51 thoughts on “The Dirty Little Secret of Apple's App Store”

  1. Bah… who cares, really? Once you’re in the thousands there are more apps than you’re going to use anyway. A little numbers padding is just noise. The real question is: does the app you need exist?

  2. Thanks for the evidence of something we’ve all suspected. Some of the iphone apps are just fluff and most are probable not that great.

    However, if they’re submitted separately, approved separately and installed separately, then each one is an app.

  3. I don’t think it’s a relevant question. The only ones who actually care about those numbers are media types. Normal people just want things that meet their needs. The number of apps is irrelevant.

  4. Om,
    Very good find.
    These apps can help those who cannot search the content on wikipedia or just cannot “google it”.
    I would add the fart apps and such to this list plus the Traffic apps for each city , weather app for each city ..
    Which boils down to few really important apps.

    You can do all the search weather , search flickr photos by using the SAFARI browser why bother with these APPS.

    Which makes me conclude that the average iPhone user ( or any other phone user wanting “APPS” for basic internet searches ) is not really a smart phone user !!!!!.

  5. I would really like to see these apps banned as they clutter the AppStore. Try scrolling through a list of new apps and having to go through hundreds of these. So yes, count them as one and they should be listed as one. Maybe have these devs provide ONE app and sell their updates.

  6. I see your point in questioning whether or not these apps should be considered part of the 58,290 (according to http://148apps.biz) currently on the store.

    With that being said, your generalization on ruling out template based apps is really dangerous.

    There are about a dozen companies out there right now who offer a platform/template service for easy app development. These companies publish the apps directly through the platform, showing one unified publisher. Their process makes it very easy for someone new to the space to make an app that fits their needs and purpose, allowing them to truly test the waters of the App Store. Many of them look the same and perform similar functions, but to the clients, it’s their own “unique” app.

    I think what you’re referring to would be considered “spamming” the App Store.


    Bryan Barletta / @BryanNO

  7. Om,

    In my opinion, they should be treated as separate apps. Each of them is bringing its own revenue, has its own install/remove stats. To me its more like Gigaom Network or Glam network or Sugar websites.

  8. When you break them down, describe what they really are. Calling them all ‘apps’ may not be sufficient for all intents and purposes.

  9. The success of the app store will always a qualitative measure, the sheer number of apps has nothing to do with the quality of the few apps that make the iPhone a memorable experieince and keep users coming back. The number of apps didn’t make the iPhone a success, the quality did .. so who cares?

  10. I agree with most of the comments — who really cares how many apps there are? I care more about Apple working on improving the organization of the store so that good applications can be found.

    One point about Om’s post — he stated that a) the number of location aware apps dropped and that b) there exists a large number of bulk apps. However he didn’t connect a to b. Is the unstated connection the fact that the new 3.0 OS allows subscription-based apps, and that therefore developers may be releasing apps that users can ‘bulk’ themselves internally. Other than losing shelf space, the subscription method makes more sense for both the user and developer.

    Apple should list apps by business model or content type as well (not category like health and travel, but things like weekly subscription or additional content purchases available).

  11. Not that significant a point in my opinion. Anyone with an ounce of brains knows that the number of available apps from Apple’s App store is padded generously by accounting practices like this.

    I think the number most people are more fixated on is 1.5 billion apps downloaded. That’s a number worth bragging about. This is what investors care about. Actually, what investors really care about is the amount of revenue generated by these 1.5 billion downloads. That’s the number I’d like to see as well. How many are free downloads that bring no incremental revenue and how many are paid for?

  12. Once the # of the apps goes into tens of thousands, the rest is just a number. It is up to the developer to decide how to package and sell their apps; Apple does not care nor am I. Let’s find something more substantive to talk about the app store.

  13. Those 800 apps are as real as the many apps like All Things D, which are essentially single feed feedreaders. How many more apps are repackaged web sites with slightly nicer interfaces?

    When I see one of those “There’s an app for that” commercial, I think, “Yeah, it’s called a web browser.”

  14. Even if 90% of the apps is fluff that still leaves 6500 good apps.

    Replying to someone saying that 50,000 apps in the app store are junk a columnist in ZDnet replied that it still leaves Apple with several thousand more good apps than they other phone makers. It’s also bizarre that so many people think that a competitor with fewer apps say a few hundred then they’re all good and none is junk or fluff. That’s illogical.

  15. Many iphone users install 100s of free apps cause they have nothing better to do. But the real dirty fact behind iphone apps, is that probably only very few apps are actually used by users. Most free iphone apps are tried once and never used again.

  16. The new in-app purchase model should do away with the need to do this. Previously you had to release separate apps for separate cities for travel guides because it was the only way to allow people to pay for only what they needed. Apple should probably go back to all these companies and ask them to create single apps with in-app purchases for additional cities/countries/whatever to reduce the clutter in the App Store.

  17. If you pay for the app it is a distinct app and should be counted seperately. Number of independent apps is irrellevant anyway. No one’s denying the 1.5 billion down loads. Who really cares if Apple has 15K apps or 65k apps. What matters IMHO is the 1.5 billion down loads.

  18. You’re hedging a line – where do you draw a distinction? Are all apps written in C# the same app? What about all ES’s NFS racers which seem grossely derivative of one another? Perhaps the line can be drawn when the executable remains the same, but then what about something like SIMs where people pay for add-ons that are purely graphic files, or World of Warcraft which is a Lua interpreter, and the “game code” isn’t part of the executable.

    Slippery slope – I think what’s more important is whether or not claming you have 65,000, a million or a billion of something makes it better or worse than your competitors. The same logic can be used with the iTunes store – they have a few million songs, but how many are cover’s of Beetles songs? Should they be counted as one song?

  19. Wow, now we have app spamming! We should forget about the 65K+ number then. Whatever Apple reports about # of apps isn’t worth talking about. Maybe the 1b downloads number is some “advanced accounting practice” too.

  20. Separate apps. Each one stands on its own two bits. Imagine if someone came asking about your network of sites and asked “How many uniques do you have?” Are you going to count me six times for all the sites I hit or just the once?

    How many books does Amazon (or Borders or xyz bookseller) carry? Sure Fodor’s has 19 gazillion little books on obscure destinations… THEY’RE getting counted when Amazon, et al report how many books they carry.

    Same thing. Bloat to be sure. But, same thing.

  21. I have developed a template to skin marketing over a Twitter feed. They would be customized template-based applications, and serve a distinct client and need. Is that a single app? No. Is it a template? Yes.

    The distinction is unimportant in the sense that it is like scripting. Mobile applications combine many elements including web features to provide a more capable widget. Certainly, you are looking for a number of applications, but without refinement, the question becomes meaningless and the data inaccurate.

    We all know there are too many fart apps! But, they contribute to the total number none-the-less. As somebody says, the only metric that matters is personal need.

  22. If they are to be counted as one app, then they should all be sold together and the price adjusted to $850.

  23. This is hardly a dirty little secret. Its been known for sometime that a high % of the apps for the iPhone are either worthless trash, dupes/copycats, or these massive app producers.

    This was a waste of a post Om, please focus on more substantial content like you guys normally d0, this falls under techcrunch headline grabbing nonsense.

  24. Whether these are separate apps or merely the same interface providing different information is unimportant. The real issue is whether App Store is ultimately shooting themselves in the foot with tyranny of choice. Cluttering the shop with thousands of garbage applications runs the risk of turning a viable business into little more than a passing fad as subscribers burn out with choice trying to find the one decent app in each category. If you can get the same information in your browser, it doesn’t need to be in the App Store.

  25. Om,
    Great find. I don’t it matters to the loyalists of that platform as no doubt they will dismiss it as a so what.

    However, it does matter to developers…Facing 65000 apps, how do I get discovered.

    Lastly, it matters to the analysts who try to discern the truth when deconstructing their statements.

    1. “app” is an abbreviation for application, which is just another name for a piece of software. In this case, an iPhone app is a software application that runs on an iPhone. (Many are games or otherwise intended as entertainment.)

  26. Om, great find!

    After all, book reader apps, should they be counted as one app, or as hundreds of apps. After all, with book apps, who cares about the content. it is the application that is important, not the content, right? After all, if I purchase the newest Stephen King book and get something else instead, it won’t matter to me, right? A book is a book.

    Come on, Om, use your brain. These need to be treated as separate applications. Why? BECAUSE THEY ARE SEPARATE APPLICATIONS.

    If you count these applications as one, then where do you draw the line? Lite and Pro versions? PG and R versions? What about applications with identical functionality? Should we consider Tweety and Twitterific the same application because they have identical behavior?

    Get back to reality Om, and write about something interesting. Your latest posts have been tired, weak, and IMO ridiculous.

  27. Om Malik wrote: “I, for one, believe that all template-based apps should be counted as one. What do you guys think?”

    Om, just go ahead and count them by whatever method discredits Apple the most. Isn’t that the way Microsoft would want you to?

  28. Let them count them as apps, and then Amazon can count each e-book sold as a new kindle sale using the same logic.

  29. Methinks someone had trouble finding something to blog about. This “report” is akin to a blurb from TMZ.

  30. I think the problem with the 60K apps is the fact most platforms would have for example a weather app that allows you to specify any city not multiple apps targeted to a specific city. I keep hearing template app (that is the application). Specific instances are just configuration data not an additional app. A web browser isn’t 1 billion separate apps just because you can go to different websites.

  31. I think this is exactly what microsoft are trying to avoid…the last thing they want is a bloated marketplace filled with cheap and nasty items that are useless. Imagine the number of useless applications if they let anybody do whatever, and then post in within the itunes marketplace…

  32. hi there well i saw a coool weather app for $0.99 or $2.99 but it was the coolest app for ipod or iphone but when i tryied too get the app it was a 3 station weather station of the maximum 3 station home weather station wind speed wind direction rain fall temputure and humidity if i find it againe i will buy it

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