Study: Browsing drives more App Store downloads following redesign



  • App Store users are most likely to find new apps by using its search box, although browsing has become more popular since Apple redesigned the online store in September, Sensor Tower research found. Search accounts for 65% of app downloads, inching ahead of other methods of app discovery such as browsing and referrals.
  • Apple redesigned its App Store last year to improve discovery by putting greater emphasis on editorial content like daily app and game picks, lists of recommended apps, how-to’s and interviews with developers. Those changes helped the percentage of app downloads from browsing grow to more than 15% of all downloads from 10% before the redesign.
  • Search is more important for non-games, as 69% of those apps come from search, compared to 56% for games. Browsing, on the other hand, contributed to 24% of game downloads, compared to 9% of non-game installs. Sensor Tower’s findings are based on app download data collected between May 2017 and April 2018.


The enduring popularity of the search box as a way of discovering new apps may indicate that many App Store shoppers are still comfortable with old habits of finding new apps by name, category or search term, such as “food delivery,” “photography” or “math help.” That process then leads to scrolling through apps by price or how highly they’re rated by other app users.

The data could also suggest that when people want to find a new game, they might not know exactly what they’re looking for, and could be more likely to browse the App Store until they find something that piques their interest now that store has been redesigned. For functional non-game apps, however, that’s likely not the case. Perhaps then people head to the App Store with a clear goal in mind.

The App Store has grown into a billion-dollar business for Apple, and millions of developers have created apps in the hope of created a breakthrough “killer app” that goes viral. But those ambitions have crowded the App Store with more than 2 million apps. Last year’s redesign aimed to boost discoverability among apps with features like “App of the Day” and curated lists of “Editor’s Choice” selections. These picks can really give an app a boost by getting them in front of more users looking for recommendations. Sensor Tower found games featured as the “Game of the Day” could see their downloads surge by as much as 802%.

Apple also has tried to weed out apps that don’t follow its guidelines, leading to a 5% decline last year in the total number of apps in the App Store to 2.1 million from 2.2 million, per TechCrunch. Apple also required developers to update their apps to a 64-bit architecture that can run faster and more efficiently on iOS devices. In addition, Apple sought to screen out clones and spam apps that crowded the store as a way of improving the overall quality of its selection.