In July, a Wall Street Journal investigation revealed a pattern where Apple's apps would surface in the most common keyword searched in the App Store, and the New York Times recently confirmed that by looking at six years' worth of data from research firm Sensor Tower. But that logic is in itself concerning: A company with almost unparalleled power and insight into what consumers are looking for in terms of apps uses its understanding of consumer desire and vast resources to create apps that will defeat rivals (especially startups or young companies) in the App Store it owns. Mind you, the App Store generated over $50 billion in sales previous year, with over 60% of that money coming from direct searches.
That's why Apple's these practices of altering the search results, are under the antitrust scrutiny in Europe. The company is under fire for not allowing iPhone owners to sideload apps from outside of the App Store. Instead, they said that the company's apps generally get higher placement in search results due to their popularity and because the rather generic-sounding names of these apps more closely resemble the search terms being used by consumers. "Video" and "maps" changed from three top Apple apps to one. Numerous first-party apps such as Apple Wallet have dropped in rank. "This wasn't a mistake", senior VP Phil Schiller said. They first started making exceptions for certain searches, but then in July they turned it off for all Apple apps entirely.
Apple apps' monopoly was acknowledged by two Apple executives during an interview with the NY Times, suggesting that it wasn't intentional on the part of the company.
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"It's improved", said SVP Eddy Cue.
Apple engineers said the App Store algorithm looks at 42 different signals, including relevance and rankings based on downloads and reviews, but the company still keeps mum on how exactly the algorithm works to prevent people from gaming the system.
So many Apple apps would often shown up in search results, according to Apple, because the algorithm interpreted a search for a generic app like "Podcasts" for instance, to be an attempt to find other apps by the same developer as the "Podcasts" app - which in this case is Apple - even if they weren't a podcast app.
Apple dominating the search results has been a problem for developers for some time and it also gives the impression that Apple may be putting their own apps first when they may not actually be doing that. However, while Cue admitted that Apple makes mistakes all the time, and Schiller added that the company is "happy to admit when we do" he also insisted that "This wasn't a mistake".