Apple is tweaking its App Store rankings, one of the most important app discovery channels, to take into account app ratings and user engagement in addition to download volume and velocity.
This change will help Apple combat developers who use inorganic means like ads and incentivised downloads to “game” App Store rankings. The change was noted in a TechCrunch post, which cited several app analytics firms who noticed apps with four star ratings and higher going up while ones with three stars and lower dropping down.
Within ratings itself, Apple seems to be giving more weight to ratings for the latest version of the app than those for older versions. Apple’s also increasing the refresh time from 15 minutes to 3 hours to ensure that short bursts of increase in app downloads don’t influence ratings much.
Another possible factor Apple’s taking into consideration when making App Store charts is user engagement and refunds processed. The company also seems to be differentiating revenue from IAPs in games and other app categories, as evidenced by the high ranking of Pandora and Rdio in the Top Grossing chart, which was earlier dominated by free-to-play games.
There’s still no confirmation as to whether these changes are permanent or experimental, or simply a part of the public release of iOS 7. Apple has previously tweaked its search algorithms as well as the search interface, and it continues to put in more effort to improve app discovery on the App Store.