A new report shows that Apple apps are typically shown before other apps when users input certain search queries (via WSJ—possible paywall).
When the App Store is searched for words like “books”, “audiobooks”, “music”. etc., Apple’s free apps showed up 60% of the time. Apps that generate revenue, like Apple Music and Apple Books, showed up 95%.
The WSJ conduced roughly 600 searches over two days in mid-June. It used at least three keyword searches related to about 40 Apple apps and third-party apps. The keywords were suggested by AppTweak, which suggests keywords to developers to give them better search results. The searches were done on six iPhones in the U.S. on iOS 12.3.1. Three were personalized to an owner and three were unattached.
Apple disagreed, running its own tests and showing different results. The company says it uses machine learning to determine which apps show up first, using four factors: downloads, ratings, relevance, and user behavior. But it won’t disclose how exactly the algorithm works to “maintain a level playing field for developers and prevent the manipulation of results.”
Apple customers have a very strong connection to our products and many of them use search as a way to find and open their apps. This customer usage is the reason Apple has strong rankings in search, and it’s the same reason Uber, Microsoft and so many others often have high rankings as well.
The rest of the article talks about antitrust, monopoly, etc., and also suggests that the only way for developers to rank above Apple for certain queries is to buy an advertisement. App Store ads appear above everything else.