Explor is a new space-age looking app to discover and share other apps released this week just in time for SXSWi in Austin, Texas.
The way the exploration works: each time you tap an arrow next to an app, you’re basically telling Explor “I want to go in the direction of apps like this one”. So each page gets successively more and more tailored to your interests. It’s an extremely fluid way to browse. You can follow you friends within the app, posts your favorite apps on Twitter and Facebook or post your app selections at explorapp.com.
The app even detects the apps you use the most and automatically factors them in when deciding what to show you. Just viewing the details doesn’t affect the recommendations — it’s only if you Like the app or tap the Explor arrow. You can also use the “Block” button in the lower left of the details page if it’s particularly horrible.
The recommendation engine itself is the core piece of tech behind the company — it’s called Synapse, and it uses a PageRank-like algorithm for finding relevant apps by looking at the social signals in the entire App Store, and comparing them with the apps you’ve Liked.
And those recommendations are in fact the major difference between Explor and other apps. Explor founder Mike Jacobs and his team put a tremendous amount of effort into the quality and usability of its recommendations. And with the social network in the same app, you can discover something, instantly share it, and then check out what your friends are finding.
Using the App: The Explor feature presents 5 apps it thinks you might like. Unfortunately, I didn’t like any of the apps presented to me, (Logos Bible Software, really?). So I chose a safe alarm clock app. It then took me to 5 more apps- mostly strategy apps and an I love Justin Bieber app. Hm… It’s not really picking up my tastes very quickly.
Check out the Friends feature- and load up friends like The Next Web, Gizmodo, Boing Boing, Arstechnica, and other tech blogs you’re following on Twitter. Then check out the Activity tab, which is a handy way to see the apps your friends and tech pundits have downloaded recently.
The Apps tab is an easy way to search for apps you like, and load your preferences so that hopefully you won’t be faced with any more Justin Bieber apps. Click a link within the app, and Explor takes you to Apple’s app store to complete the purchase.
Overall, the app itself is slow to load, but fun to use, particularly for its ability to track professional reviews and share easily with others. Be sure to fill out your profile and upload a photo too which makes the community aspect of the app more fun.
The app’s mission is similar to AppsFire, the gorilla in the app discovery app room, as it lets you fly through the App Store and share your findings with friends, but it lacks AppsFire‘s sophistication and nifty video previews. This is the second iteration of the app, which used to be called Appsaurus. Explor is redesigned to be easier to use, with new features including the social layer. I never played with Appsaurus, but several commenters were pining for the older version. To be fair, most people just don’t like change.
Check out this video for the whirlwind tour:
Interested? Try it here for free.
I recently spoke with the app developer, Mike Jacobs, who was kind enough to share his inspiration behind the app, as well as his 5 favorite iPhone apps currently on the market.
We’re all fascinated by touch software — to us it feels like all the amazing things computers could do for the past 30 years, finally made easy enough for everyone to enjoy. And we’re pretty convinced that apps are the next big cultural revolution (the “next step” after books>photos>music>movies) thanks to that accessibility, so we wanted to make sure there was a way to find the best and brightest of those creations!
Specifically, two of the founders are passionate musicians since youth, and the iPhone and iPad have some absolutely astounding futuristic musical instruments and art. We had to scour every blog we could find to find them though! So we built Explor to fix that.
His top five picks:
GarageBand, which just came out yesterday is unbelievable. See our TNW review here.
Mugician — if the guitar was designed to run on the iPad, this would be it.
Flipboard — the newspaper from the future. See our TNW review here.
OmniFocus — couldn’t have built Explor without it. It holds my whole brain. See our TNW review here.
The Incident — an insanely fun game; the “controller” mode where you control the game on the iPad with your iPhone is amazing.