Katherine Boehret

Here an App, There an App, Where’s the App for You?

App stores can’t catch a break. When these virtual marketplaces don’t offer enough mobile apps, they’re viewed as too small (see Palm’s App Catalog and RIM’s BlackBerry App World). If they host a large number of apps, they can get criticized for being too overwhelming (see Apple’s App Store and Google’s Android Market).

Whatever the size of their smartphone’s app universe, many people just want a way to find the apps they can really use. This week, I tested two free tools that offer ways of sorting through hundreds of thousands of apps to show you some you might actually like and some you might find useful. (Never mind the fact that these tools are apps themselves.) I tested Chomp, which works on the iPhone, and Appolicious, which works on the iPhone, iPad, and Android devices. Appolicious also has its own website and a partnership with Yahoo (YHOO) so that its app reviews, which are written by a 15-person editorial staff and regular users, are promoted in relevant articles on Yahoo’s websites.

If you turn on the Genius feature of Apple’s (AAPL) App Store, it will make recommendations based on apps you already own and let you choose a “Not Interested” option, which guarantees an app won’t be suggested again. The Android Market doesn’t currently offer suggestions of apps you might like but a Google (GOOG) spokesman said a feature like this is coming.

Both Chomp and Appolicious have a community of users who are reviewing apps, and you can follow all, some or none of these people. Appolicious reviews are in-depth and more hands-on than Chomp’s. An Appolicious review of the $4.99 FlightTrack app for iPhone and iPad included a YouTube video explaining the app, a scale rating, a list of other Appolicious users who own the app and an Appolicious Advisor review, written by someone who works for Appolicious Inc.

Here’s how these app-finding tools work: The Chomp app starts with a home page that shows two recommendations; two apps liked by people you follow; two apps that are on sale (like one that was $1.99 but is now free); two apps that were recently reviewed and two newly released apps. It makes recommendations by suggesting apps that are similar to those you reviewed and liked. But Chomp has a loose definition of a review: Selecting a heart beside each app’s description means you reviewed the app and liked it; tapping a broken heart means you didn’t like it. (There’s room to write a brief explanation of why you liked or disliked an app.)

Chomp’s co-founder and chief executive, Ben Keighran, says the company is working on iPhone and Android versions to release before the end of the year. Because it’s an Apple affiliate, when someone buys an app using Chomp, 5% of Apple’s usual 30% profit from the app goes to Chomp (the developer typically gets 70%).

Appolicious takes a different tack for suggesting apps. It scans the titles of apps you’ve downloaded, saves the names of those apps in your Web-based Appolicious library and suggests apps that are similar.

I tried this on a Motorola Droid X Android device, and it worked—with my permission—just seconds after I opened Appolicious for the first time, spitting back a list of related apps. These can be conveniently downloaded from within Appolicious rather than leaving the site for the Android Market.

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Chomp is an iPhone app that suggests apps according to other apps you’ve reviewed.

The iPhone and iPad’s iOS operating system doesn’t allow this, so you’ll have to open the Appolicious.com site on your Mac or Windows PC and opt to use the App Library Builder tool, which opens a computer folder containing copies of your apps stored by iTunes. I did this on my MacBook and, though it was a little clumsy, Appolicious imported 44 titles of my apps in just a few seconds.

(Chomp doesn’t offer an option to scan your own apps. Mr. Keighran said people could have hundreds of apps but that doesn’t confirm whether the user actually likes them, so this method could lead to bad recommendations.)

If you aren’t cool with the idea of Appolicious scanning all of your apps to suggest new ones, you can edit your profile to check boxes that describe your app personality. Some suggestions include Social Butterfly, Foodie, Parent, Shopaholic and Book Reader. Here, you can also check off the devices that you own, so Appolicious will suggest apps that work on them.

Appolicious, like Chomp, makes money—5% of paid apps—when it recommends apps people buy because it’s an Apple affiliate. Appolicious.com also runs ads that are strictly unrelated to any recommendations.

In the end, it was hard to tell whether I was really getting apps that were a good fit for me or just a random bunch of new app suggestions.

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Appolicious installs on Android devices and scans the phone’s apps to suggest new ones.

The Appolicious methods for determining what kinds of apps I’d like seemed to return many apps I wanted to download, but it also recommended some I didn’t want, including a game called “SceneIt? Comedy Movies HD” that was recommended to me before I created a profile or allowed the program to scan my personal app library.

Chomp’s reviews seem more like yes or no lists—people either do or don’t like apps, and many reviews I read didn’t explain why they liked or disliked an app. One reviewer is Kevin Rose, the founder of Digg.com and an adviser to Chomp. I did like the way Chomp spotlighted apps that were for sale, many of which I wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

While Chomp’s site is a bit on the meager side, Appolicious gives you a meatier selection of app recommendations. The more information you tell Appolicious, the better your results will be.

See a video with Katherine Boehret on Chomp and Appolicious at WSJ.com/PersonalTech. Write to her at mossbergsolution@wsj.com


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