The iTunes App Store and One-hit Wonders

Thousands of sellers created the 40,000 apps that have appeared in the U.S. iTunes app store. Measured in terms of apps per seller, developer and vendor engagement has gotten stronger over time:


The above average (mean) is somewhat misleading: 52% of sellers have produced just one app, and 80% have released 3 or fewer. Certain types of apps (e.g. electronic books) are easier to create, thus inflating the overall average app per seller. The disparity in complexity across categories is captured in the chart below. Aside from Books, Travel and Education apps also tend to be easy to develop and launch. (Note: Some apps are listed in more than one category.) The number of apps per seller also depends on whether one is interested in Paid or Free apps.


Using terminology from the music industry, refer to apps that have appeared on the TOP PAID APPS list as Hits, and the sellers who produced them as Hitmakers. While an impressive 6.3% of all sellers (or 1 in 16) are Hitmakers, an astonishing 80% of Hitmakers are “one-hit wonders“. Once an app does make the list, it can be on it over multiple (possibly non-consecutive) days. On average, a Hit appears in the TOP PAID APPS LIST on 13 different days.

More details are available in the slides below, including a list of the top-sellers (overall and in the Games category), and the age of apps in the three largest categories.

[If you’re interested in becoming an iPhone app developer, consider attending this 2-day O’Reilly workshop.]

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