Apple kills App Store number growth, focuses on fairness and app quality

Posted:
in iPhone edited January 2014
Apple has expanded its efforts to curtail the unchecked expansion of shovelware and scamware in the iOS App Store, focusing on keeping the store's library attractive rather than simply aiming to maintain the biggest store in terms of raw numbers.



In app purchase scams



The company's latest effort at curation has banned the practice of "incentivized app installs," a gimmick used by some game makers to induce players to install specific other apps in order to continue playing. The practice is similar to "offer walls" promoted by free web games that ask players to participate in offers (such as buying a product or signing up for a trial service subscription) in order to obtain in-game currency required to continue game play.



Apple has banned the practice to prevent companies from artificially distorting the popularity of apps that are only being downloaded because of the incentives. Clause 3.10 of the iOS developer license forbids developers from making any "attempt to manipulate or cheat the user reviews or chart ranking in the App Store with fake or paid reviews, or any other inappropriate methods.?



The practice stems from an unanticipated use of Apple's own In App purchases feature, which was added to allow developers a way to monetize the development of their apps by allowing them to add additional features that can be unlocked by users, or to promote other apps in their catalog to the app's audience.



With incentivized installs, one developer pays another an install fee (usually through a middleman pay-per-install network) to induce its users to download other apps. This is used to rapidly promote a new title into iTunes' App Store rankings, a coveted position that results in exceptional visibility and exponentially higher sales.



In App purchases have also resulted in an issue involving children racking up hundreds of dollars in fees after being given an iOS app to play that contained the ability to buy in game currency or other objects. Apple provides Parental Controls to limit App Store purchasing (including in app sales), and also added new password protections in response to complaints.



Analysts worry Apple will lose download metrics



Apple's termination of the growing business behind inducing downloads of other apps has caused analysts at Xyologic to warn that "it may make Apple?s platform possibly less attractive vis-a-vis Google Android if developers can?t find a suitable alternative to offer walls."



The group issued a whitepaper (PDF) that outlines the various numbers behind the "free-to-play" games business, noting that according to its figures, 80.8 percent of all iPhone downloads in the month of March were free, and that "free-to-play games attract a wider audience than those that require an upfront payment."



The report states that "incentivized installs had become the most efficient way to get users to download apps," noting that of the 8,017 iPhone apps using in app purchases, 2,156 were games, and that that figure represented 10.8 percent of all free iPhone games in the US. That number of free games leveraging in app purchasing has rapidly increased since Apple debuted the the feature last fall.



The group also noted that, while "apps with in-app purchases still constitute a tiny minority within the App Store, they take a disproportionate share of the downloads." Thus, while only representing just over 10 percent of all free games in the App Store, those using in app purchases represented 39.9 percent of all free games downloaded.



Additionally, the group says 94 of the top 150 free games (63 percent by volume) are games using in app purchases, and that group contributes 42.17 percent of the downloads.



"The 39.9 million downloads of free iPhone games in the US may slow until further notice as many of the incentivized install marketing campaigns have now stopped," the report notes. "The revenue growth of games using in-app purchases may slow for now. This change may help to further swing momentum in Android Market?s favor. The Xyologic database already indicates 28,963 new apps debuted in Android Market while 18,787 made it into Apple?s App Store last month."



Android Market volume of free apps already larger



While Apple initially advertised downloads and library size milestones for the App Store to note how fast it was growing and how far it was ahead of competing app markets, the company has already begun talking about other competitive metrics, particularly the billions of dollars it has paid out to developers.



Google's competing Android Market has a much greater proportion of free apps, in large part because Google has strongly incentivized ad-supported apps, causing developers to refer to ad-supported free apps as the "Google Way."



But despite the fact that Android Market now lists more free titles than Apple does for the iPhone (when excluding iPad), top developers with apps on both platforms have regularly noted, as did "Angry Birds" maker Rovio, that "Apple will be the number one platform for a long time from a developer perspective, they have gotten so many things right. And they know what they are doing and they call the shots."



Actual performance figures of mobile software stores demonstrate that the revenues earned by developers are not necessarily tied to the overall quantity of the devices running a platform (the installed base or market share), nor the raw number of downloads or library size.



In February, IHS reported app market revenues that indicated Apple's vast 17x revenue lead over Android Market (despite Android devices being nearly as widely deployed, and Android Market having nearly as many free apps in its library).



The figures also noted that RIM's BlackBerry App World was beating both Nokia's Ovi and Android Market, despite similarly having a much smaller installed base and share of the smartphone market, and far fewer apps in its library. RIM currently has fewer than 20,000 apps in its store, while Nokia boasts nearly 26,000 and Android has a listing of more than 150,000.







Google's lack of curation (any Android Market apps can be listed after paying a fee, with no review process) has resulted in a large volume of titles, but has not brought with it a functional market that pays developers enough to generate quality apps, nor does it support a high quality listing of fresh and novel apps.



Instead, many mobile developers avoid Android entirely, including Epic Games, which said it focuses on Apple's iOS because "it's really the best place to make money."



Additionally, Android Market customers have complained that even Android apps from the same vendor often look and feel inferior and are missing features. One blogger has posted examples of major apps representing apps from Meebo IM, Facebook and Speedtest and LinkedIn (shown below) to demonstrate that even developers that support both platforms (and offer free apps) don't do so equally.



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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 56
    magicjmagicj Posts: 406member
    Speaking as both a developer and a customer, I'm very happy to see Apple do this. The quality of the App Store is its #1 feature in my book.
  • Reply 2 of 56
    pxtpxt Posts: 683member
    Well overdue for a company that wants to trade on quality.



    I gave up browsing the apps store long ago due to the rubbish that's on there.



    I buy the occasional recommended app.
  • Reply 3 of 56
    mdriftmeyermdriftmeyer Posts: 7,264member
    I agree with both prior posters observations.



    The store has been mocked and ridiculed for two years about fart apps and so few purported ``quality apps'' [never mind it's false, but it created a lot of FUD along the way] and this will force devs to step up their game.
  • Reply 4 of 56
    radjinradjin Posts: 165member
    Quote:

    Android Market customers have complained that even Android apps from the same vendor often look and feel inferior and are missing features. One blogger has posted examples of major apps representing apps from Meebo IM, Facebook and Speedtest and LinkedIn (shown below) to demonstrate that even developers that support both platforms (and offer free apps) don't do so equally.



    Because Android does not provide us developers a tenth the revenue, or protect us from the Chinese black market that takes your app and adds a Trojan to it. Why put out good effort for so little return. Hell, you can't even figure which market to place your app or have people find it.
  • Reply 5 of 56
    Glad they are looking at this stuff. It's getting increasingly annoying to browse through the free section, when you realize a good chunk of the stuff actually has hidden purchases. Most of the time I wont even check out a free app if I know they will be pushing extra content to buy inside of it. Sometimes it's fine, but sometimes it feels really manipulative and shouldn't be in the free listings at all.
  • Reply 6 of 56
    apple ][apple ][ Posts: 8,657member
    I usually stay away from any free games that have in-app purchasing where you can buy more points or better weapons etc. If I like something, I prefer to buy the whole product upfront, I'm not the least bit interested in annoying and intrusive built in scams and money grabs that come with certain games.



    I also have zero sympathy for any parents whose kids rake up huge credit card bills because of in-app purchases. Kids are a parent's responsibility and if somebody is stupid enough to give their kid access to their account and they don't have any control over what their kids do, then they get what they deserve. I remember reading about this one idiot parent whose kid bought a $999 app. Maybe those retards should put their kids on leashes or something.
  • Reply 7 of 56
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    I hate what in app purchases has done to my relationship. My girlfriend gives me basic play for free but charges for extras.
  • Reply 8 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by magicj View Post


    Speaking as both a developer and a customer, I'm very happy to see Apple do this. The quality of the App Store is its #1 feature in my book.



    Let the dirtbags do their business in the 'open' Android market. Buh-bye.
  • Reply 9 of 56
    Apple saw the research which shows that the Android Market will soon have more apps than the iTunes store. Their marketing strategy is currently based on claiming that they have more applications, and since they're losing that battle they want to switch to claiming that iOS applications are higher quality.
  • Reply 10 of 56
    rp2011rp2011 Posts: 159member
    Agree with everyone. This is long overdue. Let Android have all of this they want. It was starting to become something like searching for anything on Google lately, mostly futile for anything but spam, malware and porn.
  • Reply 11 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by solipsism View Post


    I hate what in app purchases has done to my relationship. My girlfriend gives me basic play for free but charges for extras.



    Maybe you should have gone for the full version. That way everything comes unlocked. Maybe you can upgrade now that you've tried her for a while?
  • Reply 12 of 56
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Meurglys View Post


    Apple saw the research which shows that the Android Market will soon have more apps than the iTunes store. Their marketing strategy is currently based on claiming that they have more applications, and since they're losing that battle they want to switch to claiming that iOS applications are higher quality.



    Darn. I wasn't expecting anyone except those two to claim this.
  • Reply 13 of 56
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,293member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Meurglys View Post


    Apple saw the research which shows that the Android Market will soon have more apps than the iTunes store. Their marketing strategy is currently based on claiming that they have more applications, and since they're losing that battle they want to switch to claiming that iOS applications are higher quality.



    Apple has had these laws since the start but made them more severe months ago. As for Android, I have 100 Android sucks apps out there. They all just say Android Sucks in different fonts. That's pushing up the numbers.
  • Reply 14 of 56
    Who cares about download metrics and the amount of free apps? Free apps are fine if they are quality apps but a crappy app still is a crappy app when it's available for free.



    As an app consumer I think Apple should go even further and delete 90% of the Apps in the App store. There would still be more apps left than I will ever need. What do Apple users care about market share or the amount of available apps. The small market share and the rather limited amount of apps has been a good thing for the Mac. Mac is all about quality over quantity.





    I received my iPad2 a few days ago and I am on a app hunt but not a lot of apps are so useful that I will download them for free or buy them. So no I'm not downloading as much as I can eat, i'm looking for gems and come to the sad conclusion that most of the gems are apps I already have for the iPhone. So there is not much to buy at all.



    Don't get me wrong there are a lot of good apps. I've got about 500 apps and from those apps I have 100 installed on the iPad. All useful apps. But it would be cool if I could find 100 apps more but they just aren't there or I can't find them in that pile of about 60.000 apps for the iPad
  • Reply 15 of 56
    solipsismsolipsism Posts: 25,726member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Meurglys View Post


    Apple saw the research which shows that the Android Market will soon have more apps than the iTunes store. Their marketing strategy is currently based on claiming that they have more applications, and since they're losing that battle they want to switch to claiming that iOS applications are higher quality.



    Computer says no.
    1) Android platform barely has half the apps that iPhone platform has. They more free apps when you only include free iOS apps that run on the iPhone.



    2) Apple has always focused on the quality of the OS and SDK, to wit the capability for developers to make quality apps. They started off with zero 3rd-apps in a market that I was repeatedly told was saturated so without coming to market with a proper SDK they would have suffered the same fate as WebOS which was a decent OS on decent HW with a developer platform that made people run away rather than run to.
  • Reply 16 of 56
    It'll be a cold day in hell before I use Apple's 'App Store' to purchase anything...
  • Reply 17 of 56
    galaxytabgalaxytab Posts: 122member
    So what's changed since this?







    I bet we haven't seen the end of Apple playing the numbers game.
  • Reply 18 of 56
    magicjmagicj Posts: 406member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Bobo Decosta View Post


    But it would be cool if I could find 100 apps more but they just aren't there or I can't find them in that pile of about 60.000 apps for the iPad



    Would be nice if Apple improved the search features of the App Store I agree.



    Also separating Apps into languages would be nice. I don't need to even see the thousands and thousands of apps in Japanese when I'm searching for something.
  • Reply 19 of 56
    bdkennedy1bdkennedy1 Posts: 1,459member
    It's about time. I'm sick of having to swim though pages of Chinese sh**.
  • Reply 20 of 56
    asdasdasdasd Posts: 5,293member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by GalaxyTab View Post


    So what's changed since this?







    I bet we haven't seen the end of Apple playing the numbers game.



    There are now 101 apps for Android 3.0?
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