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Apple dominates search results in the App Store, overcoming competitors



Apple
Inc.


AAPL mobile apps 0.30%

usually appear first in search results for their competitors in the App Store, a powerful advantage that removes some of the company's rules for such rankings, Wall Street analysis Journal

The company's applications ranks first in more than 60% of core searches, such as "cards," the analysis shows. Apple apps that generate revenue through subscriptions or sales, such as music or books, appear first in 95% of searches related to these apps.

This dominance gives the company a market dominance that generates $ 50 billion in annual spending. Revenue from application-related services is at the heart of Apple's profit-diversifying strategy as iPhone sales.

Although many of Apple's products are undoubtedly popular, they behave differently from the App Store. Apple tells developers that downloads, consumer reviews, and ratings are factors that affect search results. Yet more than two dozen Apple apps come pre-installed on the iPhone and are protected from reviews and ratings.

Apple says it does not give its own products an edge over others in the App Store. The company conducted its own tests this month in response to newspaper issues, and some searches gave different results in which their applications did not rank first, a spokesman said. The company uses an algorithm that relies on machine learning and user preferences, and application rankings vary. Apple does not reveal details of how they work.

Apple's own apps dominate the search rankings in many categories where they compete in the App Store, as seen in the search for "music, maps," and others over the past year, according to App Annie, a third party analytical firm

"Apple's customers have a very strong connection with our products, and many use search as a way to find and open their applications," Apple said in a statement. "This customer use is the reason why Apple has strong search rankings, and that's the same reason that Uber, Microsoft and many others often have high rankings."

Technological companies have long faced with regulatory control over the way they use their software platforms to promote their other products or to expand the scope of new businesses.

Microsoft
Corp.

and

alphabet
Inc.

Google was sanctioned by regulators for that reason.

"When you become large and widespread, the promotion of personal interest is contrary to antitrust laws," said David Jofie, Harvard University Business Professor and co-author of the book Business Platforms.

Complaining competing self-advocacy companies helps counter the technology giants. Companies are trying to dispel the fears in Washington and Europe that technological giants have too quickly concentrated economic power to the detriment of smaller businesses.

On July 1

6, Apple and three other heavy-duty companies were questioned by members of the Judiciary Commission. for the power of online platforms. Politicians on both sides have demanded stricter control.

Managers from Facebook Inc., Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc. prepare to testify at a congressional hearing on July 16th. The technology faces regulatory control in the United States and Europe against the increasing market power of their platforms.


Photo:

Andrew Harrier / Bloomberg News

A day later EU regulators announced an antitrust inspection

Amazon.com
Inc.

that it will investigate whether the e-commerce giant is abusing its dual role as a seller of its own products and a market operator.

Legal challenges are growing in the App Store. The US Supreme Court ruled in May over Apple's attempt to stop the case, claiming that consumers are forced to buy apps exclusively from the company. Two application developers are also suing at a federal court, claiming the App Store is a monopoly on distribution. The company earlier declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Technology Spotify
SA

in March, filed an antitrust appeal against Apple in Europe, claiming Apple had made it difficult for competing subscription services to be sold in the App Store, which the company denies.

Apple says it uses 42 factors to determine where applications are ranked in demand but retains the formula's secret to maintain a level playing field for developers and prevent manipulation of results.

The four factors that have the biggest influence on the ranking are downloads, ratings, relevance and "consumer behavior," according to the company. The user behavior that Apple says is the most important factor includes the number of times users choose an application after a request and also download it, a spokesman said.

Apple's search results can either make or break an application. The company claims that searches account for 65% of all app downloads. There are more than 900 million in the world.

Above the competition

WSJ tested about 40 apps on Apple, watching how they ranked in the App Store. With six iPhone, the newspaper searches with three popular keywords for each category of apps to check if the Apple app appears first. For the music category, for example, WSJ searches for "music," "songs," and "playlist."

Number of apps in Apple that ranked first:

Audiobooks.com, a company of RBmedia, has largely ranked first in demand in App Store's audio books for almost two years. Then, in September last year, it was removed from Apple Books. Apple's app just barely started releasing its audio books for the first time.

"It was literally overnight," says Ian Malak, general manager of Audiobooks.com. He said the change resulted in a 25% drop in daily downloads of Audiobooks.com apps. At that time, the app had 35,000 customer reviews and 4.8 out of the 5-Star App Store. The pre-installed app of Apple Books, with no comments or ratings, has been the top spot in the search for "audio books" ever since. It also ranks first in the search for "books" and "reader".

Apple says number 1 for Books in "books" search is reasonable, as it is an exact match name. The app is also the first "audiobook" because of "user behavior data" and the inclusion of "audio books" as a keyword related to the application, a spokesman said.

Apple's role as the creator of the App Store's search engine, and the recipient of the results, has arranged developers. They argue that Apple essentially retains its application # 1, forcing anyone looking for alternatives to first look at Apple apps. Such tactics would help preserve loyalty to Apple's mobile operating system – a key to future iPhone sales – and encourage the use of revenue-generating applications such as Apple TV and News, say developers.

"This is definitely unfair," said Sam Liang, a co-founder of the Otter Voice Meeting Notes, live transcription application that compete with Apple Voice Notes. "People always look at the first, I think it's the best."

Sam Liang, co-founder of a live transcription application that competes with Apple's voice memos at Otter.ai headquarters in Los Altos, California. .


Photo:

Jason Henry for The Wall Street Journal
An Apple spokesman said his search algorithm worked the same way for all apps, including his own.

Technological giants have accumulated millions of loyal users who are potential customers for ancillary firms. Google has used its search leadership to sell Nest thermostats in its online store, and Amazon has taken advantage of its dominant presence in e-commerce to launch a number of products under its own brand name AmazonBasics as batteries.

Methodology

WSJ conducted more than 600 searches for two days in mid-June to review where Apple's apps enjoyed in the App Store.

The journal uses at least three keyword searches related to about 40 Apple apps and other apps from competitors. The analysis relies on AppTweak terms that offer keywords to help developers optimize their search results. WSJ category "Map", "Maps", "Directions" and "Navigation" were tested.

App apps that can not be found in the App Store were turned off, such as Camera and Safari. Some apps related to company operations, such as Apple Support and Apple Events, were also turned off.

Searches were made on six iPhone models in the US using the latest iOS 12.3.1. OS. Three were customized, and three were attached to a particular owner. The log found minimal interchangeability between phones, except for a few minor differences, such as apps related to Apple Watch.

The iPhone App Store usually shows two apps after each search: a paid ad followed by the most relevant application to the query. Recent music search offers an Apple Music ad, followed by the Apple Music app.

Apple's apps that generate sales for the company are more likely to emerge primarily from productivity and utilities, the newspaper said in its June test. For example, searching for keywords in categories related to the Apple TV app – "videos," "TV," and "movies" – has been driven by Apple TV and iTunes Store, apps that offer subscriptions and sales of video content. [19659007CompetitorsAmazonPrimeVideoMore1MilionReviewPerfectPerfectPointSeclassesAutomationProfilesIPhoneApplicationNetflixImmediateClassificationFor22ForLastYearAppAnnApartmentAnalyzedFocusedPersons

Many common searches have led to many Apple applications over competitors. The search for "maps" offered Apple Maps first, followed by two other Apple apps: Find My iPhone and Indoor Survey. The more widely used Google Maps came in fourth with more than 2 million reviews and 4.7 ratings. It was followed by Google's Waze, which had more than 1 million reviews and 4.8 ratings. Apple's maps also appear first in the search for "navigation" and "directions".

The indoor survey used by indoor space companies is Apple's only app of the three rated – seven rating reviews. 3.9 A company spokeswoman said Apple often puts applications on a single developer in packages. As this seems unfavorable to others, Apple said it no longer applies this technique to its own applications. The company began to abolish this practice a year ago, a spokesman said.

The journal has conducted at least three key keyword searches in nearly 40 categories to determine which apps appear first. The tests were conducted with six iPhone models using Apple's latest operating system and showed minimal variations in charts.

Apple's apps did not always show number 1 in the search. For example, when searching for a "spreadsheet", Google Sheets came first, while Apple's competitor Numbers appeared in eighth place. His preinstalled reminders app did not appear in the top 10 for searches for "make a list" or "do".

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How do technology companies have to deal with their own products on platforms they control? Join the discussion below.

In publicly available online developer tutorials, Apple emphasizes that "ratings and reviews affect how your app ranks in search results." A guide titled "App Store Search Optimization" on the Apple website points out , that the company "constantly develops" is looking at the App Store.

But Apple does not include reviews and ratings for applications that are downloaded automatically with the operating system. Has recently started allowing users to delete some of these pre-installed applications. To allow users to recover apps they may have deleted, the company has added them to the App Store.

A spokeswoman said pre-installed apps should not be evaluated because they are now integrated into the iPhone. Some applications, such as Books, were not previously embedded in the mobile operating system. Once this changes, Apple has removed the ratings for these applications, a spokesman said.

In some cases Apple apps were rated earlier. Apple Books earlier allowed browsing and had a 2.7-star rating before Apple eliminated reviews, according to Sensor Tower, a research and marketing firm for industry applications.

The iPhone App Store shows two apps after each search: A paid ad followed by the most relevant application to the query. The latest "music" searches appeared on Apple Music first after advertising. VIDEO: Trippe Michael / The Wall Street Journal

Another app of Apple, Podcasts, which previously removed an average 1.7-star rating, was removed, according to Sensor Tower. He looks number 1 in search of "podcasts." Around 2015, his team suggested senior executives remove all apps rated less than two stars to ensure full quality.

"This will kill our podcasting application," said Apple CEO, according to Shoemaker, who has advised some independent apps in the app store review process after Apple's departure.

Apple's spokesman said Apple's leaders did not recall Mr. Shoemaker's comments.

Apple says most App Store searches are for the exact app title and that these results are built.

But some searches for the apps' headlines for competitors first served Apple's applications. Searching for the podcast application in the Journal Tests appeared in Apple's podcasts, Find My Friends and Apple Books instead of a popular alternative called Podcast. This app appeared in 4th place with over 88,000 reviews and rating 4.8.

Apple says the demand for the Podcast application has ranked its own podcasts No. 1 due to US consumer behavior data. The podcast ranks first, a spokesman said.

Apple has long argued that there is no monopoly in apps or other products. It has a 14% share of the global smartphone market and a 35% share of the US market, according to Strategy Analytics. Its App Store controls 100% of apps downloaded to more than 900 million iPhone worldwide and 100 million iPhone in the US. This makes it different from Android on Android, the other major mobile operating system that allows people to download applications without going through

Apple's 30% reduction in Apple's most recent digital app sales last year generated revenue of 14 billion dollars for the company. He added more than $ 1 billion in revenue from digital advertising from ads he sells against search words in the store, according to people familiar with the business. The search business started in 2016

The only way for competitors to be visible over Apple's apps in some searches is to pay for the ad space that precedes the highest score in the rankings. machine training capabilities for his voice recording application on Friday, July 19, 2019.


Photo:

Jason Henry for The Wall Street Journal

Almost a year and a half after releasing the Otter Voice Recorder, Mr Liang's Calling and Calling service has won more than 2000 5-star reviews and is called the App of the Day but is not missed the Top 50 in the search for a "voice recorder," according to App Annie.

Otter has paid Apple tens of thousands of dollars to advertise his app for voice and voice recorder, said Mr. Liang. Marketing costs help the surface of transcription before Apple's voice notes, but it also means the company has less money to hire artificial intelligence experts to improve the product.

"I hope that at the end of the day, the best product will win for accuracy because of innovation," said Mr. Liang. "We want to invest more in this aspect, but instead of hiring two more PhD students, we need to use that money to get higher."

Пишете на Tripp Mickle на Tripp.Mickle@wsj.com

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