It's no secret: the app stores run by Google and Apple are sagging under the weight of hundreds of thousands of low-quality, derivative apps. Many new releases don't get the attention they deserve if they get spotted at all. But all is not lost—put in the time and effort, and apply the right tricks, and you can quickly bring to the surface the best titles for your devices.
Tech journalists get dozens of app press releases a week and know how to spot a gem: make sure you're reading the right app round-ups to stay up to date with the newest titles on the scene. You're already reading a Gizmodo site, so you're off to a good start—keep an eye on our apps of the week tag for regular updates as well as news on big changes to the major apps.
There are plenty of good and regular app round-up articles on the Web so subscribe to your favorites and get a heads up about great new apps without having to install a whole bunch of them yourself. The Next Web runs a round-up every month and the Guardian has one every week, and we'd recommend that you check out both.
If there are particular developers or studios that you've liked apps from in the past then keep a close eye on them in the future. You could do this by signing up for a regular newsletter from their website or simply subscribing to the relevant Twitter feed, but either way you should get details of new releases before everyone else.
Take Marco Arment, to give one example, the man who created Instapaper and now with a great new podcasting app called Overcast available in the iOS App Store. You can often cut through the forest of new and upcoming apps by keeping in touch with the developers you like directly. Of course, if you love all things Angry Birds, there's only one place to look.
This tip requires friends who both use Google+ and have the inclination to leave app reviews on Google Play, but stick with it. Somewhere on the front page of the Android app store you should find a "Recommended for You" section that you can click through to. This collects together apps similar to those you've already liked and highly rated by those in your social circles.
The more ratings and reviews you leave, the better the recommendations get. Somewhere else on the front page of Google Play Apps you should see a section headed "Want quick suggestions?" where you can rate the last app you installed to see some instant Netflix-style choices for what to try next. Apple has ditched its Genius for Apps tool, but it's Near Me replacement might prove useful to you.
Imagine the number of apps that Apple and Google staff have to sift through—presumably they know a good app when they see one. Both the iOS and Android app stores have Editor's Choice sections that give you the pick of the current crop of apps, and anything that you find here is likely to be of good quality even if it's not right up your street.
If you click through to an app that looks interesting, weigh up the Related tab (labelled Similar on Android) before moving on. You can quite often find something worth checking out in the list of associated apps even if the one you're viewing isn't exactly what you wanted.
Knowing exactly what you're looking for can often yield better results than idly clicking around the app stores waiting for inspiration to strike. A quick Web query like "best apps for jogging" can turn up some useful leads but make sure to set the results to be recent ones. You can also click through categories on your app store of choice and see the newest arrivals.
For the truly dedicated, AppShopper details all of the latest releases for iOS—it's up to you to pick out the best ones from the pile, but you're unlikely to miss anything. For Google's platform, Android Police has a dedicated apps and games section, though it's not as comprehensive as AppShopper. A Twitter search can also unearth some interesting apps too, even if there's likely to be more chaff than wheat in your results.
App discovery is increasingly difficult for both developers and users, but you'll usually find that time and effort are rewarded—if you've got any inspirational ideas of your own to share, let us know in the discussion below.