iOS 7 preview: App Store gets nearer, kid friendlier

The App Store debuted with iOS 2 (iPhone OS 2), got card-based search in iOS 6. Now, in addition to a complete visual make-over in iOS 7, it's also getting in on the location game with Apps Near Me, and finally - yes, finally - adding a kids category for children of all ages.

Here's what Apple has to say about the new iOS 7 App Store:

Apps Near Me — a new feature of the App Store in iOS 7 — shows you a collection of popular apps relevant to your current location. And a new Kids category spotlights the best apps for children based on age. iOS 7 also keeps your apps up to date automatically, so you don’t have to bother. Another bonus of automatic updates: no more little red badge begging for your attention.

And here's what they've shown off so far:

  • The App Store, like the rest of iOS 7, has a completely new look.

  • There's a new Kids category, which is subdivided by age range (i.e. 6-8) to make it easier for parents to find appropriate apps for their children.

  • The new Popular Near Me tab shows you location-based recommendations, so, for example, if you're at the ball game, or shopping, or at a popular tourist trap, you can see what apps other people are finding useful while there.

  • The App Store can now also be set to automatically update apps when new versions become available.

The new App Store look is very much in keeping with the general iOS 7 design language so no big surprises there. We haven't seen it in action yet, and traditionally App Store has been a thin native shell around web (UIWebView) content, so it remains to be seen if Apple could get the same kind of physicality out of the web (which doesn't seem likely) or if we'll be in for some profound architectural changes as well, come the fall. (Fingers crossed!)

We've been hoping for a kids category for the App Store for a long time, so that's great to see. The whole category system in general, however, seems ripe for innovation and hopefully Apple will step on the gas in improving that as well.

I'm not sure about Popular Apps Near Me. I'll have to see how it works. I really don't care what apps other people are using on my street, but I might care what apps other people are using at a specific venue or attraction. Still, that seems limited.

iOS is tied into social now, why not start some advanced matching based on my friends, or what other people on the entire network have that's similar to me but not yet owned by me. Again, ripe for innovation.

And don't even get me started on that cards-as-search-results metaphor again...

Automatic updates will be great for me. No more firing up an iPad and seeing 65 waiting, and then me having to wait as they update. Georgia will hate them, but she can likely turn them off. There's always the chance of a bad update, but there's probably more chance of a needful update not being done. Net positive?

As for any other improvements, small or large, looks like we'll have to wait to find out.

The new App Store app ships with iOS 7 this fall. For now, let me know what you think of the new kids category, the new location-based recommendations, and the new auto-updates. Will you be using any of them? All?