Waiting for the Billionth Download

Over the next week, the iTunes App Store is set to record its billionth download, an impressive milestone given that it launched less than a year ago. Granted the actual usage of most apps is spotty. To mark the event, I’m updating a few charts that I produced for previous posts.

Slightly over 35,000 apps have appeared in the U.S. app store. Over 31,000 were available in the last week alone, about 78% of which were PAID apps:


Following a sharp drop after the holiday season (12/21), there has been steady upward trend in new apps. Over the last 4 weeks, about 1,500 new apps launched weekly, 80% of which were PAID:


Measured in terms of number of unique apps Books remains the fastest-growing category: during the week ending 4/12/2009, 11% of the apps in the U.S. store were in the Books category. Books has surpassed the Utilities category and may soon overtake the Entertainment category. Over the past week, Kindle for iPhone was the top app in the Books category.


However, Games remain the largest category and 13 of the Top 20 all-time PAID apps are Games:


The mean price of an app on the TOP PAID APPS list has trended downward, but has settled at around $2.65 over the last month. [The equivalent graph for the MEDIAN price of TOP PAID apps is here: the median price has remained stable at $1.99 since late December.]


Users also rate individual apps with 1-star = the worst, and 5-stars = the best rating. Over the last four weeks, the average rating of the Top 100 Paid Apps was 3.5 stars, with some top-sellers garnering less than 2-star ratings:


In a previous post, I computed trends in the Incubation Period by category:

Individual apps also have release dates, which based on Apple’s recent changes to the app store, represents the date developers upload their apps to iTunes Connect. The period between the release date of an app and the date it first appears in iTunes is when Apple performs a series of undisclosed QA tests. Because it translates to a more favorable position when users sort by release date, most developers prefer this incubation period to be as short as possible.

Here is an updated version of the Incubation Period chart:


The incubation period declined in Nov/Dec (for most categories) but has increased slightly, in many categories, over the last 4 months.

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  • I’d take the average rating with a grain of salt:

    I’ve noticed when I check out the reviews for an app I am thinking of buying, that more than a few users are writing glowing reviews but only giving 1 star. The reason: the default rating (if the user does nothing) when writing a review is 1 star. Users are not taking care of really rating apps properly.

    Also, when users remove an app from their device, a pop-up asks them to review the app. Who knows how many users are just inputting anything just to move on, without paying attention to what they’re doing.

    • Hi PJ,

      Excellent points, thanks for your insights.


  • That’s a good point, PJ. The default behavior should be “no” stars, with some kind of prompt presented to users who do not rate the application before submitting their review. Hopefully Apple will change this.

  • John Thompson

    Where did these charts come from? The labels are impossible to read.

    • Hi John,

      Sorry, I had to conserve space to layout the charts. Try “right-clicking” on an image and choosing “Open Image In New Tab” to get a larger version of the image.

      Hope that helps,

  • Anonymous

    Just curious, here do you get the data? Does apple provide a feed somewhere?

  • This research aligns with comscores – that being Games is the laregest category in ther app store. Tap Tap Revenge had a 32% penetration of install which is mind boggling!

    Will be interesting to see what happens when Apple offer a premium store for more high level games priced at £10 plus…

  • ecarr

    I would be interested to see if anyone has done the analysis on who is actually publishing iPhone apps. I know there are a lot of books out there by publishers biasing the raw # of app numbers. Would be interested in the size of iPhone dev shops. As a complete guess, I would think there are say 12.5-15k dev shops out there. The majority (say ~90%) are 1-5 developers working on a small number of apps. Have ~5% dev shops larger than 5+ developers. And have say ~5% that are working on the enterprise internal iPhone app thing. Sure someone can do a much better data driven breakdown of how the iPhone app community is falling out now and over time. Will more companies drive more of the apps or will it primarily stay a large market of a lot of smaller developers?

    Another cut would look at the top apps and how that breakdown of developer shop size mirrors the overall base. Would expect higher number of companies driving those apps.

    Then if you get really into this, could compare the content creation mix with other web content sites. IE youtube has x% of “professionally” created content for y% traffic. What would the iPhone numbers look like over time?

  • Gino

    Where do you find the raw numbers for iPhone app downloads? I’ve been looking within the AppStore and Googling like a madman, but can’t find this information. Ideas?

  • Viola

    The charts are great. as for me, I adore music (often download it from music search http://www.mp3hounddog.com ) and I felt a little bit sorry that it is in the middle in the charts. But on the other hand it is pleasant to realize that people read so much. It is nice.

  • GREG

    Can anyone tell me where to find out the number of downloads for utility apps. In particular I am looking for data on any battery apps in terms of how many have been downloaded.

  • @PJ Cabrera: That is an interesting observation. I wonder how many app developers would be fatally affected by that.