Here's the Most Underrated New iOS 11 Feature

It's going to be a lot easier discovering new apps for your iPhone and iPad once iOS 11 debuts this fall. Then again, given the state of the App Store app in iOS 10, that's the only direction Apple can go in with its mobile app store.

Apple's Phil Schiller unveils the new look App Store for iOS 11. (Credit: Apple)

(Image credit: Apple's Phil Schiller unveils the new look App Store for iOS 11. (Credit: Apple))

It's not that the current App Store offering is bad — so long as you know exactly what you're looking for. Right now the best way to use the App Store app is to head directly for the Search tab, type in the precise name of what you want so that you can download it to your phone and exit the app before you spend any more time there.

You are unlikely to spend much time in the Featured, Categories or Top Charts tabs unless you like scrolling through endless lists that may or may not be of interest to you.

Apple beileves that the key to getting you to spend more time browsing for new apps is to step up its curation game. That's why the centerpiece of the App Store redesign planned for iOS 11 features a new Today tap that promises to shine a spotlight on apps you didn't know you needed to download.

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As described by Apple executives during this week's Worldwide Developer Conference keynote, the Today tab sounds like a highly focused App of the Day section, which will feature an extensive profile of a particular app. That app will include highlight videos showing the app in action or how-to tips where appropriate (say, for a photo-editing app).

Credit: Apple

(Image credit: Apple)

The Today tab in the App Store App will highlight a game and a regular app each day, along with a daily list of apps focused on a particular theme like fitness or meditation. And these daily profiles won't disappear into the mist once the clock strikes midnight. You'll be able to scroll back to see previous profiles, which Apple hopes will boost the chances of you sticking around and downloading something.

Alongside the Today tab, Apple is also giving Games and Apps their own tab in the mobile App Store. Those sections will highlight top new releases alongside curated picks from Apple's editors. These sections will also highlight in-app purchases — seemingly a bigger deal for app makers looking to promote their updates than for end users like you or me — and you'll find video highlights and tips in these sections, too.

Apple has plenty of incentive to freshen up its App Store experience, which first swung open its doors in 2008. While the abundance of available iOS apps was a selling point for the iPhone in the early days of its rivalry with Google's Android platform, the gap has close considerably to the point where you're just as likely to find what you're looking for on Google Play. Redesigning its mobile App Store to make it easier to stumble upon new apps for people to download gives another way to convince app makers to stick with iOS.

There's no word on whether Apple's App Store overhaul will extend to the desktop version, which like so many of Apple's services is slapped onto the iTunes app. That would be a missed opportunity, since the desktop version of the App Store has its own issues with clutter. Right now, the App Store on iTunes features some curated collections and assorted charts and categories, but a version of the Today feature Apple's touting for iOS 11 might make it easier to discover new apps in that version of the store, too.

You'll get a chance to see Apple's redesigned App Store when iOS 11 arrives this fall. A public beta of iOS 11, which could feature the redesigned App Store along with the other iOS 11 enhancements Apple previewed at WWDC, will arrive in June.

Philip Michaels

Philip Michaels is a Managing Editor at Tom's Guide. He's been covering personal technology since 1999 and was in the building when Steve Jobs showed off the iPhone for the first time. He's been evaluating smartphones since that first iPhone debuted in 2007, and he's been following phone carriers and smartphone plans since 2015. He has strong opinions about Apple, the Oakland Athletics, old movies and proper butchery techniques. Follow him at @PhilipMichaels.