No, we aren’t talking about Plants vs. Zombies or an uptick in Walking Dead apps. We all know how much Apple loves to brag about the number of apps on the App Store. But, what does that huge number (currently at 1,252,777) actually mean? For most app developers and smartphone users, a lot less than it would appear at first blush.
Adjust is an analytics company that has dived into the numbers behind the App Store. One of the first things they reveal is that the app graveyard is pretty crowded—1.6 million apps have been uploaded since the App Store opened, meaning that about one-fifths of all apps have either wound up taken down by the developers or have fallen victim to Apple’s notoriously strict and arcane approval process. Given that a lot of pretty reprehensible stuff probably gets uploaded and axed and that there’s no reason to keep up an app that doesn’t generate some kind of income (be it revenue of venture capital dollars), maybe the one-fifths stat isn’t too surprising.
More alarming is the number of zombie apps. Zombie apps, as defined by Adjust, are apps that are hanging around past their expiration date. These apps have failed to make any of the 39,171 App Store top lists for at least two days out of a given month. This past June, that described almost 80 percent of all apps on the App Store. That means 80 percent of all apps are being seen by pretty much no one, which means they’re making pretty much no money. That number is growing rapidly, too—last June, the proportion was at a little over 70 percent.
That means for most people, anywhere between 200,000 and 250,000 of those 1,252,777 apps are actually going to be seen. And, for smartphone users, that’s plenty. That’s more apps than you’re ever going to download. But, for developers, it means that the app market is getting intensely overcrowded. That follows naturally from the relative ease of making an app and submitting it. The problem is actually getting your app to generate revenue or, at the very least, attention—a problem that an increasing number of developers seem to be facing.