10,000 iPhone Apps – How Many Are Good?

By Josh Catone
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The App Store for Apple’s iPhone and iPod Touch devices that launched in July today has over 10,000 applications. Any way you look at it, the App Store has been a resounding success for Apple. The company was doing a million dollars per day in sales over the first thirty days — about a third of which it kept — and some analysts have predicted that the App Store will be a billion dollar business for Apple by next year. Indeed, Google, RIM, and Microsoft have each emulated Apple’s distribution method with their own application download stores for mobile and desktop platforms.

The willingness of users to pay for applications released on the App Store has made the iPhone an attractive development platform for programmers. We wrote in August that many developers are now making a living selling applications, especially if they can keep their costs of living down. The Inside iPhone blog reported last week that full-time contract developers are making $5,000 per week writing applications for the iPhone — that’s a quarter million dollars per year.

But how many of those iPhone applications are worth your time? With so many vying for attention, how does one sort out the fluff from the worthwhile apps?

The comparison with the Facebook platform is unavoidable. Though there are clearly many differences (iPhone developers can charge for apps, for example, and iPhone users, since they paid for the phone and monthly service, are likely more willing on the whole to pay for apps), there are also similarities, so the comparison is warranted. Even though the iPhone’s platform has just about a fifth of the total number of applications on the Facebook platform, now up over 48,000 apps, we started to see reports of application fatigue on Facebook last January when the platform had just 15,000 apps.

As more and more developers flock to these platforms to try to make a quick buck, the noise level inevitably rises. We’re seeing it on Facebook, where the number of apps continues to grow steadily, but user engagement has leveled off. Will the same thing happen on the iPhone?

We actually may already be seeing the beginnings of that. About a third of the applications on the iPhone platform are in the Games or Entertainment categories, according to 148Apps.com. On Facebook, those categories are generally code for “fluff” apps. The iPhone is now being marketed as a game platform, so the Games category likely doesn’t mean poorly made apps as often as it does on Facebook, but coupled with the fact that most apps sit below the $1.99 price point it seems plausible that noise on the iPhone platform is on the rise.

Compete recently surveyed smartphone users and found that 93% of users have added an application from the App Store, with 45% having added more than 11 apps. It will be interesting to see how that number changes. Hopefully Compete will do follow up surveys to see how many of those apps people are still using 3 or 6 months from now.

Because the App Store’s Top 100 List — which drives a huge number of sales on the platform — is based on number of apps sold per day, the price of successful applications has been consistently driven lower since Apple launched the store in July. That might be having a negative effect on quality as developers may now be more inclined to spread their development time over a number of cheaper apps, rather than spending more time developing a more expensive (and more well-made and useful) application that is less likely to sell well.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Do you find the noise levels in the App Store too high? Is it easy to sort out the good apps from the bad or is he iPhone App Store heading the way of Facebook’s platform? Let us know in the comments, and be sure to check out our list of 5 must have productivity apps for the iPhone.

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  • dylanjones

    What a timely post, I just got an iPhone and already spent more than I should have on apps! You’re right about the noise level rising, I have spent a least an hour searching all of the productivity and business apps and only 3 were worth buying (although I bought more than that)

    I am really interested in the apps, I think I might try and make something. It just takes a good novel idea, not a text editor or a to-do list. Although with the right spin, a to-do list could do well.

  • are you guys always reposting from TechCrunch, wtf is this?

  • @aspidov: TechCrunch wasn’t the source for this story for me. I did notice that Arrington wrote about it, but he wasn’t the source. I think this post goes a bit more in depth than theirs.

    I don’t ever “repost” from TechCrunch. I’ll cite them if they have good information, and I’ll write about the same thing if it is either big news that deserves reporting, or I have something to add to the conversation, but I never “repost.” That’s a pretty harsh accusation to hurl at a blogger.

  • Chris

    Nice article again Josh, well written.

    Love keeping up to date with everything web related =}

  • anonymous coward

    No i think aspidov is right… josh is a day late and a dollar short.

    Other then the comment about the iphone having a rise noise on the platform this is just like the tech crunch artical. mabey josh did not think anyone on sitepoint reads tech crunch.

  • @ChrisBultman

    Yes, there are a lot of useless apps. I find myself downloading and deleting apps in the same day. Since people are trying to make a buck, it’s impossible to change this pattern. We can only hope that the search and user rating tools get more sophisticated to provide good app results.

  • @Anonymous Coward: The TechCrunch article (here) doesn’t talk about app fatigue, or about how much iPhone developers are making. In fact, it is really just a link to the 148apps.com page and a rehashing of a few of their stats (and not the ones that I quoted since my article was about something different than Arrington’s strict announcement post).

    I’m sorry you feel that I didn’t add anything to the discussion, but I have to reject your premise.

    (Oh, and the publishing dates between the TC article and this one is actually only a few hours — the server time for SitePoint is about a half day or more ahead of the server time for TechCrunch.)

  • I’m sorry, but if you can’t see that article is completely different than the one at TC, then you have the reading comprehension skills of a dyslexic chimpanzee.

  • I’ll stand behind this author’s claim of ownership.

    Nice post Josh. Perfect reading for one about to snag an iPhone. Methinks the other ‘folk’ are simply trying to garner back-door traffice to the TC site.

    greetings from Dayton, Ohio, where it’s presently Sunday, 2:30 pm

    (the above timestamp to thwart anyone’s notion I was stealing from a future comment)

  • orokusaki

    The App Store will continue to thrive for a long time to come. The developers will take a huge hit though after the onslaught of new developers joins the scene, and the supply/demand changes sides. That being said, the apps will only continue to get better as Apple finds new ways to insure that the ratings on an app are legitimate, and apps that are no good are not making money. It’s just a matter of time before there are hundreds of excellent crash-proof apps.

  • 10KiPA

    A visual collage of 10,000 iPhone Applications — check it out