple has the technology and a unified platform that they could easily have a viral effect on app purchases in way never seen before which benefits everyone from the developers, Apple itself and of course the lowly users like you and I.