iOS6 Search Results Are Totally Different On Mobile And Desktop

iOS 6 search results should be the same as desktop iTunes results, but they aren't. Find out why and which results you should care about.

The iTunes App Search results are often completely different from what you or your user see on real devices. iTunes results seem to be completely out of tune with what actual iPhones, iPads and iPads display.

We've taken a look at a lot of different searches, and the majority of them have the iTunes store displaying extraneous apps that either don't appear in the top results or are completely out of order.

Strangely, Music, Movie and TV Shows search results are also often different, though those spaces isn't as affected by this discrepancy, as most users search for the exact song title or show name. Still, it's strange to see Apple doing such a bad job syncing up and maintaining consistent results across different platforms.


Take for example a search for "moving" on the iPhone. We've compiled the individual screenshots on the iPhone into one giant screen:

Results we see on iPhone

We've got apps designed to solve the hassle of maintaining moving checklists as the top 4 apps, then an app with moving animations, a local shopping app, an app featuring moving photos and a garage sale mapping app. This seems like a somewhat relevant result. Let's take a look at what iTunes Search gives us:

iTunes search comparison

Ugh oh! The top two apps have swapped places, there is a completely different moving checklist app in third place, and a game along with a camera and illusion app show up in the later results. Only two apps are in the correct spot.

What's going on? Which search results are actually the important ones?


Without a doubt the search results that show up on actual devices are the ones developers should care about. That is how apps actually get downloaded.

It just seems so strange that Apple has two completely different ranking algorithms and pathways for displaying app rankings. It is not a case that iTunes searches are behind the iPhone searches or that they are cached, as we've looked at historical data and there really isn't any correlation. Sometimes completely different apps appear in the iTunes search results.

Are there two teams working on this?

Sensor Tower's platform is an enterprise-level offering. Interested in learning more?

Alex Malafeev

Written by: Alex Malafeev, Founder at Sensor Tower

Date: September 2012

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