App Store is a digital distribution platform, developed and maintained by Apple Inc. , for mobile apps on its iOS operating system. The store allows users to browse and download apps developed with Apple's iOS software development kit . Apps can be downloaded on the iPhone smartphone, the iPod Touch handheld computer, the iPad tablet computer, and to the Apple Watch smartwatch and 4th-generation or newer Apple TV as extensions of iPhone apps.

App Store was opened on July 10, 2008, with an initial 500 applications available. As of January 2017, the store features over 2.2 million apps.

Developers have multiple options for monetizing their applications, ranging from free, free with in-app purchases, and paid. However, App Store has been criticized for a lackluster development environment, prompting the company in June 2016 to announce a "renewed focus and energy" on the store. Major changes introduced in the following months include ads in search results, a new app subscription model, and the ability for developers to respond to customer reviews. Additionally, Apple began a process to remove old apps that do not function as intended or that don't follow current app guidelines, with app research firms noticing significant numbers of app removals from the store. Furthermore, with the release of iOS 11 in September 2017, App Store received a complete design overhaul, bringing a greater focus on editorial content and daily highlights, as well as a design similar in style to several of Apple's built-in iOS apps.

Since its 2008 release, App Store has generated over $70 billion in revenue for developers.

History

The iPhone App Store opened on July 10, 2008. [133] [134] On July 11, the iPhone 3G was released and came pre-loaded with support for App Store. [135] [136]

After the success of Apple's App Store and the launch of similar services by its competitors, the term "app store" has been adopted to refer to any similar service for mobile devices. [137] [138] However, Apple applied for a U.S. trademark on the term "App Store" in 2008, [139] which was tentatively approved in early 2011. [133] In June 2011, U.S. District Judge Phyllis Hamilton , who was presiding over Apple's case against Amazon , said she would "probably" deny Apple's motion to stop Amazon from using the "App Store" name. [133] [133] [133] In July, Apple was denied preliminary injunction against Amazon's Appstore by a federal judge. [133]

The term app has become a popular buzzword ; in January 2011, app was awarded the honor of being 2010's "Word of the Year" by the American Dialect Society . [133] [133] "App" has been used as shorthand for " application " since at least the mid-1990s, [133] and in product names since at least 2006, for example then-named Google Apps . [133]

Apple announced Mac App Store , a similar app distribution platform for its macOS personal computer operating system, in October 2010, [133] [134] with the official launch taking place in January 2011 with the release of its 10.6.6 "Snow Leopard" update. [134] [134]

In February 2013, Apple informed developers that they could begin using appstore.com for links to their apps. [134] [134] [134] In June at its developer conference , Apple announced an upcoming "Kids" section in App Store, a new section featuring apps categorized by age range, and the section was launched alongside the release of iOS 7 in September 2013. [134] [134]

In November 2014, due to pressure from the European Commission , Apple updated App Store so that all apps that have no charge to download are labeled "Get" instead of the previous "Free", due to many "free" apps' inclusions of paid in-app purchases . [134] [134] [158]

In January 2017, reports surfaced that documentation for a new beta for the then-upcoming release of iOS 10.3 detailed that Apple would let developers respond to customer reviews in the App Store, marking a significant change from the previous limitation, which prevented developers from communicating with users. [159] [160] The functionality was officially enabled on March 27, 2017 when iOS 10.3 was released to users. [161] Further details were also released about reviews for users, including that they will be able to rate and review apps in the apps themselves rather than being redirected to the App Store, and that they can mark other users' reviews as "Helpful" or "Not Helpful". [162] Apple published a document describing proper ways to respond for developers, including being timely, clear and concise, prioritize certain forms of reviews (low-star ratings, certain countries or recent reviews) through filtering in iTunes Connect , and that developer responses go through an approval process before being published. [162] Developers are also forbidden from manipulating or incentivizing feedback. [162] Developer responses are listed in the App Store as a line underneath the respective user's review, [162] and users receive a notification/email upon a response from the respective developer, with the option to update their review. [162] [163]

In March 2017, App Store submissions containing pricing details, such as "free", in the name started getting rejected. Developers had previously been advised in developer guides in iTunes Connect and App Store overview pages that they should refrain from the practice, though apps were still approved. Starting in March, some (though not all) apps with "free" in their titles were being rejected. [164] [165]

In April 2017, Apple rolled out search ads to the United Kingdom, Australia, and New Zealand, along with additional features for developers, including ad duplication settings and a new campaign role with additional access controls. [166] [167] The next month, Apple announced changes to its app affiliate program, which lets registered members refer people to apps and in-app content for a percentage of sales. The commission rate for in-app purchases was reduced from 7% to 2.5%. [135] [135]

App Store received a major design overhaul with the release of iOS 11 . The new design features a greater focus on editorial content and daily highlights, and introduces a "cleaner and more consistent and colorful look" similar to several of Apple's built-in iOS apps. [135] [135] [135]

Development and monetization

iOS SDK

The iOS SDK ( Software Development Kit ) allows for the development of mobile apps on iOS.

While originally developing iPhone prior to its unveiling in 2007, Apple's then- CEO Steve Jobs did not intend to let third-party developers build native apps for iOS, instead directing them to make web applications for the Safari web browser . [173] However, backlash from developers prompted the company to reconsider, [173] with Jobs announcing in October 2007 that Apple would have a software development kit available for developers by February 2008. [135] [135] The SDK was released on March 6, 2008. [135] [135]

The SDK is a free download for users of Mac personal computers. [178] It is not available for Microsoft Windows PCs. [178] The SDK contains sets giving developers access to various functions and services of iOS devices, such as hardware and software attributes. [179] It also contains an iPhone simulator to mimic the look and feel of the device on the computer while developing. [179] New versions of the SDK accompany new versions of iOS. [136] [136] In order to test applications, get technical support, and distribute apps through App Store, developers are required to subscribe to the Apple Developer Program. [178]

Combined with Xcode , the iOS SDK helps developers write iOS apps using officially-supported programming languages, including Swift and Objective-C . [136] Other companies have also created tools that allow for the development of native iOS apps using their respective programming languages. [136] [136]

Monetization

Developers have a few options for monetizing their applications. The "Free Model" enables free apps, increasing likelihood of engagement. The "Freemium Model" makes the app download free, but users are offered optional additional features in-app that require payments. The "Subscription Model" enables ongoing monetization through renewable transactions. The "Paid Model" makes the app itself a paid download and offers no additional features. The "Paymium Model" enables paid app downloads and paid in-app content. [136]

In-app subscriptions were originally introduced for magazines, newspapers and music apps in February 2011, giving developers 70% of revenue earned and Apple 30%. Publishers could also sell digital subscriptions through their website, bypassing Apple's fees, but were not allowed to advertise their website alternative through the apps themselves. [136] [136]

In 2016, multiple media outlets reported that apps had decreased significantly in popularity. Recode wrote that "The app boom is over", [137] an editorial in TechCrunch stated that "The air of hopelessness that surrounds the mobile app ecosystem is obvious and demoralizing", [189] and The Verge wrote that "the original App Store model of selling apps for a buck or two looks antiquated". [190] Issues included consumer "boredom", [190] a lack of app discoverability, [189] and, as stated by a report from 2014, a lack of new app downloads among smartphone users. [137]

In an interview with The Verge in June 2016, Phil Schiller , Apple's senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing, said that Apple had a "renewed focus and energy" on the App Store, and announced multiple significant changes, including advertisements in search results and a new app subscription model. The subscription model saw the firmly established 70/30 revenue split between developers and Apple change into a new 85/15 revenue split if a user stays subscribed to the developer's app for a year, and opens the possibility of subscriptions to all apps, not just select categories. [137] [137]

App data and insights analyst company App Annie released a report in October 2016, announcing that China had overtaken the United States as Apple's biggest market in App Store revenue. In the third quarter of 2016, Chinese users spent $1.7 billion vs. approximately $1.5 billion by American users. [137] [137]

In June 2017, Apple announced that App Store had generated over $70 billion in revenue for developers since its 2008 launch. [137] [137]

Number of iOS applications

On July 10, 2008, Apple's then-CEO Steve Jobs told USA Today that App Store contained 500 third-party applications for the iPhone and the iPod Touch, and of these 25 percent were free. Ten million applications were downloaded the first weekend. [198] By September, the number of available apps had increased to 3,000, with over 100 million downloads. [199]

Over the years, the store has surpassed multiple major milestones, including 50,000, [136] 100,000, [133] 250,000, [134] 500,000, [136] 1 million, [133] and 2 million apps. [203] The billionth application was downloaded on April 24, 2009.

Date Available apps Downloads to date
July 11, 2008 500 0
July 14, 2008 800 [198] [204] 10,000,000 [198] [204]
September 9, 2008 3,000 [199] 100,000,000 [199]
January 16, 2009 15,000 500,000,000
March 17, 2009 25,000 [205] 800,000,000 [205]
April 24, 2009 35,000 1,000,000,000
June 8, 2009 50,000 [136] 1,000,000,000+
July 14, 2009 50,000 [136] 1,500,000,000 [138]
September 28, 2009 85,000 [206] [138] 2,000,000,000 [206]
November 4, 2009 100,000 [133] [138] 2,000,000,000+ [206]
January 5, 2010 140,000+ [208] 3,000,000,000+ [138]
February 12, 2010 150,000+ [208] 3,000,000,000+
June 7, 2010 225,000+ 5,000,000,000+
August 28, 2010 250,000+ [134] [139] 5,000,000,000+
September 1, 2010 250,000+ [134] 6,500,000,000 [139]
October 20, 2010 300,000 [139] 7,000,000,000 [139]
January 22, 2011 350,000+ [214] 10,000,000,000+ [214] [139]
July 7, 2011 425,000+ 15,000,000,000+
October 4, 2011 500,000+ [136] [216] 18,000,000,000+ [136] [216]
March 2, 2012 500,000+ [136] 25,000,000,000 [139]
June 11, 2012 650,000+ [218] 30,000,000,000+ [218]
September 12, 2012 700,000+ [133] 30,000,000,000+ [218]
January 7, 2013 775,000+ [219] 40,000,000,000+ [135] [219] [133]
January 28, 2013 800,000+ 40,000,000,000+ [135]
April 24, 2013 800,000+ 45,000,000,000+ [133]
May 16, 2013 850,000+ [133] 50,000,000,000+ [133] [133]
June 10, 2013 900,000+ [220] [221] 50,000,000,000+ [220] [221]
October 22, 2013 1,000,000+ [133] [222] 60,000,000,000+ [133] [222]
June 2, 2014 1,200,000+ [133] 75,000,000,000+ [133]
September 9, 2014 1,300,000+ [133] [133] 75,000,000,000+ [133]
January 8, 2015 1,400,000+ [133] [133] 75,000,000,000+ [133]
June 8, 2015 1,500,000+ [226] 100,000,000,000+ [133] [226] [133]
June 13, 2016 2,000,000+ [203] [228] [229] 130,000,000,000+ [203] [228] [229]
January 5, 2017 2,200,000 [133] [133] 130,000,000,000+ [203] [228] [229]

Number of iPad applications

The iPad was released in April 2010, [133] [133] with approximately 3,000 apps available. [234] By July 2011, 16 months after the release, there were over 100,000 apps available designed specifically for the device. [2]

Date Number of native iPad apps
April 2010 3,000 [234]
January 2011 60,000 [2]
July 2011 100,000 [2] [133] [133]
November 2011 140,000 [133]
January 7, 2013 300,000+ [135]
October 22, 2013 475,000 [133]
February 25, 2015 725,000+ [133]
March 21, 2016 1 million [133]

Most downloaded apps

Apple publishes a list on a yearly basis, giving credit to the apps with the highest number of downloads in the past year. [133] [133]

Application ratings

Apple rates applications worldwide based on their content, and determines the age group for which each is appropriate. According to the iPhone OS 3.0 launch event, the iPhone will allow blocking of objectionable apps in the iPhone's settings. The following are the ratings that Apple has detailed:

Rating Description
4+ Contains no objectionable material. This rating has three sub-classifications:
  • Made for Ages 5 and Under - This app is suitable for children aged 5 and under, but people aged 6 and over can also use this app.
  • Made for Ages 6 to 8 - This app is suitable for children aged 6 to 8, but people aged 9 and over can also use this app.
  • Made for Ages 9 to 11 - This app is suitable for children aged 9 to 11, but people aged 12 and over can also use this app.
9+ May contain mild or infrequent occurrences of cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence, and mild or infrequent mature, suggestive, or horror-themed content which may not be suitable for children under the age of 9. This rating has one sub-classification:
  • Made for Ages 9 to 11 - This app is suitable for children aged 9 to 11, but people aged 12 and over can also use this app.
12+ May contain frequent or intense cartoon, fantasy or realistic violence, mild or infrequent mature or suggestive themes, mild or infrequent bad language, and simulated gambling which may not be suitable for children under the age of 12.
17+ May contain frequent and intense offensive language, excessive cartoon, fantasy, or realistic violence, frequent and intense mature, horror, suggestive themes, sexual content, nudity, alcohol, and drugs, or a combination of any of these factors which are unsuitable for persons under 17 years of age. This includes apps with unrestricted web access. No one aged 16 and under is allowed to purchase an app rated 17+.
No Rating These apps cannot be purchased on the App Store.

App approval process

Applications are subject to approval by Apple, as outlined in the SDK agreement, for basic reliability testing and other analysis. Applications may still be distributed "ad-hoc" if they are rejected, by the author manually submitting a request to Apple to license the application to individual iPhones, although Apple may withdraw the ability for authors to do this at a later date.

As of 2013, Apple employed mostly static analysis for their app review process, which means that dynamic code reassembly techniques could defeat the review process. [133] [133]

In June 2017, Apple updated its App Store review guidelines to specify that app developers will no longer have the ability to use custom prompts for encouraging users to leave reviews for their apps. [133] [133] With the release of iOS 11 in late 2017, Apple will also let developers choose whether to keep current app reviews when updating their apps or to reset. [133] Additionally, another update to App Store policies allows users to optionally "tip" content creators, by voluntarily sending them money. [133] [133]

Controversial apps

In November 2012, Boyfriend Maker , a dating sim game, was removed due to "reports of references to violent sexual acts and paedophilia" deemed inappropriate to Boyfriend Maker's age rating of 4+. [133] A revised version called Boyfriend Plus was approved by Apple in April 2013. [133]

In March 2013, HiddenApps was approved and appeared in App Store. The app provided access to developer diagnostic menus, allowed for stock apps to be hidden, and enabled an opt-out feature for iAds, Apple's developer-driven advertisement system. The app was removed shortly afterwards for violating guidelines. [133] [133]

In April 2013, Apple removed AppGratis , a then-successful app store market that promoted paid apps by offering one for free each day. [133] Apple told All Things Digital that the app violated two of its developer agreement clauses, including "Apps that display Apps other than your own for purchase or promotion in a manner similar to or confusing with the App Store will be rejected" and "Apps cannot use Push Notifications to send advertising, promotions, or direct marketing of any kind". [133] Apple did, however, tell the developers they were "welcome to resubmit" after changing the app, though there was "not much hope that it could survive in anything like its current incarnation". [133]

In November 2014, Apple removed the marijuana social networking app MassRoots , with the reason given that it "encourage[d] excessive consumption of alcohol or illegal substances.” [133] In February 2015, MassRoots was reintroduced into the store after Apple changed its enforcement guidelines to allow cannabis social apps in the 23 states where it is legal. [133]

In September 2015, it was discovered that "hundreds" of apps submitted and approved on App Store were using XcodeGhost , a malicious version of the Xcode development software. The issues prompted Apple to remove infected apps from the store and issue a statement that it was "working with the developers to make sure they’re using the proper version of Xcode". [133] [133] [133] A security firm later published lists of infected apps, including a China-only version of Angry Birds 2 , CamCard, Lifesmart, TinyDeal.com, and WeChat . [133] [133] In the aftermath, Apple stated that it would make Xcode faster to download in certain regions outside the United States, [133] and contacted all developers to ensure they only download the code from the Mac App Store or Apple's website, and provided a code signature for developers to test if they are running a tampered version of Xcode. [133]

In June 2017, a scamming trend was discovered on the store, in which developers make apps built on non-existent services, attach in-app purchase subscriptions to the opening dialogue, then buy App Store search advertising space to get the app into the higher rankings. In one instance, an app by the name of "Mobile protection :Clean & Security VPN" would require payments of $99.99 for a seven-day subscription after a short trial. Apple has not yet responded to the issues. [133] [133]

In addition, Apple has removed software licensed under the GNU General Public License (GPL) from App Store, due to text in Apple's Terms of Service agreement imposing digital rights management and proprietary legal terms incompatible with the terms of the GPL. [133] [133]

Large-scale app removals

On September 1, 2016, Apple announced that starting September 7, it would be removing old apps that do not function as intended or that don't follow current review guidelines. Developers will be warned and given 30 days to update their apps, but apps that crash on startup will be removed immediately. Additionally, app names registered by developers cannot exceed 50 characters, in an attempt to stop developers from inserting long descriptions or irrelevant terms in app names to improve the app's ranking in App Store search results. [133] [133] App intelligence firm Sensor Tower revealed in November 2016 that Apple, as promised from its September announcement of removing old apps, had removed 47,300 apps from App Store in October 2016, a 238 percent increase of its prior number of average monthly app removals. [133] [133]

In June 2017, TechCrunch reported that Apple had turned its app removal focus on apps copying functionality from other, popular apps. An example cited included "if a popular game like Flappy Bird or Red Ball hits the charts, there will be hundreds or thousands of clones within weeks that attempt to capitalize on the initial wave of popularity". The report also noted removals of music apps serving pirated tracks. The publication wrote that, since the initial September app removals began, Apple had removed "multiple hundreds of thousands" of apps. [133] [133]

In July 2017, it was reported that Apple had begun to remove listings in China for apps that circumvent government Internet censorship policies and new laws restricting virtual private network (VPN) services. [133] [133] Apple told The New York Times that the app removals were a result of developers not complying with new laws in China requiring a government license for businesses offering VPNs, and that "These apps remain available in all other markets where they do business". [133] In an earnings call the following month, Cook elaborated on the recent news, explainining that "We would obviously rather not remove the apps, but like we do in other countries, we follow the law wherever we do business". [133] Besides VPN services, a number of voice over internet protocol apps, including Microsoft's Skype , had also been removed from Chinese Apple app store, because the government claimed that these apps violated the local law, according to Apple. [133] [133]