App Review: Chorus sifts through App Store noise
Yes, we all know there are more than 100,000 apps available in the App Store now. Practically an app to fill your every need has been developed and listed on iTunes—but in an increasingly inefficient way. Besides searching for the top paid or free apps in a specific category, there’s virtually no way to sift through thousands of apps to figure out which ones are worth the downloads and which ones are just out to steal your buck. So you’re looking for something that will sift through all the App Store noise? There’s an app for that.
Chorus, a social networking app released in November, allows users to connect with others to share their download history and recommend or review apps for their friends to see. The social networking aspect is highlighted here, with Facebook and Twitter features to allow your friends and followers to read your reviews and see what you’ve downloaded recently. The attempt at giving iPhone users something to navigate the App Store better is an admirable one, but there are a few kinks that may make Chorus virtually unusable for a lot of users.
Start the app by watching the quick video how-to tour, or dive right in by registering an account with Chorus. It’s simple and painless, but with an app that focuses so much on social networking via Facebook and Twitter, it would seem to make more sense to be able to register with your Facebook or Twitter account, as is done in many commenting platforms for news sites and the like. Why not just skip a step of registering, right? Moving on…
Chorus can publish any updates you make within the app (writing reviews, downloading new applications, removing them, etc.) directly to your Facebook or Twitter accounts. Before proceeding to the feeds and reviews, you must register your Facebook and Twitter accounts and allow the app to publish updates. There have been several complaints in the iTunes App Store reviews that the publishing of updates cannot be halted (one commenter complains of embarrassment after her MyPeriod app download was published to her Facebook and Twitter), but this can easily be changed in your settings tab. Although this setting can be easily turned off, it would be more useful/painless to be able to publish your reviews or updates one at a time, to have more control over your updates.
Once you access your “feeds” in the app, you can view the posts, reviews, and downloads by your Chorus “friends.” As you might not have a ton of connections when you first start out in Chorus (and because the app is only a few weeks old and may take a bit to catch on with lots of users), the developers of the app are already included in your friends lists to help you start out.
To get more of your real friends into your Chorus friends list, you have the option of inviting them via Facebook, your address book, Chorus, the Near Me option (for which your friends have to literally be in your vicinity, have the Chorus app on their iPhone, and have it open while Chorus searches for them…try saying that three times fast), or AppMavens.
The feeds combine all of the posts, reviews, and downloads into brief summaries of the app, the user, the price, and a brief extract from the app’s description. You can also sort how you view your feed by posts, reviews, and downloads, instead of viewing them all at once.
Within each respective review, you can view the breakdown of the app. This breakdown includes a link to that app within Chorus that shows how many friends have reviewed it, how many friends own it, the complete App Store description, a link to a list of similar apps, a link to similar apps that your friends own, a link to add this app to your “I downloaded this” list, and an option to post a Chorus message about this app. The user’s review of the specific app also includes a link to that user’s profile and other Chorus review/posts/downloads. Have some opinions of your own about that review? Leave a comment.
As you can see, there are endless options within each review that help you connect with other users and get solid opinions about an app before shelling out the money for it. The only problem? This app is fairly new, so it’s going to take an ample amount of time to get a network of users built up to the point of having a solid friends network—the same that goes for any other social networking app. Even though you don’t absolutely have to have friends that use the app, this is the big draw to it, and until more users sign on, some might consider it a bit worthless.
The “Apps” tab of Chorus leads you to a lottery of five recommended apps picked at random, which you can sort by paid, free, or latest, and which you can get more of by touching the “shake it up” function (or you can literally “shake” your iPhone to do the same command). Because the selections are definitely random, and maybe not as reliable as ones that have reviews written for them, you can click the “find apps” option to browse apps by category or search by name (there’s also a “search” tab at the bottom of the app if you’d like to skip a few steps). When you search by category, you get the same lottery-style mix-up of five random apps, just in a more concentrated category.
Although this feature doesn’t have nearly as much potential as the features within Chorus that involve friends and reviews, it’s definitely a more streamlined way of sifting through apps when compared to the clunky iTunes App Store that doesn’t show ratings for an application until after you’ve opened it.
No social networking program would be complete without a user profile, photo and personal info included. I’m not 100 percent sure where my photo was uploaded from (as I have the same one on both Facebook and Twitter profiles), but I’m guessing Chorus steals your photo from one of those profiles. You can include your location and a quote in your personal info (um, cute?), and your activity within Chorus is tracked through your Activity Updates.
While navigating the Chorus app, you can rack up the list of apps you own (which appears on your profile) by clicking the “I downloaded this” button in that app (as described above). Or, for a do-all-in-one-step option that actually takes about five steps, you can download the Content Gobbler onto your computer.
The Content Gobbler is pretty self-explanatory: After downloading it to your computer, the program tracks your app downloads from iTunes and “gobbles” them to your Chorus app profile, to show all of the apps you currently own. If you’re familar, it’s similar to the Last.fm program that “scrobbles” your iTunes music to your Last.fm account.
When starting out, just tap the button in your profile to e-mail you a reminder to get the Content Gobbler, then download directly from a link in the e-mail. It was convenient to not have to go through Chorus to find all 65 of the apps I own, but it seems like this could easily be done within the app instead of downloading an entire program to your computer. This creates a small disconnect that makes the app a little more bulky than it needs to be.
Recap & Conclusion
Released: Nov. 3, 2009
Average iTunes review rating: 2.5/5
Our grade: B+
+Integration with Facebook and Twitter accounts
– Integration with Facebook and Twitter accounts (uncontrolled publish-all-or-nothing)
+Social networking within app
– Social networking within app (network of users not quite there yet)
+Sorting, categories much more efficient than iTunes App Store
– Have to leave Chorus to download/purchase apps in App Store
Chorus has a lot of potential to be an essential app for every iPhone user—at least until the iTunes App Store gets its act together. The user interface is simple, and the social networking aspect is exactly what is missing from the App Store, as well as the thing that will make Chorus take off. But until a strong network gets built and word of mouth is spread among friends and users, the app is a bit of a dud. Like with all social networking programs, it’s going to take time for Chorus to get off the ground, but when it does, and after some small tweaks are made, it should be a real winner. And it’s free…so how could you lose? Download it now!