Apple’s ‘Genius’ recommendations may soon be less awful

Apple is a company that somehow manages to churn out an above-average amount of beautiful products, fantastic software and class-leading services. When it misses, however, it misses big. MobileMe is one example. Ping is a better one. A third example is Apple’s Genius recommendation engine, which seeks to present App Store users with a list of applications they may enjoy based on their app download history. Right now, Genius is awful, but Apple’s recent acquisition of a company called Chomp may see things change in the near future. Read on for more.

TechCrunch on Thursday evening reported that Apple has acquired Chomp, a San Francisco-based startup that develops application search and discovery software. The Wall Street Journal later confirmed the buy with Apple, suggesting that the deal was a talent acquisition aimed at improving application search and discovery features within the App Store.

Genius needs help. Here are just a few examples of recommendations the engine is currently making on my iPhone: Because I use ESPN ScoreCenter, an app that provides sports scores and news, Genius says I should download Skateboard Tricktionary, an app that names and explains over 300 skateboard tricks. At least it involves sports, I suppose.

Because I have one to-do app called NotifyMe installed on my phone, Genius thinks I need seven more that offer hideous user interfaces and far less functionality. And because I installed an app called PhoneFlicks to manage my Netflix queue, Genius says that I will enjoy Soccer JuggleBall, a game where the user repeatedly pokes at a bouncing soccer ball in an effort to keep it from hitting the ground. I could go on.

The iOS App Store is currently home to more than 560,000 applications according to third-party monitor AppShopper.com. As with all mobile app stores, the lion’s share of them are likely junk. A number of services aim to cut through the garbage in an effort to identify quality apps that users may enjoy, but Genius is not one of those services. I’m really not sure what Genius aims to do.

Chomp touts proprietary technology that “learns the functions and topics of apps, so you can search based on what apps do, not just what they’re called.” It also currently powers Verizon’s Android app searches and offers stand-alone solutions for both iOS and Android. After spending just a few minutes with each Chomp app I can safely draw one conclusion: it can’t possibly make app discovery on iOS any worse.

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