New Apple app discovery tools welcome, but aren’t enough

The Verge┬áhas picked up on some small but potentially significant tweaks to the iOS(s AAPL) and Mac app stores: a new Editor’s Choice feature and the first App of the Week to be completely discounted to free.
Editor’s Choice is exactly what it sounds like, a pick of the best apps from the App Store team intended to highlight something they don’t want to get lost in the shuffle of the 600,000 apps for sale in the iOS App Store and the 10,000 in the Mac App Store. The debut choice for iOS apps is Facebook Camera(s FB), a high-profile new camera app for iPhone, and the game Extreme Skater. For Mac Apps, Cobook and Deus Ex Human Revolution were the picks.

The first Editor’s Choice picks in the Mac App Store

Making the App of the Week free for the first time — it was for Cut the Rope: Experiments — is, as many will note, something out of Amazon’s playbook. A free app each day is one way Amazon(s AMZN) helps people discover new apps in its Android Appstore. Who knows if Apple will ever do it again. It could have been merely an experiment — but it does show Apple is keen to try new things to improve app discovery.
It’s slightly ironic to me that Facebook Camera was one of the first choices for this new feature, particularly because when I tried to search for it in the App Store on my iPhone yesterday after news of its availability hit, the store returned the wrong results. Instead of Facebook Camera, it kept giving me Camera Awesome, iVideo Camera and iUploader for Facebook. What does it say about App Store search if the hottest new item can’t even be found by people trying to search directly for it? There are more drastic measures that need to be taken than just surfacing a few cool apps.
It’s obviously not a secret to App Store shoppers — or app creators for that matter — that sifting through hundreds of thousands of apps is tough. That’s why Apple has continued to introduce categorization features meant to more easily surface quality apps across different genres. There’s already the carousel of picks up top, the “New and Noteworthy” and “What’s Hot” sections, in addition to the top paid and free app charts, in addition to curated lists like Games, Education, and a variety of starter kits.
But it’s also not a secret to Apple. It’s presumably what was behind its purchase of app discovery tool Chomp back in February, believed to be for $50 million.
Not that any of these challenges have prevented Apple and its developers from making money on them. Apple has seen more than 25 billion downloads from the iOS store alone since 2008. But making that process easier is always welcome.