Nearly Impossible to Get into Top Tier of App Business

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For all the hundreds of millions of apps and the billions of downloads from the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) App Store and Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Play, the same apps dominate the top of the lists over and over. Breaking into the app business on a mammoth scale is nearly impossible, unless a company already has an extraordinary presence.

The Distimo “Top Global Apps — August 2013” report lists the top paid and free apps from each of the major stores. Free apps get many more downloads than paid ones, not surprisingly.

Ironically, two of the top five free downloads at the Apple App Store are Google Maps and YouTube, which shows that the market continues to believe Google’s map product is the best in the world. YouTube has more users that almost all other major video sites combined. Google is unlikely to give up either of these positions.

Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB) and Facebook Messenger are among the top five downloaded apps at Google Play. This status speaks to the popularity of the social network and the size of its billion-plus growing membership.

But free games continue to hold a disproportionate piece of both paid and free apps, and a tiny number of game publishers are particularly powerful., Pop Candy and Play Loft have much of the top of this market.’s “Candy Crush Sage” is among the top five most downloaded apps on both the Apple and Google lists. Also on the list, “Despicable Me” has its own movie and a multi-title franchise. Also there, “Plants vs. Zombies” is four years old and also has plenty of versions and sequels.

Several very well-known apps are not on either top five list, but each must get millions of downloads a month. Twitter, weather apps, Pandora Media Inc. (NYSE: P), eBay Inc. (NASDAQ: EBAY), Gmail, Pinterest, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN), Skype and Groupon Inc. (NASDAQ: GRPN) already rule across the PC, tablet and smartphone “ecosystems.” None of these is likely to lose popularity, and some probably will gain more.

There are anecdotes about three people in a garage who build an app and made millions. If they exist, it must be in very small numbers.