Apple denies that its App Store search results prioritize its own apps over competitors, but a new report from the Wall Street Journal seems to refute that claim. According to the report, Apple routinely favors its own apps over competitors.
In fact, the report notes that in 60 percent of app categories on the App Store, Apple ranked its own apps first. That includes categories like maps and books, where Apple’s apps were far less popular among consumers than apps from the likes of Amazon and Google.
A good example of this is Apple Books, which doesn’t list a five-star rating or a number of downloads. The app, however, is still listed as the top app when a user searches for “books.” We confirmed that the app still held the top spot in the U.S. — despite the fact that Apple lists it as being the 196th most popular app in the category. Another example is Apple Maps, which outranks Google Maps and Waze in search, despite the fact that the two rival apps are the most popular mapping apps.
According to the Wall Street Journal report, Apple in 2015 considered removing any app from the App Store with less than a two-star rating,but ended up not following through because it would have meant the removal of the Apple Podcasts app, which at the time had less than two stars.
Apple maintains that it ranks apps based on search name matches and “user behavior data,” with a total of 42 factors reportedly determining how apps are ranked in search. Apple still keeps the ranking algorithm secret — which it says is to prevent the manipulation of search results by developers.
“Apple customers have a very strong connection to our products and many of them use search as a way to find and open their apps,” said Apple in a statement to the Wall Street Journal. “This customer usage is the reason Apple has strong rankings in search, and it’s the same reason Uber, Microsoft, and so many others often have high rankings as well.”
Apple is likely to face increased scrutiny over claims that it effectively operates as a monopoly when it comes to the App Store.
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