Wednesday, January 06, 2010

100k apps ... so what?

Why do people keep saying that the iPhone App Store has an "advantage" over others because it has 100,000 applications?

Would it still have an advantage at 90,000? 50,000? How many does it really take?

A month or so ago, Apple wiped out all 1000 applications from a single vendor. Did anybody miss those applications? Probably not. So how many other thousands could be wiped out without taking a hit to its success?

Google stopped putting the "pages indexed" on its front page many years ago because it realized a key principle: the value is in the results, not the quantity.

The Android Market is definitely behind -- it is missing some nice applications. But not many! All the apps that I used to have on my iPhone are now available on my Android phone. Thus, Apple's App Store has zero "advantage" for me. How many other people are like me? Or conversely, how many people want and use all of those 100k applications?

I think the conversation should be rephrased into "do the apps exist, that a typical consumer wants?" rather than focusing on a mere count. That is the success of any app store.

12 comments:

Tartley said...

Yeah, I was just saying the same thing down the pub not 2 hours ago, in defence of my lovely Android.

There may be fewer apps, but the number I miss since trading in my iPhone: zero.

Phil Nash said...

I completely agree with you that the continual use of the number of apps available is a misguided metric - and I'm speaking as an iPhone app developer!
That said, Android still has a bit of catching up to do in app terms (as you say), and other contenders are even further behind. I'm watching the space with interest, but for now my allegence is still with the iPhone (although more for quality of experience reasons).
Obligatory plug: you can find my iPhone app at www.vconqr.com :-)

Billrey said...

The 100.000 thousand apps is just a marketing number. I don't think the iPhone is a success because it has that many apps. It's successful because the software experience is so much better than an phone before it.

The Android equivalents of popular iPhone apps for twittering, facebook etc aren't as polished and consistent as their App Store counterparts, and that's what counts in the end.

RG-6 said...

Having the largest and highest quality # of Apps and App developers is a big freakin' deal.

The conversation isn't iPhone vs Android (it seems like it is to you) but it is iPhone vs everyone other than an iPhone (all other smartphones, feature phones and dumb phones). The difference between iPhone and Palm is huge, iPhone and RIM is huge, iPhone and Android is huge (just less huge than vs other competitors).

This is almost identical to the real (not imaginary) advantage Windows has over Mac and Linux.

Also remember that Apple is educating consumers. Most people are new to smartphones and need to be educated that Apps exist.

Marc said...

I agree that using a raw total app figure is a bad metric, but it does hint at the scope of available apps. Apple focus on quality apps with their "there's an app for that" ads. So the message ends up being "there's lots of high quality apps for the iPhone", which is the part that matters.

Sure, most people only care about the 10 or so apps *they* want, but to keep most mainstream and special interests, that probably equates to thousands of apps.

Also, when compared to other platforms, the orders of magnitude in difference is staggering. I think that's also the point Apple wants to make; they're a long way ahead of the competition.

Last time I checked:

iTunes App Store: Over 100,000
Google Android Marketplace: Over 10,000
Palm App Catalog: Hundreds
Nokia Ovi: Thousands
BlackBerry App World: Thousands
Windows Mobile Marketplace: Tens
PlayStation Store: Hundreds

In part I agree with you, but I think touting 100k+ apps is just part of the strategy. There's no point in saying best quality if you also don't have large range (for apps anyway).

3 billion downloads and 100,000 does matter to me as an iPhone developer (Bjango).

Mike Curtis said...

At some point the numbers definitely DO get meaningless, but I recall overhearing some exec (I think from MS) that # of apps didn't matter, all the good (aka popular) ones would get ported over to whichever other platform.

But that's not the point!

One of the things I really like about the app ecology on my iPhone is the DEPTH of geekiness - some of my favorite apps on the iPhone are particular to my own very niche desires - digital photography, for one.

Some of my favorite apps are:
iSee4K - very special function app, helps calculate data storage, maximum frame rates, lens angles, etc. for the Red One camera
VideoSpace (and other similar) - calculates storage based on frame size, frame rate, and codec used
Helios and Sunrise - calculates local sunrise/sunset, exact sun position for any given day (even in the future)
iSlate - a simple slate app for shooting (just like a clapper slate in the movies)
Surf Report - lets me know when the waves are good, aka when it is a good time to go shoot surfers without having to lug down there and discover no good waves

All of these are extremely niche apps - and if you DON'T have a huge ecology of apps, they aren't likely to exist.

Fact check - are there such apps available for the Palm or Android platforms?

-mike curtis

jragon said...

This argument was used against Apple for years. For a person who's not into PC gaming, having a Mac (with its fewer apps) has never really been a problem. But the perception of having fewer apps was enough to give it a PR black eye.

But I agree with others -- what matters is the quality of the apps, which I believe would be higher on the iPhone even if it had fewer apps than Android.

Michael said...

You are quite right that total number of applications isn't as important as having all the apps that an average user might need.

However, the real success of an AppStore is getting people to go to it and actually download applications. So while dismissing a library of 100,000+ applications might be acceptable, no one can deny the 3 billion unique downloads the AppStore has achieved. And what those numbers mean to developers as far as traffic and potential sales.

david said...

It's 2010, not 1990, so why should I still have to install proprietary apps onto my computing device? Maybe I should find a way to connect a 5 1/4" floppy drive to the iPhone to run WordPerfect.

The iPhone will fade when web developers (*not* app authors) do a better job optimizing their sites for small, mobile devices, and perhaps when an Apple competitor realizes that it's not the app store but the web browsing experience that matters.

wcoenen said...

I don't get the whole "app-store" thing. It seems to me the geek community is wasting time discussing "iPhone vs android" while there is a much better alternative for technophiles.

The Nokia N900 was released back in August. It runs a linux distribution on your phone. You get root access without jailbreaking. You can "apt-get install" any package you want from random debian package repositories. That includes unaltered linux desktop applications and tools like aircrackng.

What more could a geek wish for?

Kevin said...

Note that a large number of iPhone apps are in other languages like Korean, Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, etc. Most of those apps don't exist yet for Android or Palm or Blackberry. Yes, it would't matter to any English speaking consumer, but to a platform developer and to an apps developer, it is very important and is captured by a large number like 100K. (Actually, it's way over 100K, around 130K. One might say what's another 30K, but that is more apps than the Android Market and Palm Catalog put together.)

tobiasly said...

Greg, don't sell Android short, for me it's iPhone that has some catching up to do! I couldn't run Google Voice, Mobile Defense, or Google Navigation on an iPhone because of limitations of their platform and/or policies. And iPhone apps are far less integrated with the OS and each other than on Android, for the same reasons.

I don't care how many thousands of apps iPhone has, they will always be crippled.