Independent mobile app store GetJar is going social with the latest version of its site. The updated portal includes integration with Facebook Connect -- the tool that allows people to sign into third-party sites with their Facebook login -- so users can see what apps friends are downloading and share their own selections through the social network.
GetJar -- which offers apps for multiple smartphone platforms, including Android, iOS, BlackBerry and Symbian -- boasts 1.5 billion downloads to date. It claims to be the first app storefront to fully embrace Facebook as part of its offering. In addition to sharing download activity, users can also extend comments and app ratings posted on GetJar back to Facebook.
"Now that users can share apps with their friends on Facebook, recommendations are really a bit old school," stated GetJar CEO Ilja Laurs. "Our recent research clearly showed us that what consumers care about is what their friends are downloading and using, not what we as an app store think they should download."
The company points out that only 21.6% of app users actually find titles by searching in app stores, according to its recent App Meter survey. But the same study found that only 8.8% discover apps based on recommendations from friends, and only 5.8% through social media. The majority of users (53%) said they learn about apps via the Internet.
This suggests GetJar's Facebook integration could help drive more traffic to the site, but it may not make a big difference in how users find out about apps. The revamped site also allows consumers to track their personal downloads with GetJar's My Apps feature, which consolidates the user's downloaded app history for reference.
If consumers want to get recommendations or search for apps on their own, GetJar's redesign is intended to simplify the process. The new interface includes navigation tabs for fast browsing, improved search to find apps more easily, a Top Apps section to find the most popular titles, and another new section highlighting new apps.
The 75,000 apps in the GetJar catalog are far fewer than the more than the estimated 225,000 apps in the Android Market or 350,000 in Apple's App Store. But the company tries to compete with its larger rivals by offering an "open" alternative, with an app storefront that is not tied to a single mobile platform.
That cross-platform approach in February helped GetJar secure $25 million in third-round venture funding from Tiger Global Management and other investors and a total of $42 million to date.