iTunes turns 10

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How to fix the iTunes Store

Given its stature today, it’s sometimes easy to forget that the iTunes Store launched ten years ago with just a fairly small selection of music. In the intervening time, Apple has added TV shows, movies, podcasts, apps, ebooks, educational content, and much more. But along with those manifold expansions have come problems, too. Here are a few improvements we’d like to see to the iTunes Store as it kicks off its second decade.

Try and try again

In many cases, Windows Phone lets you try apps before you buy them. Apple could—gasp!—take a page from Microsoft's book.

App sales have been a huge part of the iTunes Store over the past five years, but one thing that’s still annoying is the lack of demos. Demo software has been a time-honored part of the Mac community since its earliest years—it allows prospective customers try before they buy, letting them determine if the software they’re about to buy will really do what they want. That’s great for consumers, obviously, but it’s also great for developers, since it hopefully avoids dissatisfied customers and the one-star reviews they leave when the app doesn’t do that one thing they needed. Other app marketplaces, like Windows Phone’s, have this capability, so why not the App Store?—Dan Moren

Search and ye shall find (maybe)

The iTunes Store's search could use some improvements.

There are only a few ways that the iTunes Store has actually gotten worse than it used to be, but one of them is definitely search—particularly on iOS devices. iTunes is never sure what you’re searching for on the Mac, and so, by default, it tries to show a few results across each category of items the store sells. That’s crazy. On iOS, you face the opposite problem when you’re searching for apps: The App Store knows you want an app, but shows you too little in your results: You see just one app at a time. Flick from the first app to the seventh, and decide the first is the best option? Now you have to flick back six times. Search is important, and Apple’s implementation just isn’t good enough right now.—Lex Friedman

Just browsing

Google Play lets you buy apps right from your desktop browser. The App Store? Not so much.

As with better search, a better iTunes Store browsing experience seems to be in Apple’s own best interests: The easier it is for customers to shop in the store, the more likely they are to spend money there. High-volume Web surfers make their lives easier by using browser tabs, but the iTunes Stores don’t offer that option on any platform. On the Mac, the Web-based iTunes Store experience within the iTunes app often feels slow and clunky, and surfing the iTunes store in an actual Web browser is worse by far (see below). Here, again, is an area where Apple’s competitors actually do it better: Windows Phone and Android allow customers to purchase apps directly via the Web, and the apps get sent to their devices. It’s a shame the App Store can’t do the same.—Lex Friedman

Gently down the stream

Hulu's streaming plan for TV is often more attractive than à la carte purchases from the iTunes Store.

If the rumors are correct—and, yes, the requisite grain of salt has been taken—Apple may later this year debut a streaming audio service to compete with the likes of Pandora and Spotify. But what about subscription content for television? It may be an uphill climb to convince the networks and studios, but it’s indisputable that people are increasingly watching TV online. Services like Hulu, Netflix, and Amazon Prime have proved that a system where customers pay a monthly fee and stream the programs they want—when they want them—can be successful. Were Apple to, say, strike a deal with the likes of HBO, it could be even more so.—Dan Moren

Play nice with the Web 

Ever try to open a Mac App Store link in Safari on iOS? Not very useful.

The iTunes Store has come a long way since its beginnings; though it still lives primarily inside the iTunes app, you can view webpages for apps, books, and music via your browser—these days, you can even listen to music samples there. But iTunes’s Web interface is far from perfect: For one thing, you can’t do anything beyond view an individual title before you’re kicked back to the iTunes app. On the Mac, it’d be a nice improvement to be able to browse iTunes solely via the Web—and perhaps even purchase things—without having to open iTunes itself.

This is even more important when it comes to viewing Mac and iPad apps on the iPhone. You can’t even see information about a Mac or iPad-only app unless you’re browsing on your computer or iPad; instead, you’re presented with a splash page informing you that this app is only available for a different platform. I understand the reasoning—you don’t want consumers to accidentally purchase an app they can’t use—but it’d be nice to at least be able to read the description, or add the app to my Wish List, so that I remember to purchase it later.—Serenity Caldwell

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