The End of App Store Milestones

Why the App Store reaching 1M apps should be the last app milestone that we celebrate. Soon the notion of "zombie" apps will seem as absurd as "zombie" songs.

July 12, 2013
Jonathan Libov

Of the three statements below, which one seems real and newsworthy?

  1. 98.27% of the 550,000 movies that have ever been made weren't watched this year
  2. 99.81% of the 623M songs that have ever been written haven't been listened to recently
  3. 65.31% of 888K apps that have ever been published on the App Store are hardly downloaded now

Hopefully you identified #3 as the statistic which did not seem absurd. And while I made up the numbers for movies and music, you'd hopefully agree that even the real figures were real, they wouldn't be interesting. They're obvious.

In the wake of the App Store's 5th birthday, Adeven reported that around 579,000 of the roughly 900,000 apps currently available in the App Store hardly get any downloads, labeling them "zombie apps". While this report piqued my interest, it also made me realize that this kind of information won't be interesting much longer. "Zombie" songs and "zombie" films (no, not that kind) aren't interesting to think about because they're so obvious, and soon "zombie" apps will be the same.

Likewise with the old "There's an app for that" catchphrase. That phrase seems antiquated not because there's obviously an app for that now. There's an app for everything.

Ditto for the upcoming "1M apps in the App Store" milestone. It's a big market. Let's stop counting how big it is.

Apps as mainstream media

Apps are mainstream entertainment media now; they're no longer new-fangled curiosities. The list of mainstream Entertainment & Media looks something like this:

  • Music
  • Film
  • TV
  • Radio
  • Magazines & Newspapers
  • Books
  • Video games
  • Apps

What's more, many of the items on this list are already either app-like or borrow significantly from "apps".

  • Much of the revenue from films comes from DVD's which are much more app-like than video cassettes of yore. They have menus and features beyond the movie itself.
  • Movies & TV are increasingly turning to app tie-ins for additional revenue.
  • Movies, like apps, is increasingly a "hit"-driven business, where the upper-echelon of product accounts for the vast majority of revenue across the industry
  • Jay-Z's just released his last album as an app exclusive to the Samsung Galaxy
  • Video games are "apps" which run on OS's dedicated to these types of apps. But we'll probably see a lot of convergence between XBox/Windows and iOS games/Apple TV in the near future
  • Magazines & Newspapers are increasingly converting themselves to "news apps" in order to survive the death of Print
  • Spotify, Rdio, and iRadio may eat FM radio, while podcasts could eat AM radio


Let's try another thought experiment. If true, which one of the following would most surprise you?

  1. The billboard you pass everyday on your way to work currently advertises a new Will Smith movie
  2. That billboard currently features a new Jay-Z album
  3. That billboard currently features a new app made by Facebook

This time it's the app-related scenario which stands out as ridiculous. But how long will it be until this happens? Facebook has comparable revenues to some major movie studios and music publishers. Roughly the same number of Americans who went to the movies in 2012 now have a Facebook account (each is about 2/3 of all Americans). And if 80% of the US market will have smartphones by October 2014, app publishers like Facebook could be reasonably sure that billboard advertisements won't be wasted on non-consumers. Even your currently-disconnected Aunt Bertie will be an app user by then, especially if her favorite TV show starts advertising for their own app.

So while I'm as excited as anyone about the "1M apps in the App Store" milestone, I'm looking forward to celebrating the end of these celebrations. Just "being in the Store" isn't all that meaningful now, as getting traction can be as difficult for an indie app developer as it is an indie musician or filmmaker. App makers will increasingly need the kind of marketing skill and firepower that indie artists turn to studios for.

App makers are part of the mainstream media now; if you're an app maker, you can quite literally make of that what you will.