Pondering the Impact of the App Store at 10


(Adam Engst) #1

Originally published at: https://tidbits.com/2018/07/10/pondering-the-impact-of-the-app-store-at-10/

The iOS App Store is celebrating its 10th anniversary, and Apple has posted a self-congratulatory article that gives the App Store credit for everything short of curing cancer. Adam Engst acknowledges the App Store’s success while pointing out that it hasn’t been an unalloyed hit.


(Simon) #2

At this point, any criticisms risk sounding like sour grapes.

Nice article, Adam. I don’t think you sound like sour grapes. You just refuse to reiterate marketing fluff in the face of actual facts. That’s exactly what I come here for. Otherwise we could just subscribe to whatever Apple’s propaganda division streams out.

I also vividly remember how opposed Apple initially was to apps and third-party software development on the iPhone. For quite a while Steve was pushing the idea of web apps only beside Apple’s built-in apps. Apple eventually was forced kicking and screaming to offer an API and third-party apps. For them to now turn around and act as if they single-handedly invented the app store idea and in the process saved the software developer world is rather rich.

There is more than enough great stuff to celebrate about the App Store. And many of us are glad we have it. But the way Apple is now spinning things is if not borderline false at the very least disingenuous.


#3

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Adam Engst

The App Store’s revenues are also hugely impressive. Over 500 million people from 155 countries visit the App Store each week, and Apple says it has paid out $100 billion to developers over the past decade. Currently, there are 20 million Apple developers, and the App Store hosts over 2 million apps. (According to Statista, Google Play offers 3.8 billion apps.)

The App Store might not have the number of apps or the amount of downloads that Android has, but the revenue the App Store generates continues to skyrocket:

"Global app revenue climbed 35 percent in 2017 to reach nearly $60 billion, according to a new report today from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, which measured paid apps, subscriptions, and in-app purchases across both Apple’s App Store and Google Play. However, Apple is the one pulling in the most revenue, the report found – at nearly double that of Google Play.

Specifically, Sensor Tower pegged App Store revenue at $38.5 billion last year, compared with an estimated $20.1 billion spent on Google Play. That’s 34.7 percent growth over 2016 for the App Store, compared with 34.2 percent growth for Google Play."

https://techcrunch.com/2018/01/05/app-revenue-climbed-35-percent-to-60-billion-in-2017

For years I’ve read that the big reason people buy Android is price, and that Android users spend a lot less on apps and on online purchases.

The App Store’s walled garden, and the strict regulation of apps is a big selling point, especially at a time when privacy and security continue to be hot topics in the news. Google is primarily in the business of selling information about its users; Apple is focused on selling high priced hardware, and increasingly, service.

So yes, the App Store has been successful. But it’s a just a store, and one that suffers from poor app discovery and high developer transaction fees. And how much of its success is due purely to the popularity of the iPhone and iPad? (It’s also fair to ask how much of the popularity of the iPhone was driven by the App Store.) Any hardware platform that sells hundreds of millions of devices and has a software development kit will end up with lots of apps.

There are many reasons for developers to moan and groan about the App Store, but I do think that the ability to create apps that will run on Mac OS and iOS will be a big boost for them. They did make other announcements at the Developers Conference that sounded interesting at least to this non-developer. However, I do wonder about how thrilled developers are about the new Screen Time tracking features.


(Tommy Weir) #5

I don’t think even Apple knew the full extent of the impact it would have.

Whatever about the money, it was the shift where an app became a item of culture, alongside music, books and film.

Software’s reach extended to the popular imagination, to the realm of ideas and influence, as well as entertainment and functionality. It changed how the world thinks.


(The Mac Doctor, Inc.) #6

Yeah, I agree. I’ve been an Apple Computer Consultant for 28 years. For me, the App Store SUCKS! The search engine is useless. If I have an unmet software need, I’ll go to Google for solutions. And, I’d rather buy direct from a software vendor, than use App Store. I look for high quality in my software tools, long term commitments/support. Top Examples are: Carbon Copy Cloner, Cocktail, DiskWarrior, EasyFind, Google Chrome, MacTracker, PasswordWallet, PDFpenPro, Quickbooks 2016, Quicken 2007, TeamViewer, TextWrangler, VueScan, Wake Up Time, Wifi Explorer. Seriously, 2 Million Apps is TOO MUCH, prune it Apple, select quality over quantity.


(Dennis Swaney) #7

Steve, it is the 10th Anniversary of the iOS App Store the article is about. AFAIK, those apps you list are NOT iOS apps but rather mostly Mac Applications.

I agree with your comments as they apply to the Mac Applications Store (MAS) but they don’t apply to the iOS store (App Store).


(The Mac Doctor, Inc.) #8

Semantics, you miss my overall point.


#9

I also vividly remember how opposed Apple initially was to apps and third-party software development on the iPhone.

There was initial opposition to apps running on the iPhone. Once Apple realized how big the demand from developers was and realized the potential of the market, boom, there was a Software Development Kit and App Store. It was only about a year or so after iPhone was out in the wild, and millions of apps were downloaded the first day the store opened.

For quite a while Steve was pushing the idea of web apps only beside Apple’s built-in apps. Apple eventually was forced kicking and screaming to offer an API and third-party apps.

It was around this time that Android phones were just starting to be released, and I’ll bet Steve Jobs realized if he did’t get a venue for app development, sale and monetization out there first, iPhone could be doomed. He was well aware that there were billions of active iTunes accounts out there, and there was a lot of trust built up that would translate into purchases for the App Store.

He also realized that quality and privacy were strong selling points, and the initial Android releases were notoriously buggy and virus ridden.

For them to now turn around and act as if they single-handedly invented the app store idea and in the process saved the software developer world is rather rich.

Whether or not they developed the first App Store is debatable, but Apple is definitely the pioneer who put app stores on the map. And it has consistently generated a lot more revenue than Google’s.


(Curtis Wilcox) #10

I have never believed that Apple released the SDK and App Store in response to what they heard after introducing the iPhone. I have always thought that they intended to have third party app development all along, it just wasn’t ready as soon as the hardware was. Maybe the App Store wasn’t completely planned out before the iPhone but there was going to be something.


(Steve Nicholson) #11

The iOS App Store has mostly been a windfall for software that uses psychological manipulation to sell consumable in-app purchases. I don’t think anyone at Apple could have foreseen this outcome, but they certainly aren’t complaining about profiting from it. Every time I hear Tim Cook crow about how much Apple pays out to developers I try to guess what percentage went to developers like Omni and Panic who make useful, high-quality software and what percentage was basically flushed down the toilet with apps like Pokémon and Candy Crush. I wouldn’t be surprised if 80% goes to the latter.

If I’m bitter it’s because of how disappointed I am about how the App Store economy shook out. I remember when it first opened being excited about buying beautifully-crafted apps like Emerald Chronometer and about the promise it held for small software developers to be able to reach a huge audience. I sure wish it had turned out differently.


(Curtis Wilcox) #12

Spending money on entertainment is not waste. An app that shows pictures of watches is an ironic choice of counterexample for frivolous spending.

So the cream doesn’t rise to the top within the App Store, that makes it like the rest of the economy. It’s not like developers are forbidden to engage in marketing outside the Store; where a cereal is placed on grocery store shelves is not the only way it can attract buyers, cereal companies advertise. I’d be much more concerned about Apple trying to pick winners and losers within the App Store than with good apps being drowned out in the noise of many mediocre or bad apps.


(Simon) #13

You genuinely missed his point.

The app store is full of junk. It may be less than Google’s, but we all know it’s still bad. Sure, McD is the most popular restaurant too, but then again, we get to chose among many restaurants. On iOS you are confined to one food court which is owned and operated solely by Apple. So yes, it is on Apple when there is so much crap that you have trouble finding the gems. Case in point, the MAS is sitting there mostly unused while many of us continue to get good quality software elsewhere.


#14

I think you’re right about this; Apple doesn’t hesitate when it comes to innovation, beating the competition, or raking in revenue. And they don’t like being scooped by rivals.


#15

The iOS App Store has mostly been a windfall for software that uses psychological manipulation to sell consumable in-app purchases.

What’s the problem with developers earning money? Compared to Google Play, App Store apps are carefully vetted for privacy, security and content that’s appropriate for minors. Just a week or two ago I read about another malware problem with Google Play apps, though the reported Play malware incidents seem to be fewer than they were.

I don’t think anyone at Apple could have foreseen this outcome, but they certainly aren’t complaining about profiting from it.

They more than foresaw it, they promoted, encouraged and facilitated it. Remember how popular, profitable and expensive video gaming machines and games were at the time? And how clunky the hardware and software they ran was?

Every time I hear Tim Cook crow about how much Apple pays out to developers I try to guess what percentage went to developers like Omni and Panic who make useful, high-quality software and what percentage was basically flushed down the toilet with apps like Pokémon and Candy Crush. I wouldn’t be surprised if 80% goes to the latter.

So 1984 really should be just like 1984? Tim Cook isn’t forcing anyone to download anything from the App Store they don’t want to. Apps like Candy Crush and Pokémon make a ton of money because many millions of people love them.


(Curtis Wilcox) #16

I expect Steve can answer for himself but if his point was the App Store is full of junk, Pokemon and Candy Crush are not good examples of that.

I don’t deny the App Store is full of junk. It should be. The food court analogy doesn’t work because a food court is strictly limited by the physical space. Apple should not be a gatekeeper, only allowing “gems” to be offered. Anyone who wants to make an app for iOS devices should be able to do so. It’s fine for them to have standards for the security and privacy of users.

I don’t know how good or bad the App Store is for discovering apps compared to Google’s or some hypothetical ideal. To me, the App Store is mainly a tool for the transaction of acquiring an app. I know about good apps through publications like TidBITS, word of mouth, and searching on the web. I might look at screenshots and reviews in the App Store but only after better resources brought me to an app.


(Simon) #17

Same here. I usually need a recommendation from a knowledgable place like TidBITS because I cannot really search for anything in the app store. I don’t know if Apple can’t do search right or if the SNR is just too low, but whenever I tried to search I was bombarded with crap and didn’t really get anywhere. I also miss filter criteria, like no in-app purchases (to weed out the freemium junk), no subscriptions, or a minimum price setting.

With software (regardless now of App Store or Google Play) it appears quantity has become everything and I have to find a method to deal with the onslaught of junk. I admit I miss the old shareware days where you could buy high-quality stuff for $30. Nowadays everything is “free”, but then they try to lock you in to a subscription or sell your data or some other sleazebaggery. Ironically, this has pushed me closer to big software houses (MS, FileMaker, Omni, etc.) because I know that 90% of the App Store apps I try turn out to be anywhere from bad to disgusting and have to be discarded after just a few minutes of use. IIRC the app store was supposed to bring software devs closer to users and encourage smaller coding outfits. At least for me, the opposite has been the case. I’m not saying Apple is to blame for this situation, but I guess it’s fair to say they are benefitting from it.

On a much more positive note, macOS has UNIX underpinnings which means I can compile tons of free code from source that was never intended for the Mac. One I get the CLI tools installed, I have gcc and that’s almost all that’s needed to get going. A lot of the stuff runs great and my line of work would be a whole lot more difficult if I couldn’t just do that (another reason I really like macOS running on Intel vs. PPC as it used to or ARM as some seem to want). Thanks to this experience I’ve learned more about modern programming and I’ve even extended my Linux knowhow thanks to some of the stuff I learn when compiling other people’s code on my Mac. Not saying that this is an alternative for mainstream consumers, but for geeks it’s an awesome option. I am so happy MacOS went this route back in the day.


(Simon) #18

I’m never really sure what people are trying to prove with statements like that.

McD has served billions of meals and yet there is zero doubt that they sell awful food. No respected food critic would ever consider comparing them to an outfit that actually takes quality food seriously.

The fact that you can make junk, sell it to billions of people, and get rich in the process does not say anything about you or about junk. It just illustrates that many humans are dumb and that with enough propaganda you can sell just about anything to the masses. I’m sure that’s good to know if you’re one of the few big software CEOs, but for me as a user and consumer, it’s entirely irrelevant.

I would hope Apple holds higher standards to apps than McD holds to food. I know I definitely do.


(Adam Engst) #19

I think this discussion has outlived its usefulness—closing this topic.