The Reality: Not As Many Actual Apps In The iPhone App Store As You're Told

from the pumping-up-the-numbers dept

Years ago, when I worked for a company that was trying to do digital distribution of software apps, we had a competitor that used to claim that it had agreements to distribute 300,000 apps. We, on the other hand, had agreements for more like 3,000 apps, which certainly made us look at lot smaller. The problem? There weren't even 300,000 apps out there at the time. The other company had done some deals with clip art providers, and the counted each piece of clip art as an "app." But, in the numbers game, it really looked good (and bad for us).

I'm reminded of that story as Om Malik digs a bit into Apple's claim of 65,000 apps in its iPhone App Store, and points out how misleading this is, because a few providers are uploading bulk apps. These are really one app but they're differentiated by pulling different content from the web in each implementation:
These are typically local search or travel apps written by a single publisher. Molinker is one such example. It pulls content from Wikipedia and Flickr for a country or travel destination and renders it for viewing offline. Molinker offers more than 800 of such applications, at 99 cents a pop. Another bulk apps provider is GP Apps; it has 380-plus apps, each of which essentially takes a search word and marries it to Google Maps.
In reality, each of these is one app, with a single distinct instruction concerning what content to pull. But Apple gets to count them as a separate app to puff up the numbers (which is useful, given the growing competition from other phone app stores). But Om is correct. Such apps should be counted as a single app and the numbers of apps in the store should reflect that. Otherwise, someone could (for example) create an RSS-reader type app, where each one pulls a specific RSS feed. Then upload each one with the millions of different RSS feeds out there, and you could boost the app store's app count to million in no time. But that would be incredibly misleading.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 2:43am

    I hate it when there are too many apps.

    Well, I guess one of the nice things about some of the competition is that you can load every app (free or pay) in existence for the platform, and still have memory left over on the device.

    Try doing that with Apple's App Store.

     

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  2.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 2:57am

    If your erection lasts more than four hours, there’s an app for that.

    Tell me 'bout it. If I wasn't a customer they'd only have like a billion and a half downloads.

    If you want an app to tell you what app to get, there’s an app for that-- http://appft.com/

     

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  3.  
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    Yosi, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 3:30am

    Misleading title, really

    With all due respect Mike, please stop this FUD. Apple count is correct. There's that many applications.
    The mere point that some applications are very simple is completely irrelevant. Nobody forcing developers to break application into small fragments.
    Some companies are selling very integrated office application(s) as single piece (DocumentsToGo and similar).

    Doesn't matter if program is big or small, complex or stupid, it is still an "application" in computer world. Wallpaper or ringtone, on the other hand IS NOT.

     

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  4.  
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    Frosty840, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 3:47am

    Then upload each one with the millions of different RSS feeds out there, and you could boost the app store's app count to million in no time.

    Yeah, but any of those could potentially be used to get an RSS feed from an article which might contain an image from the kama sutra, meaning every single one of those apps would be be blocked by the iCensors...

     

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  5.  
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    Yeebok (profile), Jul 16th, 2009 @ 3:57am

    I submit 2 apps then

    10 app$ = "My first app"
    20 print app$
    30 goto 10

    10 app$ = "My second app"
    20 print app$
    30 goto 10

    I mean each one of them is distinct .. err .. very similar ..

    lol @ apple.

     

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  6.  
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    Jake, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 4:07am

    Welcome to the wonderful world of advertising.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7.  
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    John Doe, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 4:10am

    Poor Apple...

    And to think that Apple is upset with Microsoft about the Laptop Hunter ads. I guess it is ok to be misleading as long as you are the one that is misleading?

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 4:41am

    My son has the G1 Google android phone and it seems to have LOTS more usefull and free apps than Itunes offers. I bought an ipod touch and I love it but the app store basically sucks and i refuse to buy music from itunes as i rip all my CDs at much higher bitrate in MP3. In fact i only use use itunes to sync my touch and hate doing that but have found no apps to do it in windows 7 (they cant seem to find my touch) I wont buy another MP3 player that is so proprietary as the Ipod again.
    this plays flac, xvid and more.... I need to check into it more http://www.tigerdirect.com/applications/searchtools/item-Details.asp?EdpNo=4588904&sku=M450-4070

     

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  9.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 5:37am

    Innovative

    If their advertising, though stretching the definition of "application," helps sell products, it seems as though it would be classified as innovative. Of course, it is an old technique practiced for centuries (at least - I remember Ahmed advertised that he provided the chariots of pharoahs, but he neglected to point out that they were ornamental chariots designed to be entombed with the pharoahs - they were pretty, but not what you would want to take to the corner bazaar, and that by "pharoahs" he meant two; given the youth of the third pharoah alive in his lifetime it was unlikely he would be providing ornamental tomb chariots for a third), so hardly creative or unique and certainly not inventive.

     

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  10.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 5:40am

    Re: Misleading title, really

    Its not a matter of them being simple, its a matter of them being the exact same application.

     

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  11.  
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    Gill Bates, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 5:53am

    Re: Poor Apple...

    I saw that article!
    "I did cartwheels down the hallway." The exec said.

    When I read that, I wondered who the hell does cartwheels. Seriously over-rated, must have been wordsmithed by the PR department to appeal to the tween demographic.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 6:03am

    Re: Poor Apple...

    Thanks for helping me see the light! You, Sir, along with Kevin Turner have just persuaded me to "Upgrade" to Windows Millennium Edition.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 6:07am

    Re: Misleading title, really

    @ Yosi:

    You are a little 'special' aren't you? The complaint is valid. The programmer could of easily made this one download and you just enter in the destination and it pulls it and puts it on your phone (and he could of made it remove the previous destination, or let you save multiple destinations).

    Instead you are downloading and paying for a "different" application that is identical to all the others except in what it searches for.

    That is *totally* misleading in application count. That's like saying its okay to have 3 different versions of pac man and count them as 3 different applications when the only difference is that pac man is blue or red instead of yellow and all the maps are exactly the same.

     

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  14.  
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    eduo (profile), Jul 16th, 2009 @ 6:09am

    Understandably misunderstood.

    Sorry, I don't buy this.

    I can see the complaint, but I feel it's misapplied.

    If I buy two molinker apps I have to pay twice for them, no matter that they're essentially the equivalent of the same ebook reader with different texts preloaded.

    If I buy Classics I pay once to read 20 books. Not 20 times. Classics is counted as one app.

    The only fault here is moral on the side of the developer (or at least dishonest) and on the approval system for Apple. Once the app has been released it counts now as one app and one app only.

    Similarly, if those dudes with the C64 emulator are forced to end up selling separate games each with the emulator embedded and differing between each other only in the included ROM, then each of those MUST count as a separate app, because that's what it is.

    You're misleading people by finding fault in the count of apps, when the fault is in accepting them as separate apps to begin with. It's clear it falls appart when Apple doesn't count Project Gutenberg apps as 25 thousand separate apps.

    One distinct executable: One app.

    It's dishonest of both developer and Apple, but not on the counting. Get it straight, since it doesn't mean there's any less of a problem but at least it points to where the actual problem is.

     

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  15.  
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    CmdrOberon, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 6:39am

    Re: Re: Misleading title, really

    > You are a little 'special' aren't you?

    There's no reason to be insulting.

    I agree with Yosi. An app is an app. Doesn't matter
    if it's stupid. If they are different line items in Apple's
    database, then they are different apps.

    Undoubtedly most of the apps are horrible, and many of them
    may be duplicates with only some build-time configuration
    change, but it's still a distinct application that can
    be downloaded from the store.

    The benefit for the customer is a targeted application
    that does (presumably) just what they want. The alternative, I'd like to point out, will get everyone's
    panties in a bunch too: one single application with
    dozens of knobs and configuration items which must be
    tweaked by the downloader to do what they want.

    We industry folks tend to sit on a high horse and poke
    fun at people who can't figure things out, but you must
    remember that majority of technology users view the
    technology as a tool that should work; they are not
    interested in reading manuals and endless configuration
    so things are just right -- they want stuff to work
    out-of-the-box.

    The bottom line is that the companies selling these
    duplicate-apps are doing their average potential customer
    a favor by making it easier to use out-of-the-box.

    And, finally, the way Apple tallies their app count
    isn't misleading.
    Rather, your gripe is with the people who make the
    apps that are pushing up the count, not with Apple.

     

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  16.  
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    Mike P (profile), Jul 16th, 2009 @ 6:45am

    Lite Apps

    The one area where I can see the count off at first glance is all the LITE & FREE versions of apps on the store that are nothing more than demos of the full version.

     

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  17.  
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    slgilley, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 7:34am

    Re: Misleading title, really

    I disagree. If you have an application that only shows pictures of men, and another application with the exact same look and feel, but it shows pictures of women, are they really two different applications? Having done iPhone development, I can say that I could do exactly that, the only difference being in which pictures were contained with which app.

    They aren't different applications, just uses for the same application. In my example, I could sell the application, then provide the pictures as separate "add-ons", or I could sell the same application 100 times with 100 different sets of pictures.

     

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  18.  
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    Jeff Dierking (profile), Jul 16th, 2009 @ 7:37am

    I see the point, but...

    The arguments about an app (no matter how stupid or trivial) is an app if it is sold separately.

    As an owner of a G1, what I find interesting is the number of apps that the App Store has that are not free that are free in the Android Marketplace. I work with an iPhone fanatic and he is always showing off apps he "bought for $0.99". Then I go and get the same app, or at least an app with the same functionality for free.

    The number people should focus on is the number of downloaded apps. I read recently, but cannot remember where, that of all of the apps only about 10 - 15% are downloaded with any level of significance. Not sure if there is any merit to that. But if Apple wants to put out a billion useless, crappy apps and claim they have over a billion apps, who cares? Only people I can see having issue are the iPhone/iPod fans and the sheeple that gravitate to the iPhone/iPod because "everyone has one".

     

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  19.  
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    Jeff Dierking (profile), Jul 16th, 2009 @ 7:39am

    Re: I see the point, but...

    err, fraqgment alert...

    The arguments about an app (no matter how stupid or trivial) is an app if it is sold separately is a valid argument.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  20.  
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    CmdrOberon, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 8:24am

    Re: Re: Misleading title, really

    > They aren't different applications, just uses for the same application.

    In your definition they may not be different applications.

    But, if they are uploaded twice and listed as different
    applications in the database, then they are surely
    different applications.

    I don't disagree with you, but the definition you
    choose to use is actually irrelevant, because
    Apple has the database and is doing the counting.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  21.  
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    JackSombra (profile), Jul 16th, 2009 @ 8:29am

    Re: Misleading title, really

    Nope Yosi, They are the same, just with different content

    It's akin to saying there are something like 108,810,358 different internet explorer's available (Aprox number of websites worldwide)

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 10:01am

    Re: I hate it when there are too many apps.

    Typical fanboy nonsense. In the face of any criticism, ignore the facts, exaggerate, and deflect. Reality Distorion Field - Full Power!!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  23.  
    identicon
    Michael Long, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 10:31am

    SKU

    Are they separate, distinct items in the store? Distinct SKUs, as it were?

    If so, then as far as I'm concerned an app is an app, and Apple's count is correct. Especially if I'm required to buy each one separately.

    Your apparent recent dislike for Apple has also seemed to infect your journalism and research abilities as well. Microsoft touts 35,000 Windows mobile apps, but are THEY counting things the same way as Apple?

    How about the fact that not every WinMo app can run on every WinMo device?If your HTC Dash only has access to 500 applications, then the 35,000

    What about the Android store? Or Palms? (I bet at least one of the 50 is a "dup" by your logic.)

    Never mind. You'll get more page views by simply bashing Apple.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  24.  
    identicon
    Michael Long, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 11:16am

    Re: Garbled

    Comment seems to have gotten garbled.

    How about the fact that not every WinMo app can run on every WinMo device?If your HTC Dash only has access to 500 applications, then that 35,000 WinMo application number is VERY misleading, don't you think?

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 11:39am

    Re: Re: I hate it when there are too many apps.

    Well, let's say you have a program called "Word" and you have "word" localized into 15 different languages. You probably have 15 different packages, 15 differnt skus, 15 different manufacturing runs. Thus 15 different apps.

    So when there's an app program that has say, "Diners by state" well, even though the frontend application doesn't change much, the simple fact is that you have to manage 15 products thru your supplychain.

    It's really not that hard of a concept to grasp.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  26.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 16th, 2009 @ 11:55am

    Re: SKU

    Yep, you're correct!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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