Apps about everything. Apps for everything. Apps everywhere. There are now well over a million apps in the app stores for iOS, Android, and Windows devices combined. And if, like me, your working day and private life involve using mobile devices, then you’ll know that sometimes it can seem like there are too many apps. How, among this cornucopia of code, do we find new, great, or cheap ones? (Apart from this column, of course.) Each app store has curation, with sections for editor’s picks and top-selling lists and so on. But there are also apps for this task.
Perhaps the most sophisticated app recommendation app is the free iOS app Crosswa.lk. This is a kind of social network for sharing app ideas among friends and the wider public, as well as a source of data on which apps are being downloaded the most. When opened, it asks you to link to your Facebook account so it can discover your friends, and as part of creating an account you indicate a few preferences about your app habits. Crosswa.lk then digs for data among your friends’ information, the public, and well-known commentators, and delivers recommendations of apps of all sorts that you may like. As I write this, for example, my friends’ choices mean Crosswa.lk is recommending the Craigslist app and lots of photo-effect apps to me.
The app’s interface is very slick. There’s simply a scrollable list of apps, each showing a logo, star ratings, price, and popularity figures and above that a control bar. This is where you can select to see trending apps among your friends or among the entire community, and where you can choose to filter the list by app category or by rank — such as top-rated.
As part of the setup you can choose to give the system the details of your iTunes account so it can work out exactly which apps you have already downloaded. While this step will help Crosswa.lk’s systems find the best app recommendations for you, it’s not a vital step in the process, particularly if you’re nervous about privacy.
I’ve found Crosswa.lk to be incredibly useful, and it takes but a moment to open it up and dabble among its recommendations. One small complaint is that it shows app store prices for the United States, which will matter if your iTunes account is an overseas one, but it’s not too much of a handicap.
Appsfire Hot Apps and Free Apps
For a slightly different app recommendation experience, you may prefer Appsfire Hot Apps and Free Apps, free on Android. It has a similar sort of feel to Crosswa.lk, and it can also link to your friend’s app recommendations via Facebook. But it also tries to be a portal to all things app-related. For example, touching its Tasks icon brings up an app manager for your Android device so you can do things like shut down a running app.
This app’s design presents much more data at a glance than Crosswa.lk, which may be a boon. But it is not quite as customizable in filtering the many lists of different apps by category.
On iOS the same makers offer the slightly different app, Appsfire Deals (free). This is less of a recommendations engine and more of a way to track apps that have recently dropped in price or have become free, perhaps as part of a promotion. All the data is sorted by category, and you can view the newest free apps or the most popular free downloads. There is even the option of having Appsfire watch a favorite app for you, then alerting you if its price drops.
And since we are talking about huge app stores here, there are even more alternative app-hunter apps.
Best Apps Market
One favorite of mine on Android is Best Apps Market. Another free app, this one contains recommendations that are more curated than those of some of its peers, and its front page bears a list of apps ‘‘tested today.’’
Among its controls are the usual lists of top apps and trending apps, as well as a personalized recommendation list based on the apps you’ve already downloaded. The interface is clear and list-based, and if you’ve got an organized sort of mind this might really appeal to you.
Another iOS app-finder I’ve used for some time is App Shopper (free). It’s simpler than most of the apps mentioned above, and this can make for a clearer interface and easier use.
This app recommends others that have had a price drop or have recently been updated, and like its peers it can be customized by category. It also has a wish-list option.
The benefit of these app-finder apps is that they’re free themselves. One warning, however: When you learn of all the free apps available, you may end up downloading more than you ever thought you would.Kit Eaton writes on technology for The New York Times. Hiawatha Bray is not writing this week.