600,000 apps in Apple's App Store, yet I can't find anything I want

600,000 apps in Apple's App Store, yet I can't find anything I want

Summary: Here are a few a sobering thoughts for any developers reading this. More is not always better, and the chances are, I'll never find your app in the online store.

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TOPICS: Apps, Apple
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Microsoft has some 70,000 apps in its Windows Phone Marketplace. This pales in comparison to Google's 400,000 apps in the Google Play or Apple's 600,000 in the App Store.

But are numbers important? And, is there a downside to having too many apps on offer?

There's no doubt that for any platform to be successful today it needs to offer its users a good selection of apps. The platform comes first, while the 'apps later' approach doesn't work. And in order to be able to do this, that platform needs a good base of developers to imagine and then build these apps.

We're also at the stage where people now demand certain apps to access specific services while on the move. Facebook and Twitter are two of the best examples. Not having an app for that, especially if it's available for other devices, might not kill a platform, but it can certainly be irritating to users. For example, Windows Phone doesn't offer apps for either Instagram or Pandora, while iOS and Android both do.

So, you need a critical mass of apps, and you need a set of core apps that people expect to be present. But beyond that, do the number of apps in a particular app store matter?

I don't think so. In fact, I feel that once your app count is in to big numbers, numbers become nothing more than a tool for marketing to wield, rather than being something that benefits the user.

Take Apple's 600,000 apps. That's a lot of apps, and it's impossible for someone to look at them all. If you looked at an app a second, it would take you almost seven days to look at them all - but I don't recommend you try it.

Having the ability to search gives the impression of making my life easier, but I have to admit that unless I happen to know the name of the app I'm looking for, I don't hold out much hope of finding the app. Finding the Facebook app or Instagram app or Angry Birds app is easy, but if I'm looking for something off the beaten track, things aren't as simple.

Just browsing around the app store is even worse. Here's a sobering thought for any developers reading this. Unless your app is in the top 25 list for a particular category, or I come across mention of it online or by word of mouth, chances are probably higher of me winning this week's lottery than there are of me finding your app.

And to be brutally honest, those top 25 lists are fast becoming useless. They're mostly populated by apps that I already have -- like Angry Birds, Facebook, Skype, and so on -- or apps that I never download, like Draw Something.

Will I trawl endlessly through app listings in search of something new and exciting? No.

The truth is Apple's App Store is already too big for me. Unless I know the app I'm looking for, or it is popular enough to float to the top in the listings, it may as well not exist. Apple's App Store may have 600,000 apps -- and bear in mind that some of those are going to be non-English apps that don't apply to me -- but as far as I'm concerned it consists of a few hundred apps that I'm likely to be exposed to, and nothing more.

Google's Android Market is the same. In fact, despite having fewer apps it feels messier, like walking into an old junk shop with everything piled on top of one another. "Curation" is a word that Google should look up on Google. The 'staff picks' do offer some variety, but not much.

Bottom line: It feels like Apple and Google have allowed their respective app distribution outlets to grow out of control. When you're hovering around the half a million app mark, it's hard to see what you can do to make it easier for people to find apps.

Better search would help, but not much. User ratings are useless because people's feedback always seems to be all over the place, and most often than not has little to do with the app itself and more to do with the price of the app.

This gives Microsoft an advantage. With only 70,000 apps, its app store is currently at a manageable level. It's early enough for the company to put some thought into how it plans to handle future growth before things get out of control.

More is not always better.

Image credit: Apple/ZDNet.

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Topics: Apps, Apple

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38 comments
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  • More is better under most circumstances.

    Your bottom-line conclusion doesn't make sense. More choices are better for consumers even if it does put developers at a disadvantage. That's what competition is for, to weed out the good from the bad. The only meaningful way to "add value" in limiting choices is to make value judgements, and filter out useless or low-quality items in favor of better ones. And none of the ecosystems operators really do that.

    And better search would be a BIG benefit. Being able to search on all aspects of an app including the text description and returning a ranked search list would encourage app makers to include better details of their products, and help consumers find EXACTLY what they are looking for without spending hours in often fruitless browsing.

    Apple made the conscious choice to "keep things simple" in iTunes and the App Store when it was first designed, but "simple" and "lots of choices" don't always go together. it's time for them to take some lessons from Amazon and Google and learn how to add features for power users. Since they have a large base of customers who now have years of experience with iTunes, they need to start thinking of the future.
    terry flores
    • Agree... More is better...

      More means that likelihood of that niche apps that only you and a few others want will be there.. the core apps are or should be a given.. yet android and even more so windows phone doesn't have all of those, but it's the niche apps that set the app store aside from the other stores...
      theFunkDoctorSpoc
    • It's like a Library

      With all the books on the floor.

      I look in the store(s) for:
      1. Missing functionality that I want not on the phone
      1a - all three seem to have that
      2. Games and other "time wasters"
      2a - Android and Apple have that, MS not so much....
      3. Apps to replace basic phone functionality with better functionality
      3a - Android is the only one that seems to have that

      Either way, trying to find what you want or find what you might want is becoming crazily undoable (is that a word?) ..... I feel like I am walking into the worlds biggest library looking for the new books in the heaps and mess on the floor.
      rhonin
    • App spam is not "more"

      Part of the problem is that they are all engaged in an arms race with each other over how many apps they have. iFart apps get all the credit, but most of the "apps" go something like this:

      Make real estate listing search app. Set it to only list things in Boulder Junction Wisconsin. Name it Boulder Junction Real Estate!

      Keep changing the settings and the title. Now you have Chicago Real Estate! Dallas Real Estate. Buford Real Estate! London Real Estate! And so on. One real "app" has now ballooned into hundreds.

      And they encourage this behavior because it boosts their app counts. Once you remove absolute junk and app spam the real list is about 1/100th the advertised size. And that's only if you include iFart apps in the "useful" category.
      SlithyTove
  • It is a chaos

    You hit the nail on the head here, the app stores have become almost useless after the initial downloading of must-have-applications like skype, dropbox, and so on. After a while I will typically only download stuff mentioned online or by others. Variety is good, but there should be lists of editor selections per category in a broad range of categories. Another issue is that iphones and androids soon gets filled up by installed apps that have very specific funtions, so instead of searching for an app on the mobile, one goes to the browser and use the mobile enabled web site instead. That is, the user interface on iOS and Android is not optimized for a lot of apps.
    Jonkaare
  • Apple's weakness is not necessarily Micrososft's strength

    Microsoft has the opportunity not to make Apple's mistake and populate their app store with 50 different fart apps. 600,000 is not really about choice. 600,000 vs. 70,000 does not mean that you have 530,000 more choices on the Apple platform because it's just a number.

    The challenge for Microsoft is to meaningfully arrange the 70,000 apps that they do have and curtail the introduction of low quality apps.

    A way to browse an app store and be given good, solid quality choices would be better on a platform with 1,000 apps versus a hodge-podge mess of junk, even if there were a million choices.
    Your Non Advocate
    • Funny that you mention that...

      After looking for weeks at the W8 App Store, I have yet to find anything that's even worth the time to download. But I am looking ofr apps that let me create or capture ideas. Unfortunately, these app stores are full of crap that exist just to waste your time or are apps that I have had on my ancient Palm Pilot (Tungsten T5 with WiFi) for years.

      I did download one app that is common to both the OS X and W8 platforms, Sketchbook Express by AutoDesk. It's actually useful on my MBP - but after waiting several minutes to get it started in W8 Metro and trying to use it, I gave up as it was so unresponsive that it was impossible to sketch even simple scribbles. While I know W8 is still essentially a Beta release, it does not give me any reason to buy the RTM Beta version anytime in the next year or so.
      Splork
      • They are not

        They are not populating the W8 store with apps. There only a few therefor people to play around with. It's only a beta for Christ sake.
        Blogsworth
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  • 600,000 apps in Apple's App Store, yet I can't find anything I want

    This problem has been highlighted many times. Just too many apps that are the same, 599,990 tip calculators and the other 10 might be useful apps. There is no money to be made in developing iOS apps, its saturated.
    Loverock Davidson-
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  • Instagram and the Like

    Because there are so many apps in the App store, people wait until they hear about an app before they download it. When an App takes off, it really takes off. The problem is that very few apps ever really take off.

    Apps can be broken into two categories: Apps to support a product/company and Apps that are the product. Banking apps, airline apps, fantasy sports apps, etc all fall into the support category. Other apps, like games, fart apps, calculators, etc are the product.

    In my opinion, Microsoft needs to focus on the apps that support other products. Stand alone apps tend to lead to junk apps that have no substance beyond the download. Words by Post isn't Words with Friends, but it's pretty darn close. Plus, Microsoft's X-Box live games assures downloaders of high quality games. The game might suck but at least it will be made well.
    retnep
    • Support apps...

      Honestly, do you really want to have a hook to all of your banking and financial accounts or travel itineraries on any mobile device. Hasn't anyone read about the Facebook apps that leak your data?

      My bank makes me jump through many hoops any time I try to access my account using a browser if the TCP address is different (more specifically the LAN segment octets) with multiple challenge questions (who can ever remember exactly what name/answer you used and whether it was capitalized or not).

      How can you expect the connection to be secure over any public WiFi or 3G/4G connection with no idea what firewalls or packet monitors are in place? How can you be sure that a trojan was not delivered by a free app or that even the support app supplied by the company is secure?

      I guess my paranoia stems from over 30 years of experience regarding broken trusts and security threats. Thanx but no thanx.
      Splork
  • Not a problem for me...

    Your experience is strange. When I read about a cool new app, I can find and download it in less than three minutes.

    I've also found cool apps just by browsing. Indeed, the hardest part when browsing is choosing which app is best amongst a host of contenders for any particular app category. When I get into this fix, I just search the web for reviews...
    pjs_boston