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.

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

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Anonymous Coward says:

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.

Yosi says:

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.

Anonymous Coward says:

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.

CmdrOberon says:

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

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.

slgilley (profile) says:

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.

CmdrOberon says:

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.

Frosty840 says:

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…

Anonymous Coward says:

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

Anonymous Coward says:


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.

eduo (profile) says:

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.

Jeff Dierking (profile) says:

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”.

Michael Long (profile) says:


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.

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