If you catch even a little bit of technology news in passing, you’ve probably heard headlines touting the explosion of apps in Apple’s App Store for the iPhone and iPod touch. At the time of this article, the App Store recently surpassed the 100,000-app milestone. While many of these apps aren’t unique or even particularly useful (you’ve probably heard of the plethora of fart, flashlight, and tip calculator apps available), there are quite a few fantastic ones on those virtual shelves. This installment in our Learning iPhone series will go over finding and downloading them right on your iPhone while you’re on the go.
One of the apps that came with your iPhone out of the box – which is impossible to delete, actually, unless you hack your iPhone by jailbreaking it – is the App Store app (its icon is pictured above). This is your on-device portal to the wonderful world of the App Store. Apple breaks it into categories right off the bat to allow you to see what’s new and most popular at the moment. Also in this main Featured view is the Genius tab, where Apple provides suggestions of apps you may like based on apps you already have.
Frankly, we haven’t found this Genius feature to be all that useful yet, but it may improve over time as it gathers more data from users to make better suggestions.
The next tab allows you to dig a little deeper to browse apps by Category. When you browse to a category, you can view the top paid and top free apps in it, as well as all apps sorted by release date.
The next tab shows the current top 25 paid, free, and top grossing apps to give you a feel for what’s really popular right now.
We’d argue that the next tab is going to be one of your favorites – the Search tab. Here, you can enter keywords to find what you’re looking for instead of digging laboriously through the sections in the Categories tab. Unfortunately, we find the search functionality to be far too limited – there’s no way to restrict your search to a specific category, search by developer, or specify a minimum or maximum price, or any other criteria. All you can do is enter keywords, hope for the best and wade through the results. We hope Apple will address this in the future – if you think they should, too, submit your feedback to Apple here.
The last tab – Updates – shows you any updates available for apps you currently have installed on your iPhone. You can choose to update them right on your iPhone by tapping on the Update button in the top right corner. However, if you have any large apps that need to be updated, such as a GPS navigation app that can be over 1GB, we recommend that you wait until you’re at your computer and download that update via iTunes since it will take quite a long time. This is especially important if you’re not on an unlimited data plan since your carrier will treat app update downloads as data network usage and downloading a 1GB+ app will cost you a pretty penny.
If you’ve received an iTunes gift card or a promo code to get an app for free, you don’t have to wait to get to iTunes on your computer to redeem it. At the bottom of the Featured tab is a Redeem link:
Tapping on that Redeem button brings you to this screen:
Here, you can enter your gift card or promo code (you must first be signed in to your iTunes account on your iPhone to do this). Once you’re done entering the code, tap on Redeem in the top right corner. If you entered a gift card code, the amount of the gift card will be shown as a credit on your account. If you entered a promo code for an app, it will start downloading right away.
You can also view the details of your iTunes account within this app. At the bottom of any section of the Featured, Categories, and Top 25 tabs is a button showing your iTunes account log-in – tap on this and you’ll see the following dialogue pop up:
Choosing View Account will let you view your account information (you may be prompted to enter your iTunes account password first) and even make changes to it.
So, now you know how to navigate the App Store through your iPhone as well as how to redeem gift cards and promo codes, and even manage your iTunes account. Stay tuned for more in this Learning iPhone series! As always, we welcome your comments and questions!