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The App Store

The App Store is a service, hosted by Apple, that lets you download apps created by Apple and third-party developers to your iPod touch, iPhone, iPad, or (via the iTunes Store) computer.

The App Store offers apps that you must pay for as well as scads of free ones, so even the most cheapskate iPod touch owners among us will find lots to like at this store. In this section, I show you how it works.

Browsing the App Store

The App Store offers an interface similar to what you find at the iTunes Store. Tap the App Store icon on the iPod's Home screen, and along the bottom of the resulting App Store screen, you'll see the five icons necessary to make your shopping experience as enjoyable as possible. The icons break down this way.

Featured

Tap the first icon in the row, and you move to the Featured screen. You'll find three buttons at the top: New, What's Hot, and Genius.

New. Tap New, and you'll see a list of notable apps—some free, some for sale—that have been added to the App Store recently (Figure 4.3).

Figure 4.3

Figure 4.3 Featured apps from the App Store.

Each entry includes the app's name, its maker, its user review rating (one to five stars), the number of reviews it's received, and its price. At the bottom of this list, you'll find the now-familiar Redeem entry, which works exactly as it does in the iTunes Store app.

What's Hot. When you tap What's Hot at the top of this screen, you see a list of the most-downloaded apps on the service. Each app bears the same information: name, maker, rating, number of reviews, and price.

Genius. This button, which was new with iOS 3, operates very much like Apple's Genius playlists. You volunteer to participate by switching Genius on for apps. You do this by tapping Genius, tapping the Turn On Genius button in the resulting screen, entering your Apple ID password, agreeing to the terms of service by tapping Agree at the bottom of the screen, and then tapping the Done button in the top-right corner of the display. You see a list of 15 apps, recommended to you based on the other apps that you currently have on your iPod. To see another 15 recommendations, tap the More Recommendations button at the bottom of the list.

As I write this chapter, the tops of the New and What's Hot screens show four apps or categories (such as Hot New Games) in a banner. In Apple's estimation, these apps (or classes of apps) are too cool or too popular to miss.

Categories

If you'd like to browse the App Store for particular kinds of apps—games, finance, or productivity, for example—tap the Categories icon that appears in the second position at the bottom of the screen. The Categories screen is where you'll find apps listed in categories, including (at this writing) Games, Entertainment, Utilities, Social Networking, Music, Productivity, Lifestyle, Reference, Travel, Sports, Navigation, Healthcare & Fitness, News, Photography, Finance, Business, Education, Weather, Books, and Medical.

Tap any of these categories except Games, and the resulting category screen includes three buttons that make it easier to find the apps you want: Top Paid, Top Free, and Release Date. When you tap Games, you're offered a screen that includes game genres, much like the one in iTunes. Tap a genre of game—Arcade, for example—and you'll see the Top Paid, Top Free, and Release Date buttons, along with a list of 25 games below.

Top 25

Featuring Top Paid, Top Free, and Top Grossing buttons at the top of the screen, Top 25 is what it says—a list of the 25 most-downloaded or most-money-generating apps at the App Store (Figure 4.4). Scroll to the bottom of any of these lists to find a Show Top 50 entry. Tap it, and another 25 entries appear, slightly less "top" than the first 25.

Figure 4.4

Figure 4.4 A Top 25 screen at the App Store.

Search

Search is for those times when you think, "Hmm . . . Priscilla said something about a cool new app, but the only part of its name I remember is monkey." Just tap Search, tap in the Search field, and type monkey on the iPod's keyboard. You'll be sure to find the app you're after in the list that appears. Tap the app's name, and you'll see its listing along with the usual information—name, company, yada, as well as yada.

Updates

Just like the applications you have on your computer, iOS apps are updated by their developers to fix problems and offer new features. When an app you've downloaded has been updated—and Apple has made that update available—the Update icon at the bottom of the App Store screen bears a red circle with a number inside it, indicating how many updates are available. The App Store icon on the Home screen also adopts this icon.

When updates are available, you can choose to update single apps or tap the Update All button in the top-right corner of the screen. Your iPod moves to the Home screen, and the updated versions of the apps begin to download. The progress of each download is shown in the form of a blue progress bar at the bottom of the updated app's icon.

Managing apps

Now that you've found the apps you're after, you'll want to learn more about them and then start downloading the ones you want.

Navigating the Info screen

An app's Info screen (Figure 4.5) is both the gateway to downloading the thing and a source of information about it. Here, you'll find the name of the app, the name of the developer, a star rating based on user reviews, the number of reviews, a price button that you tap to purchase the app, a link to those reviews, a description and screen shots of the app, contact information for the developer, posting date, version, size, and age-appropriate rating.

Figure 4.5

Figure 4.5 An app's Info screen.

Tell a Friend and Gift This App buttons also appear in this screen. Tap the first one, and a new unaddressed email message opens, containing the name of the app in the Subject field and the words Check out this application: followed by a link to the app in the message body. The recipient of this message need only click the link; as long as she has a current copy of iTunes installed on her computer, iTunes will launch and take her to the iTunes Store page that's devoted to this app. (I discuss the iTunes Store's relationship with apps shortly.)

When you tap Gift This App, a screen of the same name appears that includes all the information about the app plus Next and Cancel buttons. Tap Next, and the resulting screen provides fields for your name, the recipient's name, the recipient's email address, and an area for creating a personal message (such as "I know you'll love this!"). Fill in these fields, and a confirmation screen appears, letting you double-check that you're sending the right app to the right person. When you're sure that the information is correct, tap the Buy Gift button at the bottom of the screen. An email message with a link to the app will be sent to the recipient, and you'll be charged for the app.

Reviews work similarly to the reviews for music in the iTunes app. The difference is that you're not allowed to review an app unless you've actually downloaded it, which helps prevent useless "This costs too much!" or "I hate cheese!" reviews that can drag down an app's rating.

Finally, there's the Report a Problem button. Tap it, and a Report a Problem screen appears, offering three choices: The Application Has a Bug, This Application Is Offensive, and My Concern Is Not Listed Here. These choices are followed by a Comments field where you can express yourself more thoroughly. Tap Report to send your report to Apple.

Downloading apps

Tap the entry for the app you want to download. Tap its price (yes, even if it's marked Free) and then tap Install. You'll be prompted for, at the very least, your iTunes password. I say at least because if you were signed in to the iTunes Store the last time you synced your iPod, you won't be prompted for your iTunes account when you attempt to download something from the App Store. If you're using the App Store for the first time and aren't signed in to your iTunes account within iTunes, you'll be prompted for both your account address and password.

Enter your password with the iPod's keyboard, and tap OK. The iPod moves to the Home screen, shows a dimmed icon for the app you're downloading, and displays Loading and then Installing progress bars at the bottom of the screen. When the app is fully loaded, the Installing progress bar disappears, and the icon takes on its full color and brightness. To launch the app, do as you do with any app on the iPod: Tap its icon.

The next time you sync your iPod with iTunes, any apps you've added to it—or that have been updated on the iPod—will be copied to iTunes' Apps area.

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