The App Store is the benchmark all the other mobile application stores are compared against. Nobody’s perfect, though – after several years of operation, it’s still ridden by some problems and weird design decisions. These are my pet peeves.
1. You need Wi-Fi to buy large applications
It’s understandable that Apple doesn’t want to let you download the largest apps over cellular connection. However, the 20 MB limit is rather low and what’s worse the feature has been implemented poorly.
There’s no way of knowing beforehand whether the app can be downloaded – let alone the ability to show only the apps that are available over cellular connection. What is more, once you try to download something too large, it’s not remembered anyway when you later connect to to Wi-Fi or use the App Store on iTunes. Business wise, it’s weird Apple doesn’t want to help you remember and buy an app that you already once tried to buy.
2. Reloading something you’ve already bought
Once you’ve purchased an app you can always download it for free again later on. This is great, or rather the only acceptable way of doing things nowadays (Ahem, iTunes Store).
Then again, it’s weird that the user interface doesn’t anyhow inform the user that the current application has been already bought and can be downloaded for free. It’s a leap of faith to click the buy button, insert your password and hope that you get the dialog that tells that the app has been already bought. Otherwise you end up paying again.
This is especially difficult if you happen to use several iTunes accounts and can’t remember which you have used to buy the app in the first place. (This is a niche case, of course.)
3. The App Store is closed after every purchase
The App Store does a good job with solving a common problem with installing applications onto mobile phones: once the users install the applications, they don’t know where to find them later on. The App Store application closes after the purchase and walks the user through the process to show exactlly where the new app is located on the home screen.
This is good for novice users but gets irritating once you try to buy several apps in a row. Certainly, it should be possible to ask the user whether he wants to exit the App Store after a purchase or continue shopping.
4. You only get the local reviews for an app
In the Finnish App Store there are many apps that don’t have any reviews even they had been reviewed in other stores. However, I have no way of reading the reviews that have been written in other countries.
5. Lack of real browser-based App Store for the desktop
If you wan’t to browse the store on your computer, you need to use iTunes. I have nothing against iTunes per se – I think it’s a nice media player application – but as a store browser it’s certainly worse than Safari or other web browsers. Things like the lack of tabs or the resize button that instead of resizing my browser window turns my store window into a mini-player drive me crazy every time.
Nowadays there exists the itunes.apple.com website that lets you view the App Store apps [iTunes link] also in your browser. However, it’s not designed for browsing. Whenever you click a link there, the it’s opened in iTunes. What is more, when you click a link that opens an app’s page on itunes.apple.com the iTunes app is still opened in the background. (Fortunately there’s a Safari extension that stops this madness: NoMoreiTunes)
The Buy button is hidden
This is not an actual problem but rather a compromise. The screen area on the iPhone is so limited that Apple has decided to combine the price information and the Buy button. Clicking the price once reveals the buy button, doubling as a confirmation for accidental pushes. It’s a clever idea but in practice I’ve seen many people (myself included in the beginning) lost trying to find the Buy option.
It’s interesting to notice that the same approach is used on the iPad as well even though the screen size shouln’t be an issue. It feels weird that the all important Buy button is so much smaller than the much less important Developer Web Site button.
The Cover Flow of the iPad App Store
I was going to say that the Cover Flow of the App Store on iPad sucks but it seems that Apple has noticed this too, since it’s been removed. Now, this is promising. I hope they’ll have a look at the other problems, too.