If You Have An iPhone/iPod Touch…

[Edit:  upgrading iTunes seemed to have brought back the App Store as far as I can tell.]

…did the categories section of the App store disappear for you over the weekend?  Trying to troubleshoot when this happened for me, I found one article that seemed to say that Apple took out the categories option with the release of iTunes 9 because the App Store was getting overwhelmed with so many low-grade submissions (ironic since they control the approval process!) and so they could focus on the higher quality (read: paid) apps instead. 

If true, this is really unfortunate.  It's “Librarian 101” that people find information in one of two ways – they search for it and they browse for it.  The App Store search option worked well if you knew what you were looking for and the categories structure did a pretty good job of facilitating browsing and enabling discovery if you were going the more serendipitous route.   

Say I'm in the mood for a card game – I would click on Categories -> Games -> Card Games then the “Free” and browse through the results until I found something that caught my eye.  For example, just this weekend, I found that old kid's favourite, War, for the iPhone. 

If I only had Search available, I might never have stumbled on that game (which also has a paid $0.99 version which, who knows, I may also choose to buy after playing the free version for awhile).  In fact, I may never have found it, even if I was searching for that game, since “War” is such a common search term as to be meaningless. 

To be fair, I do like that they've added a “Highest Grossing” tab – it helps to highlight, not just the $0.99 “burp & fart noise” apps that sell a million copies but those that don't sell as many copies but are more professionally developed – the $99 app that turns your iPhone into a proper GPS, the $4.99 board game classics like Scrabble and Monopoly. 

Heck, it might just help convince a lot of users that there is more to the iPhone than Free and/or Almost Free apps.  But if that's the intention, taking away the Categories completely isn't the best solution by a long shot!

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