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Apple tweaks App Store layout amid developer unrest

Faced with criticism over the way it's been grouping applications on the digital shelves of the App Store, Apple this week is making some changes to the store's layout aimed at showcasing a broader range of top offerings in each category.

TouchMeme's Krishna Vegesna tipped AppleInsider off to the overnight design tweaks, which "accomplished three important things," according to the iPhone app developer. First, he said, Apple now highlights the most popular applications on each category page.

As part of this new grouping, the Cupertino-based company has also separated the most popular Free Apps — which previously dominated the most popular listings — from most popular Paid Apps, breaking each out into separate sidebar modules that flank the general listings for each category. In addition, the new layout is more consistent in design with the AppStore application on the iPhone, Vegesna noted.

"I am excited to see the change. My Apps are listed under the top paid apps for the Travel category," he said. "Flight Status is at No 3 and Currency Exchange is at No 9. Two out of top 10 is not bad, I guess for this category."

Earlier this week, Twitteriffic developer Craig Hockenberry wrote an open letter to Apple chief executive Steve Jobs, pointing out that developers have been lowering their App prices to the lowest possible level in order to obtain favorable placement in the App Store.

"This proliferation of 99 cent 'ringtone apps' is affecting our product development," he said. "We have a lot of great ideas for iPhone applications. Unfortunately, we’re not working on the cooler (and more complex) ideas. Instead, we’re working on 99¢ titles that have a limited lifespan and broad appeal. Market conditions [on the App Store] make ringtone apps most appealing."

While Friday's changes may not solve all of developers' problems, Vegesna said he believes Apple "now truly understands the software as a service model and is enhancing the [App Store] every week (in some cases, multiple times a week)."

"AppStore is getting better and the focus is now shifting more towards better apps," he added. "Keep it coming Apple."