As the App Store nears 30,000 applications, what's next?

The App Store continues to add new iPhone and iPod touch applications at an astounding clip--in late January, Apple reported the number of applications available from the virtual storefront topped the 15,000 mark, and about six weeks later, that total is now more than 27,000 according to application analytics platform Mobclix. As of 7 pm EST Monday, the App Store boasts 27,209 applications in all, with premium titles now comprising 77.4 percent. Games lead all iPhone categories with 6,276 titles, or 23.1 percent of total App Store applications--entertainment apps follow at 3,691 apps (13.6 percent), trailed by books (2,470 apps, or 9.1 percent), utilities (2,325 apps, or 8.5 percent) and education (1,891 apps, or 6.9 percent). The least popular category: Travel apps, which make up just 3.9 percent of App Store inventory.

At an average price of $2.78, it would cost you $73,076.61 to download all of the premium iPhone applications available in the App Store, according to website 148Apps.com. If you're thinking that sounds like a serious waste of cash, you're absolutely right, but it appears a more customized, user-relevant iPhone application shopping experience is on its way--a new patent application filed Thursday by Apple suggests the computing giant is planning to introduce location-aware services tied to the App Store. United States Patent Application 20090063293, entitled Dynamic Presentation of Location-Specific Information, seeks to patent "improved approaches to allow a portable electronic device to dynamically present location-specific information while the portable electronic device is at a predetermined location... In one embodiment, the portable electronic device has a display that can display the location-specific information and has wireless capabilities for use in receiving the location-specific information from the server. The location-specific information can, for example, augment other information that is to be presented on the display. In one embodiment, the location-specific information can be information pertaining to a media item being played in an establishment, such as a store, where the portable electronic device is located."

If the dynamic presentation concept has a direct antecedent, it's the "Now Playing" feature Apple introduced on its iTunes music store in late 2007. The service enables consumers visiting Starbucks coffeehouses to log into iTunes via iPhone, laptop or iPod touch to instantly browse a location-specific iTunes menu displaying information on the song currently playing in-store and purchase music from the Starbucks playlist. But most of all, the Apple patent seems like a response to Nokia's forthcoming Ovi Store. Confirmed last month at Mobile World Congress, the app marketplace touts a customized and contextually relevant user experience determined by factors like personal contacts and physical whereabouts (all of which Nokia calls "Social Location"). Consumers can activate social discovery features to receive updates and recommendations on content enjoyed within their social networking circles; in addition, Ovi Store will present content and applications tied to the user's present location. Whether it all works as promised remains to be seen, but with the number of applications accelerating across all mobile platforms, a more personalized and intuitive download experience seems like the next evolution of the app storefront model: With the App Store on pace to shatter the 30,000 application mark in a matter of weeks, users shouldn't have to filter through 29,999 apps just to get to the one they want. -Jason

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