Apple has begun using App Store searches to promote its own software before third party apps, even apps that are already installed on your iOS device, like Safari and Messages. The search results in iOS 7 are similar to the app pages for other App Store apps, but in the case of the default apps—which aren't part of the App Store—they direct customers to Apple's website to learn more about them.
The practice was first noticed by Lukas Burgstaller who tweeted:
Searched for browser in the App Store. First result was Safari, even though it’s a system app. pic.twitter.com/1adA6GvzZg— Lukas Burgstaller (@voidStern) October 31, 2013
That was picked up by MacStories, where Federico Viticci found that other search terms like sms, web, movies, cloud, text, siri, and others also returned an Apple product before other third party apps.
App Store Searches in iOS 7
It's an interesting development. On the one hand, there are users who don't necessarily understand what Apple's apps do. There are users who may not realize that Messages is the app you use for SMS messages on your iPhone, or that iCloud is a service built into iOS, not an app that you download or open.
There are many more users who might not realize everything you can do with Apple's many apps and services. App Store searches pertaining to those functions are a great way to get the word out.
In some cases, however, Apple is putting third party developers at a significant disadvantage, especially those who are making alternatives to Apple mainstays like Mail and Safari.
For expert users, this feature becomes a nuisance interstitial ad that gets in the way. A simple swipe moves on to the real search results, but it's still an unnecessary ad in your way. That's not very Apple-like.
Funny enough, if you search for "maps," you don't get an advert for learning more about Apple Maps, the built-in Maps app in iOS since iOS 6. Instead, you get a page that directs you to Apple's alternatives for Apple Maps, the same list of alternatives Apple posted when Apple Maps got off to such a rocky start in 2012.