Since I’ve been writing for PhoneDog, I’ve logged way too many hours navigating the iTunes’ App Store, and it’s only gotten worse since I volunteered to take on the iPhone beat, among others.

Casual “window shopping” can be a fun pursuit, but looking for specific, but unlabeled, categories of apps usually ends with frustration — and often, a headache. From what I hear, this is a pretty common scenario, and so I’ve written a letter to Apple to suggest some fixes.

Do I think it will resolve things? Probably not. But it sure felt good to jot this down. And who knows? With the company possibly creating a more robust gaming platform for its phones, maybe someone there will realize something — making it difficult for people to find (and therefore purchase) the games and apps they seek just isn’t good business sense.

Dear Apple,

Though I’ve long enjoyed your phone and all the cool, crazy, useful, fun apps created for it, I have some small suggestions. I’m not writing to complain about the lack of MMS messaging and copy/paste functions, or the inability for programs to run in the background. Nor will I kvetch about the locked-in portrait orientation of the “skinny” keyboard in certain programs. No, this isn’t at all about the quirks of the handset or the OS (though, if you are indeed working on that stuff — well, gee… that would be swell).

I am asking for a revision — actually, a minor tweak — to the App Store itself. With the 10,000+ applications that it houses, with many thousands more in line for approval, please help us, your devoted customers, navigate the mountains of entries in there.

The key lies in one word: Search.

The ability to search, then sort the results by star ratings or cost would be excellent. Searching within results would be fabulous. And if you had some extra time to kill, enabling search based on icon characteristics (because I often remember what an app thumbnail looks like, but forget the product name) would be near thrilling.

The categories are great and enormously helpful. Being able to directly compare similar programs would be even better.

For example, plugging in “dictation” delivers 20 results. Searching “voice recorder” yields 60+ results. Many of these are similar, yet there’s a huge gap. Perhaps tags would help? Then it would be easier to find all comparable apps without the extraneous ones. And if the results actually put the ratings or number of downloads beside them, shoppers might spend less time clicking on each individual program to explore (and more time finding and buying the ones they want).

Yes, there are plenty of blogs and websites devoted to cell phones and their apps (I happily write for one of them), and we do our best to offer help and guidance (or at least a fun read) for end users. And so, I humbly write this letter on their behalf, as well as my own — please, PLEASE, untie the knotted quagmire of comparison shopping in the App Store!

Your pal, Adriana

P.S. Please give Steve my best. I hope he gets better soon.

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