Saturday, 27 April 2013

App Store Hints and Tips

We've all been there - you've already scrolled through all the recent Instagram updates, your tweets are getting boring, you're stuck on a Candy Crush level, and Solitaire just won't cut the boredom. So you find yourself on the App Store, searching for a quick fix, a possible new addiction.

But what happens now? Where do you look? What do you look for? Here's some of my best hints and tips for getting the most out of your Apple products.

Always search the Top Free Apps!
I've only ever paid for 3 apps - Angry Birds and GTA III and GTA Vice City. I still feel like I spent too much money on them, purely because I now no longer play them, I just got bored too easily. Instead of throwing money at something that you'll soon get bored of, why not scroll through the Top Free Apps? This list changes daily, so you should find something new every day, even if it isn't something you're interested in.

Scroll through the Top Grossing Apps!
Is there an app trend you're missing out on? This list is a combination of the top free and paid apps, so you get a good idea of what's popular on any given day, that way you're never too late to jump on the bandwagon!

Search the terms 'free' and 'lite'!
I discovered this tip quite early on in my iPhone adventures, so I pretty much exhausted it on the first search, but you can find some great little demos of full games to keep you occupied for 10 minutes to half an hour, and maybe you'll be persuaded to buy the full game!

Search your favourite terms!
For example, I can be found searching for 'zombie' games, 'zen garden' apps (I'm addicted to raking a bit of sand with a virtual rake, I make no apologies for this), free casino games (I should be in Vegas, I'm a complete virtual gambling addict) and photography apps to make the best out of my Instagram addiction.

Scroll through the New and Noteworthy section on the App Store homepage.
More often than not, apps that appear in this listing will not appear on the top free/paid apps, so it's worth a look! 

So now you've found an app you like, what do you look for next?

Will it fit on your iPhone/iPad/iPod?
Always make sure the size of the app will fit in the remaining space on your phone. You'll get a warning from the App Store if it doesn't fit, but you don't want to be downloading something and leaving yourself with no room left to take a spontaneous photo of your dog in a hat. If it's too large, hop on a computer and download it there, so you can have it available next time you have some free space.

Is it the correct rating?
If you have little anklebiters delightful little children playing on your phone on a regular basis, is the rating safe for them?
We live in a world where ratings seem to have lost their applicability. I watched The Shining on my own when I was 5 and it did me no harm. But the ratings are there for a reason, and sometimes it's better to heed the warnings, because you've technically got no right to be shocked and appalled if you overlook them and discover the real reason they were rated that way.

Is it compatible with your iPhone/iPad/iPod?
I come across this issue all too often. I have an iPhone 3GS which is now old news for app developers, so things like Injustice: Gods Among Us don't apply to my phone, which saddens me greatly.
If it isn't compatible with your generation product, are you thinking of getting an upgrade someday? Why not download it anyway? It might become a paid app in that time and you might just regret not clicking 'download' when you had the chance. It could even act as an incentive to get an upgrade sooner, if it's something you're dying to play.

Does it look good?
Scroll down the page to look through the provided screenshots of the game. It's likely if the developer hasn't uploaded any, it's not going to be a greatly engrossing game. Likewise, if it's only featuring one screenshot, which is a freeze frame of the loading screen, then speaking from experience, the app isn't usually more exciting than said loading screen.
Of course, the things you're looking out for in a good app are entirely up to you - is it good quality? Does it look in-depth enough to keep you occupied? If it's a free app, does it look like you'll get more than five minutes of play out of it before being pestered to pay full whack? Different horses for different courses, as always.
The example I've used above is the new Iron Man 3 game - plenty of screenshots but none of them display the real game footage. That would ring alarm bells for me if it were an unknown developer, but Gameloft and the Iron Man franchise are trustworthy enough for me.

Have you read the reviews?
This is a step that would normally be quite crucial to buying something, for example a book or a DVD, but the problem with App Store reviews is that so many people take advantage of them just to mess around with an app's statistics. By all means, take into account the comments that say the app crashed on them, or that it didn't work fast enough on their generation iProduct (Apple should pay royalties to me if they use that in future), but keep your wits about you when judging the reliability of reviews.
The Iron Man 3 example has an average of 4 star ratings - sounds good to me!

Is it worth the price?
For a start, if it's a free app, that doesn't always mean it's worth downloading.
If it's paid, then this process is an awful lot more complicated. The digits next to the 'buy' button aren't just numbers - they correspond to real money. It's easy to forget what money we're spending on apps simply because it doesn't feel like we're spending real money, but believe me, when you see your bank balance next, you'll be wondering how it was possible for you to have spent that kind of money on an app you've already deleted.
You really have to think carefully about whether the screenshots you've seen and the reviews you've read are ultimately worth the pennies you're forking out for a game that you'll likely be fed up of within days. iProducts aren't as reliable as consoles such as PlayStation and Xbox, physical copies of games on discs that we can rely on solely on whether the disc is scratched or not, operating systems that are universally identical across all consoles, and very rarely games are found to be faulty. The App Store is a minefield of crashing games and dodgy operating system hacks - an app that works for one person might not even open for someone with the exact same generation iPhone.
When considering buying an app, picture yourself waiting in the queue at the checkout in a store, glancing at the merchandise in your hands - is this really worth the price I'm paying? Should I just put it down and walk out? It's much easier to put the price into perspective that way.

So that post was a lot lengthier than I anticipated! Hopefully this has been of some help to you fellow iUsers!

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