Assessing App Stores

In the mobile industry, access to an “app store” has become the hallmark of any modern smartphone; however I’ve never understood how one can assess the quality of one app store over another by sheer volume. Apple’s App Store has well over 100,000 apps (with over two billion downloads), yet many of them are redundant (after all, how many flashlight applications do you need?) or unused all together. Google’s Android App Store has reached the 10,000 app milestone, yet it’s also beginning to show the redundancy highlighted by Apple’s store. And need I elaborate on app stores from BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, or Nokia?

Sure, it’s great to have the variety and allow developers to innovate, but how can companies like AT&T use the fact that the iPhone has access to 100,000+ apps as a legitimate selling point? When push comes to shove, it’s more about how an end user can actually utilize those applications – the main reason why I’m with Verizon (superior 3G network compared to AT&T) and have a Motorola Droid (multi-tasking, open-source, and highly integrated apps). Plus, the iPhone’s SDK has been around much longer than Android’s… explains the discrepancy in the volume of apps.

I’m not saying any of the app stores out there are bad. They all have their pros/cons for end users and developers. I just can’t comprehend how the media thinks that volume alone equates to superiority.

On another note, I wrote this at almost 2 AM because I was playing around on the Android Market. 😀

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  1. FutureBaylor says

    Well, the fact is that there *are* more apps for the iPhone than for the Android – I hardly think that there are on average 10 almost identical applications for a specified task, which would suggest only 10,000 unique functions covered in the iPhone. For almost every fancy, you can find an iPhone application – and if it doesn’t exist now, it’s sure to exist soon.

    The value of the phone, and the app store, increases with that increasing diversity of applications, for both developers and users – these are indirect network effects. The more iPhone owners, the more likely developers will create something because they have a larger base of customers. The more applications, the more iPhone customers there will be.

    Sure, you’ll get crap a lot of times because of this – the Nintendo Wii is a perfect example that has dozens of redundant, terribly-designed games. But, it gives end-users a choice. I may not like, for whatever arbitrary reason, XYZ flashlight program, but I like WXY flashlight program.

    For developers, it generates an atmosphere of competition. A small developer may turn out to be extremely talented and create a better-coded version of an existing program.

    Can this be true of the Android? Sure, but not to the extent as it is true of the iPhone, so I think having 100,000 apps is indeed a selling point.

    My 2 cents. Nice website. Hope to meet you this summer!

    1. Rishi says

      But if we’re going to talk about having options from a development end, an open source operating system like Android is in a league of its own. Sure, Apple’s SDK has an incredibly robust API framework, but it’s still a closed and heavily regulated (for better or worse) way of coding. As I said in the post, I really think it’s purely the “head start” iPhone OS had on Android that explains the discrepancy, but you do make great points.

      Have you already been accepted to Baylor?! That’s great! 🙂 Looking forward to meeting you too. Thanks for the comment.