Apple could learn a lot from Amazon

UPDATED Fri Aug 8 11:09:15 EDT 2008: Added the shopping cart section I totally forgot!

And I’m not talking about infrastructure issues here, where they probably could, too. No. I’m talking about selling stuff online. Sure Apple’s brick and mortar stores may be selling product faster than running snot, but the iTunes store is showing its cruftiness and mild origins as a simple music seller.

When all it was was a music selling app, it was fine. Did a tolerable job of letting you buy music and rate it. But now it sells, music, movies, tv shows, ipod games and iPhone apps – it needs a massive overhaul. This store, for all the convenience it provides in terms of integration with Apple products, simply sucks at being a good store.

Searching and Free Trials

First off that the search box in the upper right hand corner isn’t context sensitive, that is, it searches over everything in the entire iTunes store, instead of just Apps when you’re in the AppStore or Music when you’re in the music store. Imagine going to Amazon and whenever you typed in a search it searched over Amazon’s entire inventory. How is that ever what I want? No, instead once you’re in the store you want you have to click on “power search” which brings you to the store only search. If you don’t happen to be on the store’s homepage, but actually on a product to get to a search you have to first go back to the homepage, then hit power search again before you can run another search. This is simply stupid and frustrating.

Also, I’ve found that there’s simply problems where at some point I have to go first to the main iTunes store page, then the App Store again to get somewhere. It’s insane driving.

Free trials. On Amazon’s Kindle you can download the first chapter of books for free – check it out and then immediately buy the full book if you want to. This is going to sell a lot more books because people will give more things a shot than they normally would. It’s easy to get people to try for free. Apple’s SDK should support some built in free trial method. There’s a lot of apps on the store that look interesting, but I just don’t feel like spending money on them to find out, even $.99. If I could get a timed trial or a limited function trial of them, I’d have a lot more. Sure, the developers themselves can put two apps up on the App Store, but if the SDK and store had built in support so that it looked like one app and you could with one button within the app itself upgrade to the full version, man, that’d would sell some applications!

No shopping cart or wishlist??

A major, major failing of the iTunes store is the lack of any way to note things you’d like to buy, but maybe not right now. This is ridiculous. On any given item (app, music, show, etc…) you can buy it, one click,on the spot or else what? You can’t bookmark it (easily) because hey, you’re not in a browser. You have to just remember that you were interested in that? Write it down?

This is a major mistake on Apple’s part. There should be an easy way to keep a list of things you’re interested in right in iTunes. Hell, I don’t care, make it look like a playlist or something. Just let me not have to remember. At least with music I can always go to Amazon and wishlist it. But with apps? Yeah, no luck there.

A world of bad interface

Better interface. Right now you can browse or you can see a huge list or you can search. None of these let you see the user ratings in the list view, you have to click into the app to see the average user rating. Why the hell not? That’s key information.

Also, Amazon does a fantastic job somehow turning their site and it’s ratings into a community, with nice profiles, inviting warm design and all sorts of other stuff. Apple’s feels very cold and impersonal, maybe it’s the unrelenting black on white of the reviews, I don’t know. Not to mention the horrible design of the “was this review helpful” that often tricks me into marking the wrong review helpful. It’s like all Apple’s wonderful UI designers went on holidays while they were building this and left it all in the hands of the developers because the UI looks like something I’d have put together.

In the customers also bought section, it’s like the most boring unnoticeable section ever. At least put the icon in there. Until just now, I didn’t actually even realize they were showing me other options.

In general I find the App Store, even with its limited catalog, difficult to browse. When I want to see what’s new, since it’s alphabetical by day, if I go in to check in the morning and then the evening, I have to look through the whole days worth of apps again – which is a lot these days.

Feeds and Affiliates

They should also provide many more feeds of their content than they currently do – which is none. Pinch Media is supplying some feeds which does a pretty good job but there should be more and they should come from Apple and should supply at least the icon if not more images. What if I wanted a feed just of games? Or I wanted to pull in a list of every app? Not having all these trivially generated feeds is just leaving money on the table as they would be invaluable to affiliates trying to make a buck selling apps. Beyond that, given the crappy interface of the App Store, I’d love to see someone provide an alternate web interface to all these apps.

I’m just saying, Apple may have it all over most people when it comes to building gadgets and doohickeys but the iTunes store could use a bit of help. And the greatest company I’ve ever seen at selling stuff online is Amazon, hey, they’re even creeping up the ranks at selling MP3s. So Apple, turn your fiery gaze north and maybe copy a little of what you see. Or something. What do you think? Frustrated by the store? Or lovin’ it?

  • Once again I'm in complete agreement with you here.

    The iTunes store chews root.

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