Help me help you help me

— 12:49 PM on July 2, 2009

As I mentioned in a scant 895 words last week, our domicile is now home to two as-yet-undamaged iPhone 3GSes. Both my wife and I remain duly and dually impressed. Granted, we're accustomed to simply using our cell phones to talk to people, so we're somewhat easily swayed. Although that may also be due to our collective lack of calf muscle mass.

My wife has downloaded a few apps, but she has yet to go missing for days as she scours the App Store for the latest version of Boulder Dash or Doom Resurrection. And if you knew my wife, you'd understand what a suave bon mot that Doom comment was. Word Warp remains her iPhone addiction of choice, and she has managed to pimp the evil scrambled-letter game to her own kin. That would be me.

In between my bouts of letter-based rage, I've managed to install 48 apps. Wait, make that 51 (I took a little break between sentences). Many, naturally, are free apps like UrbanSpoon, the aforementioned smack-like Word Warp, Google Earth, Skype, etc. I've also cracked open the old PayPal account—funded by selling my multiple kidneys on—and purchased a few. Of course, I had to get Doom Resurrection. Very well done, id. AirCoaster was worth the price of admission—very smooth on the 3GS. I also rolled the dice and bought a $29.99 app called LogMeIn Ignition that allows me to control my MacBook Pro (or your Mac or PC if you'd like to give me access) via the iPhone. It is awesome. I realize there are other, cheaper VPN/remote access apps out there, but this one works without having to configure routers or begging IT overlords to open a port. Or something. Anyway, if you have the need of remotely controlling your computer, give it a look.

So, I've dropped a little bit of coin at the App Store in my first two weeks of iPhone ownership. I'm sure this is not an uncommon occurrence. And while I've snagged a couple of free apps that were summarily deleted after a brief, messy and unsatisfactory relationship, I've been pretty happy with my app selections as a whole.

If only I could say the same about the App Store.

Yes, the App Store has sold (or given away) over one billion apps since its inception a year ago. And it's a revolutionary way to get applications for your cell phone. Assuming your cell phone is from Apple. And its integration with iTunes is pretty neato keen. I've even been told it's been a boon to developers—and who doesn't love a good boon on a Friday night?

Nonetheless, I have something against thee, App Store. How do I put this gently, tactfully, yet honestly? Your cataloging and search systems blow chunks of moldy chum chum. That's right, chum of the chum.

Why do most of your major categories not have any subcategories? If I click on "Utilities," what do I get? One hundred and ninety-farkin-four pages. Any subcategories to help me weed through the treasure? No. Sorry. Game over, man. I guess the programmers are too busy not adding a unified inbox to iPhone Mail to add a another folder or 12.

Using your logic, App Store, I should just dump all of my personal docs into OS X's Documents folder and stop there. Because who doesn't want a window filled with 21,658 files? I think I'll change all the artist tags in my iTunes library to Rupert Holmes and the album tags to, naturally, Rupert Holmes' Greatest Hits That Weren't the Pina Colada Song. Should be easier to find stuff that way.

Mmm. Well, maybe I can least sort the morass of apps by customer rating. Oh, wait. Darryl Hall just popped up to tell me "no can do." Thanks, Darryl. Big help.

I know, let's try a search!

A search for "flashlight" brings up a full page of apps. With just their names, developers and prices. No short description. No rating. Nothing telling me how many apps my search returned or how many pages of apps I'll need to flip through. Just "next" and "previous" buttons at the bottom of the window. And no way whatsoever to sort my findings. Once again, thanks for all the help.

Apple should take a cue from Amazon. While I find Amazon's site design more than a little cluttered, I can nonetheless find the item I'm looking for in about five seconds. I can sort like an OCD-addled librarian (yes, that's redundant). I know how many results my search found. In other words, it just flippin' works.

Which is what one usually says about Apple products.

If I've missed some huge button or preference setting that would change all this counterproductive behavior, please inform me. I don't mind my idiocy being pointed out if it means a better user experience. Until then, I'll use Google for my app searches. "Best ______ iPhone app" works remarkably well.



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