Apple quietly tweaked its App Store platform for Mac computers and iOS devices on Thursday, rebranding a few categories and adding a few new features. But while most users may not notice these subtle changes, it's possible that these moves are in fact a precursor to a larger, more wholesale redesign of the App Stores.
The most noticeable addition is the Free App Of The Week. Apple fans may know that the company would regularly promote free and paid applications each week, but the new change has Apple picking one app each week to make free, instead of choosing one that is already free. The first Free App of the Week is ZeptoLab UK Limited's popular game, Cut the Rope: Experiments, which typically costs 99 cents, except for this week only. Apple should have a great deal of success with this new platform, mainly because making apps free for a limited time will garner interest in apps that may not have been otherwise downloaded, if they cost 99 cents or more.
The App Store also used to tout Staff Picks, which users may notice is no longer there. Instead, Apple has decided to pick a few apps each week and give them an Editors' Choice stamp of approval. For the iPhone and iPod Touch, Apple's first Editors' Choice apps are Facebook Camera, which was just released yesterday, and a 99-cent game called Extreme Skater; on the iPad App Store, Apple has selected the $4.99 game Air Mail and a $2.99 version of Extreme Skater to be its first Editors' Choice apps; and on the Mac App Store, Apple is featuring the free address book app Cobook and the premium $49.99 game Deus Ex: Human Revolution as Editors' Choice apps.
The changes to the App Stores across the iOS and Mac platforms should come as no surprise: In mid-February, Apple purchased the technology and 20-person team behind Chomp, an app search and discovery platform, for a reported $50 million. The acquisition sparked rumors that for the first time in about three years, Apple would overhaul its iTunes and App Store platforms to make them easier to navigate and find new, featured items.
The changes to the App Store resemble just some of the features Chomp used to have on its site, back when it was still live. Chomp, which was available for iPhone, iPad and Android devices, was offered plenty of great ways to discover great apps, featuring pages for new apps, trending apps, apps on sale, and free apps of the day -- sound familiar? Chomp also provided pages for the apps considered All-Time Greats, as well as those apps trending heavily on Twitter. Chomp would also suggest popular app searches for categories users may not know about, such as voice recording apps, or guitar apps, or system utilities apps.
— App Store(@AppStore) May 24, 2012
Even though Apple has not added most of Chomp's old features, the Free Apps of the Week and Editors' Choice apps are a start. Many still believe a major redesign is coming, but when would Apple debut that? If Apple decides to make sweeping changes to its App Stores on iOS and Mac computers, we might expect the changes to be announced at the company's own developer's conference, also known as the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). This year, WWDC will take place in San Francisco between June 11 and June 15, and while CEO Tim Cook will be speaking mostly about the new Mac operating system, OS 10.8 Mountain Lion, analysts are also expecting Cook to debut a new line of MacBook laptops, and possibly even a new mobile operating system (iOS 6), or even a new iPhone (highly unlikely). An App Store redesign would coincide beautifully with the release of two new operating systems, one for mobile devices, and one for Macs.