3 startups trying to find the right mobile app for you

The struggle to find good apps just keeps getting harder for consumers. And that keeps attracting more and more entrants into the app discovery market.

The latest crop of startups are trying to use new approaches and data to make the process of finding apps more intelligent and relevant for users. Companies like Xyologic, AppHero and AppAide are hoping to show there’s still plenty of room to innovate in this market though we’ll have to see if any of them can find traction.

Xyologic brings order to app searches

xyologic, app discoveryXyologic, a Berlin-based startup, first got attention as an app analytics company, but last month opened up a consumer business with its beta app search engine. The search engine organizes apps into 700 categories, which is helpful in starting and refining searches. Xyologic also has 100 game genres that users can choose from.

The idea is that while some people might search for a developer by name, most people don’t know exactly what they’re searching for and don’t know how to phrase their searches to find what they want. So as they initiate their query, the additional categories help users narrow down their search to the categories that are appropriate.

Xyologic, which works on Android (s goog) for now and is moving to iOS (s aapl) soon, also highlights apps that are good but often overlooked. The company has developed its own app scoring system that takes into account user ratings, comments and download figures.

AppHero builds recommendations based on your personality

apphero, app discoveryAppHero for iOS takes a different approach from other recommendation services that often look at the apps a person or their friends have already downloaded. AppHero takes that into account but it focuses on what it can learn from a user’s Facebook activity, including liked pages, interests, updates and shared content. By analyzing this activity and matching it up to suggested apps, AppHero can attempt to surface apps based on a user’s personality.

AppHero was built by Toronto developer Jordan Satok, who also created App of the Day, which let a community of users recommend an app for each day. But Satok realized that blanket recommendations aren’t very helpful for a lot of people because they don’t speak to their particular interests.

AppHero offers first-time users a list of recommended apps. And then it continues to work in the background, pushing out new recommendations based on a user’s activity. If a person, for example, checks in from an airport, AppHero might recommend a good travel app. The service can get smarter over time by observing more Facebook activity and noting what apps a user downloads or decides they’re not interested in.

AppAide finds what people are actually using

appaide, app discoveryAppAideanother iOS app, looks beyond what apps are being downloaded or which apps are popular with your friends. Instead, it tries to see what apps are actually in use. So when users download AppAide, they are contributing their usage stats to the larger AppAide community, which gets trending alerts when one app is being used a lot.

This helps address some of the problems with existing app stores, which can favor downloads. But downloads can be manipulated through big marketing campaigns or hype and that metric doesn’t always reflect what people are really doing.

AppAide is limited by its smaller audience, but it provides a pretty accurate picture of what’s popular now. And it shows some apps that are not well known. The service anonymizes user data and it doesn’t hurt battery performance, said Cody Barbierri, a former VentureBeat writer and the founder of Betabait, which makes AppAide. Down the road, AppAide is looking at offering its usage data to developers to help them see how their apps are being used.

These services will need to compete with existing tools like Appsfire, Quixey, Crosswalk and others along with newer app discovery services from Tapjoy, Fiksu and App-o-day. And they’ll also need to contend with Apple’s more robust app search and recommendations in iOS 6 thanks to its Chomp acquisition. It’s not going to be easy for these news discovery services to stand out, echoing the plight of the mobile apps they’re trying to highlight. But I think these new entrants show some of the different ways that you can optimize search and recommendations.