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Mobile Communications

Social discovery engine Tappd is 'Apps with Friends'

With something like a squillion apps on the iOS App Store, even professional nerds like me need help finding the unsung heroes. If a new app doesn't get a ton of hype on Twitter or get featured placement in the store, it can be all but overlooked, even if it's amazing. New social app discovery engine Tappd wants to change that, letting you share app recommendations with a community of friends and followers.

Tappd (which is free for iOS) isn't the first app aimed at helping you find new apps--I've had good luck in the past with AppShopper Social, which can show you what your friends recommend, plus alert you when an app you want goes on sale. And Discovr Apps lets you start with an app and shows related apps in endlessly branching map, although it lacks a social component.

But Tappd takes the best of both of those. Its slick, well-designed interface is an improvement over Discovr's nifty mind-map look, and while AppShopper lets you see a list of what apps your friends like, only Tappd lets you write comments about why you like the app. Since people can reply to those comments, you can get a whole conversation going. I can ask if Waze's voice commands are cool enough to justify the learning curve, and get opinions from people who use it. Or I can complain about something I don't like in an app, and someone could reply to recommend something else.

Tappd's design makes it easy to fall down a rabbit hole of discovery--the main "Apptivity feed" can show you Trending apps, or Latest Tapps from either your friends or the whole community. Swipe to the right to explore the categories, add them to your main interests (which pushes them to your main feed), or search for apps by name, hashtag or location--those last two are particularly handy for finding things a simple search might not uncover, even if it does encourage users to overly #hashtag their #comments.

Anywhere you find an app that you want to endorse, you can hit the arrow button at the bottom of the screen to add your tapp and make an optional comment, which support hashtags, locations, and tagging friends. Those tapps can be kept within the Tappd app, shared to Facebook and Twitter, or sent via email. Once you send a tapp, the app offers to follow other people who tapped that app, and suggests other apps they liked too.

It could still use a few refinements. When browsing my Facebook, Twitter, and email contacts for people to invite, a search box would have been welcome to filter down the list--scrolling all the way down to the T's took kind of a long time (#humblebrag). It'd be nice if the app could show me a list of all the apps I have on my phone, and let me start tapping from there.

Since it's early in the app's life, some of the "trending" apps I've seen are a little on the obvious side. (Have you heard of Amazon?! What about Spotify?! Get outta here, Starbucks has an app?!) But once you narrow down your friends list to people whose opinions you respect, and once the community picks over all the low-hanging fruit, I bet Tappd will help surface some cool stuff.

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