Despite being its usual close-mouthed self, Apple has rolled out some minor changes to the App Store that should help benefit developers and consumers alike. The most obvious alteration is in the review system, which now distinguishes reviews by application version.
In addition to breaking up reviews by version, Apple now also posts ratings on a version-by-version basis, though this feature doesn’t seem to be fully rolled out, since several application pages report that Apple hasn’t “received enough ratings to display an average for the current version of this software” despite plenty of current reviews. Furthermore, Apple’s also added the ability to sort reviews by a number of different criteria, including “Most Helpful”, “Most Favorable”, “Most Critical”, and “Most Recent.” Reviews are now also dated and marked with the relevant version, which helps bring more context to the comments.
There have also been suggestions of other under-the-hood changes to the App Store, with some observing that Apple’s search for applications now seems to take other factors into consideration, such as application revenue. This could potentially help balance out results that often skewed towards free or cheap applications.
This isn’t the first time Apple’s subtly changed the review system: in September 2008, the company made it so that only those who had downloaded an application could submit a review—previously, anybody could post a review, which resulted in many comments from those who had never even used the applications. Apple took it one step further at the end of last month when it purged those non-customer reviews, resulting in lower review counts for most apps, but often higher average ratings.
These are all long overdue changes for the App Store and ones that help truly make the store suited to the product its distributing, instead of simply being a quick-and-dirty extension of the iTunes Store.