Here's a new, unique way to discover apps for your iPhone: Crosswalk.
It's a social app discovery service, which means it will show you the apps your friends have that you don't.
It's a better way to find the stuff you'll like than using the top lists in the App Store. That method will help you find the mega hits like Angry Birds (once they become mega), but not necessarily the cool little app that all your friends are using.
Unlike the competing apps Zwapp and Tapjoy, which use imperfect software (I tried them both) installed on your iOS device to detect which apps you have, Crosswalk instead scans your iCloud account to get an accurate list of everything you've ever downloaded.
Then it cross-checks your apps with your Crosswalk-using friends' apps to tell you what's popular and what's trending in your network that you don't already have. It's easy to use and I found it gave good recommendations. You'll also be able to see which of your friends have an app you're interested in, so you can ask them about it.
Company president Tom McLeod told me it will also recommend apps by tracking what type of apps you like. For example, if you have a lot of photography apps, it will surface the hot photography apps you don't have that your friends do. I didn't see that effect in my early testing.
I found the Crosswalk interface a bit busy, but the functionality is unique. It's a good service.
Oddly, it's web-only at the moment. A mobile app is forthcoming, but McLeod told me he wanted to see how people use the app on the web before making final decisions about how the app will function.
What about privacy? It's an issue, but thanks to Apple's censorship/curation of the App Store, not as bad as it will be for the upcoming Android version of Crosswalk. "Apple already doesn't allow boobie apps," McLeod explains. But you can hide the visibility of any app you want, and in the future, Crosswalk will by default hide some apps, like Grindr. "The last thing we want to do is out somebody," McLeod said.
You have to be invited to Crosswalk to get into the beta, or have a Facebook friend already in. Our US colleagues have, alternatively, set up this CNET group with 250 invitations inside so you can see what other CNET readers are downloading.
Android users, see also: AppBrain.
On the business side, Crosswalk will have advertising services to allow developers to much more precisely target messages to iOS users based on what apps they have and other Facebook demographics. The company also plans to sell deeper analytics on app usage to developers — stats that McLeod says Apple doesn't otherwise make available.
Rafe's rating: Crosswalk
- Product quality: five out of five stars. Great app recommendations based on social data you can't get anywhere else. I'm giving the developers a free pass on the site's complexity due to the service it provides.
- Business quality: four out of five. Solid idea, but until the user base scales up, I'll be nervous, as I always am whenever I hear "advertising" as a revenue line. On the analytics side, it has potential, but again, not until there's enough of a user base to generate meaningful stats.
Note on the Rafe's Rating scores: these are solely my opinions, informed by my experience reviewing consumer technology products and covering start-up companies over the last 20+ years.