There are hundreds of thousands of apps available in the iOS app store (775,000 as of January of this year), which means that the old corny tag line is true — whatever you can imagine, there’s (probably) an app for that. That can make browsing for something new a little overwhelming, especially for new iOS users. Since we’re constantly downloading, trying and discarding them, we thought we would take a minute to talk about the top three things we look for in a new download.
This is the obvious one. If the app is free and looks somewhat interesting, we’ll probably give it a try. Apps that have the word “lite” in the name are typically free versions of a paid program — they tend to include lots of ads and/or limited features. It gives you a chance to see if the app is a good enough fit to purchase. Some apps may appear to be free but require an in-app unlock after a few levels. It’s the developers way of getting you to try the game and to tempt you into buying the full app. When you’re looking at an app’s info page, take a glance at what the top in-app purchases are, if any.
Plants Vs. Zombies 2 offers in-app purchases. A glance at the top ones shows that they aren't game unlocks,
but are the type of thing you might feel some pressure to buy over and over again.
We’ve talked about it before, but beware free apps that also show up on top grossing charts. Candy Crush Saga (that game that you might see everyone around you playing on the train) is free, but is the number 1 grossing app right now due to in-app purchases. Some games can be played without those purchases if you have a lot of patience, but there are ones that will brick wall you if you’re not willing to spend some change. We’re not huge fans of the in-app model, but it must be working for developers — get a person hooked on a game and watch those $.99 and $1.99 charges pile up.
You should probably always take online reviews with a grain of salt, but they’re a good place to start if you’re considering two similar apps. One of the best things to look at here is overall reviews versus reviews for the current version. An app can have a rocky start that the developers quickly fix, so it may have a 2 star rating overall but mostly 4/5 star ratings for the current version. I always take strengthening ratings as a good sign; it means developers are active and engaged with their audience, and so it helps me feel confident that any issues I might encounter will be fixed.
You can see the star rating and reviews for all versions, or you can tap current version to see reviews for just the
most recent update.
Conversely, sometimes you’ll see lots of poor reviews for a current version with overall high reviews. This can mean that there’s a bug in the current version or that some functionality was removed, so it’s helpful to keep in mind.
Similar to keeping an eye on reviews, we find it useful to take a quick glance at the build history — an app that is being updated frequently tells us that it’s not an abandoned app. Sometimes developers will release an app and never look back, so if there are any bugs they’re unlikely to be fixed.
This app has been receiving fairly frequent updates; always a good sign!
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