Analysis: Apple improving App Store with baby steps

Apple quietly launched a couple of key App Store improvements to close out the week—with one change aimed specifically at iPad owners and the other for anyone with an iOS device and a frugal disposition. Both changes are certainly welcome ones, even if the latter feels like a half-hearted attempt by Apple to satiate customers and developers who have been asking for a true demo system since the store opened in 2008.

First, let’s cover the actual changes Apple made. For iPad owners, Apple turned on Genius Recommendations in the App Store app that comes built into your iPad. No OS update is required, but if you launch that app on your iPad, you should see a new Genius button in the bottom toolbar. As with the similar feature for the iPhone and iPod touch versions of the store, you can opt-in to turn on Genius (which requires your iTunes Store password) if hasn’t already for you to empty your wallet with.

Apple also added a “” section to the online App Store, found on the “” page. While the name suggests that Apple may have finally answered the demand for demos, the actual nature of this section is far more rudimentary. Try Before You Buy simply collects the free editions of apps that have a paid version, whose names are typically suffixed with “lite” or “free.” As of this writing, 98 apps are listed under Try Before You Buy, and as par for the App Store course, the selection slants heavily toward games.

You can interpret the introduction of Try Before You Buy one of two ways, depending on whether your glass is half empty or half full. If your glass could use a top-off, this new section is probably a clear sign that Apple has no intention of introducing a true demo system anytime soon, or even competing with Google’s Android Policy of a from time of purchase.

Of course, Google’s refund policy is not without its detractors. Last September, a game developer , noting that some developers don’t think it’s fair that customers can buy a $3 app while laid over at an airport, then return it once they get home.

Since the App Store’s debut, developers and customers have been clamoring about a demo period for trying out apps, just like the vast majority of Mac apps have offered for ages. This would eliminate developers’ need to separately create and maintain “lite” editions of apps. Customer service load from answering “I need a refund” and “why don’t you have a free demo version” tickets would also diminish and give the team more time to create new features and apps. Perhaps prices could rise out of the 99-cent gutter too, since free demos would mean that customers no longer have to worry about wasting their hard-earned cash on a poor experience.