12-step program to improve the iTunes App Store

The iTunes app store offers such a gigantic cornucopia of choices, it's downright bewildering. How will you ever find that gem in that pile of rubble that's 70,000 pieces high? Studies show that when presented with too many choices, cognitive overload prevails, and people end up not making a choice at all, resulting in no sale. It's a paradox of choice.

There's got to be a better way. How can Apple make the iTunes App Store better for us eager buyers who first feel like a kid in a candy shop, and then end up with so many choices we can't pick one? The company's already improved a few things, but there's still a long way to go.

1. Meaningful ratings. Get more users to rate each application they've used by making it pay off — if you've entered lots of ratings, iTunes could accurately predict other applications you're likely to enjoy. Apple's slowly moving in that direction — many users haven't noticed, but Apple just implemented Genius recommendations for the App Store (it's a new tab in the App Store, on the top right in the "Featured" section). It's a great start, but all it's doing is riffing off the applications you already bought.

2. Crowd-sourcing prediction engine. This would make those ratings even more powerful. The idea works great for Netflix, comparing your ratings with others, and predicting which apps you'll like with uncanny accuracy.

3. Customers who bought this app also bought.... Steal this idea from Amazon, and it'll help people find other applications similar to the ones they're considering. Update: This is available on the desktop iTunes App Store, but we'd like to see it on the iPhone and iPod Touch.

4. Sale alert. There are already websites that let you know when apps are cheaper, but the store itself should alert us to applications that are temporarily on sale at lower prices. Let us sort those apps by the percentage you can save and dollar amount.

5. Polarizing apps. There are some applications that many people love and many others hate at the same time, with few in between. That's a sure-fire indicator something intense is going on in those apps. What is it about those controversial applications? Reveal the most polarizing examples in a sortable list. As a side effect, we might be able to determine which apps were praised by their spamming developers, but no one else.

6. Automatic password entry. Must we always be required to enter a password, over and over again? Even when we're simply updating a free app? Sure, this is a security issue, but there must be some way to reduce the number of times we have to enter a password into our own iPhone or iPod Touch.

7. Fix iTunes. We're getting fed up with that clunky iTunes interface on Windows, with its nonstandard user experience. Worse, it's a dog-slow application, especially on an older PC. Beyond that, the new app icon sorting feature is almost more difficult to use than sliding application icons around on the iPhone or iPod Touch. Come on, Apple, you can do better than this.

8. Works on the iPod Touch? Why can't the App Store sense which device is interacting with it, differentiating between an iPhone 1G, 2G, 3G, 3GS and iPod touch? That way, users won't get stuck with software that's incompatible with their particular device.

9. Open a boutique for fancy, expensive apps. We love the huge selection of cheap and free applications, but there should be a separate area for those specialized, elaborate and sophisticated applications that cost a lot. Think pricey navigation apps, that $20 birdwatching app, gems like that. It would be fun just to browse through them, and who knows, we might just find a reason to spend a hundred bucks on impulse. Short of a stylized boutique, at least let us sort all the apps by price.

10. Sort by rating. Let us sort applications by how users have rated them. Sorting options are meager, only letting you sort between best-selling free apps, paid apps, what's new, categories and featured, with the addition of "Top Grossing." Sales are interesting for developers and businesspeople, but we'd like to know which apps are the most highly rated, and we'd also like to reverse-sort to see which apps are in the doghouse (we're looking at you, extensive collection of fart applications).

11. Side loading. Apple could keep its walled garden of approved-by-mommy software, while at the same time opening it up to whichever applications people want to submit. Apple could make it clear that users download such unsupported software at their own risk. It wouldn't be a big deal to implement this — there's already an ad hoc distribution method that's restricted to 100 users.

12. Hire more than 40 reviewers. We're feeling sorry for these poor overworked souls saddled with reviewing thousands of applications every day. If there were more reviewers, apps could be more current, with surprising spur-of-the-moment choices suddenly popping up to the amusement of all. Think about it : a next-day "Don't Tase Me, Bro" app.