iPhone App Store Dominated by Third-Party Apps, Apple-Commissioned Study Shows

Apple announced an interesting study on its App Store. Commissioned from economic researchers, the study shows third-party apps dominate the iPhone App Store rather than Apple’s own published apps.

Apple Did Not Explicitly State Purpose of Its iPhone App Store Study

The Analysis Group conducted the research on “The Success of Third-Party Apps on the App Store.”  By commissioning external researchers to carry out the study, Apple wished to present factual information about the growth of the iPhone App Store. The company has often received criticism that it prioritizes its own software over third-party apps.

The study examined how the options for developers and content creators to reach customers has changed over time. It also looked into the growth of the App Store and the role that third-party apps played during its growth.

Notable Highlights of the Study

The full report is almost 50 pages long but generally, it shows the success of third-party apps in the iPhone App Store. The online marketplace currently hosts around 1.8 million apps; only 60 of those are Apple’s own titles.

Apple published some notable highlights when it announced the study.

  • Third-party apps are the only options for consumers for entire types of apps, including social networking, dating services, travel planning, and food and drink.
  • Leaders in app types often vary across countries, with many regional leaders outperforming their globally competitive counterparts.
  • Third-party apps are the most popular amongst iPhone users in most regions for major app types, including music streaming, TV and movie streaming, reading, communication, and mapping apps.
  • Across many app types, Apple’s own titles account for a relatively small share of downloads among iPhone users. This is the case even though some Apple apps are preinstalled to enable the core functionality of the device.
  • Users often use multiple apps within a single category of the iPhone App Store, especially apps for communicating, reading the news, watching videos, or navigating — underscoring how easily users can switch between apps and the breadth of opportunity for developers.

Supporting Developers Through Tools and Technologies to Create Innovative Apps

Apple also pointed out that it has been providing developers with a number of tools and core technologies to create innovative apps. These include more than 250,000 application programming interfaces and and more than 40 Apple software development kits. These help developers, regardless of size, offer best-in-class apps to their consumers. Apple also assisted developers to distribute these apps to the global market.

Some Apple Disclaimers About the iPhone App Store Study

According to Apple, the study used data from Data AI (App Annie). During the study, researchers examined various metrics such as active users, time spent in apps, and the total number of downloads. Apple did not explicitly say it would submit the findings to regulators. However, the full report, together with all its unbiased findings, is available for public consumption. Anybody, including lawmakers and regulators, can look into it and decide how to make use of the factual information.

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Lee Dronick

“Across many app types, Apple’s own titles account for a relatively small share of downloads among iPhone users. This is the case even though some Apple apps are preinstalled to enable the core functionality of the device.”

How many Apple apps available in the store do not come preinstalled on the iPhone?

Jeff Butts

There used to be several that weren’t preinstalled, but it looks like that’s changed. Books, for example, used to require a separate download, but now it’s preinstalled. I think the point here, though, is that preinstalled apps aren’t used as much as third-party alternatives. The study was able to track app usage as well as downloads.

Lee Dronick

I do use a number of preinstalled Apple apps other than Music, Podcasts, Photos. Let’s say apps such as Numbers and to a lesser extent Pages. Notes I use a lot, I get a wellness check by my Doctor and she goes to do the memory check. I whip out my iPhone and open Notes. She says “We need to check your memory.” ‘One thing that I can remember is that my memory isn’t what it used to be, that is why I jot things down.’ Otherwise Apple doesn’t preinstall things that I use quite a bit such as my… Read more »

Jeff Butts

There’s growing discontent and proposed regulations against Apple “favoring” its own apps over third-party ones, especially in App Store search results. Think Apple Books vs.Kobo, Pages vs. Microsoft Word, Calendar vs. Fantastical, Contacts vs. Cardhopper.

It’s a fairly ridiculous argument, IMO, because folks are obviously downloading many of these third-party apps and using them to the exclusion of Apple’s own software more often than not.