Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) now offers 100,000 apps for the iPad, according to MacStories. The iPhone has four times that many, but the iPad has only been on the market for a year. The one hundred thousand number is immensely impressive, but iPad owners probably only download a small fraction of those. That means the numbers are useless as a measure of how Apple’s apps business has progressed.
Early in the year Localytics, released a survey that found that “26 percent of mobile apps are used only once, before being uninstalled or just left unused on owner’s devices.”
A review of the most popular apps at the Apple App Store shows that most of the top products are games like Angry Birds, the wildly successful time hog. A small number of other games from Rovio and Electronic Arts (NASDAQ: ERTS) dominate the rest of the “most popular” list. It could be debated, but most people probably do not have more than a few dozen game apps on their iPhones or iPads. There is only so much time in a day.
The apps with more utility are likely to be dominated by a very few as well. Facebook is on the list of the Top 25 free apps. So is radio software sensation Pandora. Skype is also on the list. So is Twitter. Calendars, alarms and classified ad applications dominate the “productivity” apps. Airline and major ticket sites are the most popular among travel apps. ESPN and major league sports portals dominate the top 25 sports apps. CNN, Fox, MSNBC, Yahoo!, USA Today and The New York Times have the top news positions. None of this data should surprise anyone. People who use apps want the ones created by the companies most associated with their categories. People do not want or need the app for Sweden’s biggest new service or the MySpace social network app.
The competition between Apple and Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) app stores is based on raw numbers, at least so far as the companies say. Those numbers are really no barometer at all. The iPad may well have 100,000 apps. But it is very likely that no more than a few thousand are used with any regularity, and they are the same ones downloaded for Android.
Douglas A. McIntyre