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Google Play has better search than the iOS app store, but Apple has better app discovery and content curation. It’s also much better at helping users evaluate app options, but trails the Amazon app store in a key usability score.

The results are part of the Pfeiffer app store “maturity shootout,” in which the research firm evaluated the three largest global app stores: Google Play, the iOS app store, and the Amazon app store.

And frankly, they all came up short.

“Apple is so far clearly ahead of the competition in terms of overall app store maturity,” the report authors state. However, the bad new is that “none of the app stores come even close to the ideal score at this time.”

You would expect search giant Google to outperform Apple and Amazon in app search, and you wouldn’t be disappointed. The company rated more than twice as good as Amazon, and about a third better than Apple. Still, however, all app stores have significant issues, Pfeiffer says, lacking natural language search, boolean operator support, or the ability to correctly interpret misspelled searches.

iPhone Apps“Discovery Assistance,” or content curation, is the only area where one of the app stores blows away the competition. Likely due to the fact that Apple’s app store has been in existence the longest, it offers by far the most help for app buyers to find the right app, with curated collections, and groups of apps for different purposes, occasions, and industries.

Apple scores 44 percent out of a possible hundred, while Google Play gets only 2.25, and Amazon scored 8.4. Discoverability is increasingly important to be app developers and app buyers, because as app stores surpass the million app mark, it gets harder and harder to find the mobile needle you specifically want in that giant appstack.

To get perfect scores, Pfeiffer said, app stores would have to offer sophisticated multi-level categorization, app collections for a wide variety of people, interests, and needs, and more ability to see what “app buyers like me” have bought.

Where Google falls down?

“Google Play offers almost no informed guidance to help users find apps that are specifically tailored to their needs,” the report states.

Nexus 5 Google Play Store leakFiguring out which apps to buy is the toughest job, perhaps, for mobile users, who need clearly labeled apps, recognizable professional-vs-amateur apps, documentation, good editorial recommendations, and quality reviews. Apple scored 67.5 percent, while Google Play and the Amazon app store scored in the low 40s.

Apple needs better reviews, Pfeiffer said, while Google needs to better label which apps are tablet-optimized, and add better editorial recommendations.

Finally, in terms of user experience friction, Google Play scored the lowest — and best — with a very easy-to-navigate structure, while Apple is less user-friendly, according to the study, by having “somewhat overpowering app store structure.”

Overall, while Apple is ahead, with a 53.1 percent score, none of the app stores is even close to ideal yet, the report says, meaning there’s a lot of work yet to be done by all three of the app store giants.

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