Apple now listing native iOS apps such as Safari & Messages in App Store search resultsWhen using relatively generic search terms like "web" or "SMS" in the iOS App Store, users now receive inline "advertisements" for Apple's built-in equivalents before any third-party apps are shown.
Each placard is the same size as a normal app page, but features a different design with fewer elements— the app's icon, a small market blurb about its features, and a direct link to the app or to Apple's website. The interstitials were first noticed by MacStories.
A search for "web," for instance, returns Safari's familiar compass logo with accompanying text that prods the reader to "see the web the way it was meant to be seen" and a button that switches to Apple's browser. Using the term "SMS" shows a similar format, but swaps the application button for a "Learn More" link to the Messages marketing page on Apple.com.
As noted by MacStories, this is not the first time Apple has manually altered results for specific search terms. Searching for "maps" still brings a link to a listing of alternatives to Apple's built-in navigational aide that was first introduced after the disastrous release of Apple Maps in iOS 6.
The App Store search and ranking system is often criticized by developers, and Cupertino's latest move will likely add fuel to that long-burning fire. The company has made several efforts to improve discoverability in the store, most notably acquiring cross-platform app indexing startup Chomp in 2012.