Apple releases new study showing size of the App Store and impact of coronavirus ahead of major WWDC event

·4-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Apple has released new details on the size of the App Store, its growth and how developers are making money, amid scrutiny over the online shop’s policies.

The new report shows that business done through the “App Store ecosystem” added up to $634 billion in 2020, a 24 per cent increase over the previous year.

Much of that increased activity was the result of the pandemic, and growth came from a variety of apps including those that let people chat from home and order food. Others, such as transport apps, did see a marked drop.

It is the second year that Apple has published the report, and the first that details the full impact of lockdowns and other effects of the pandemic on the way people are buying and using apps from its store.

Apple and the authors of the report said that some of those changes are likely to be permanent, such as an increased use of online tools in education, while others may be more temporary, the company said.

“I certainly think that there are a number of topics that are here to stay: video conferencing; virtual meetings; virtual workouts, once you get into them, I don't think that they're going to go away; using apps to support your children's education,” Christopher Moser told The Independent.

The number of jobs supported by that ecosystem has also grown, the report said. It now stands at 330,000 in the UK, up 10 per cent on the previous year,

Apple also pointed to the way the App Store had been used by smaller developers. The number of those small developers has grown by 40 per cent since 2015, it said, and they make up 90 per cent of developers.

The report said that “one in four small developers who sell digital goods and services on the App Store have grown their earnings by an average of at least 25 per cent each year for the past five years”, and that 80 per cent of small developers were using the App Store to show their products in different countries.

The new report – commissioned by Apple and conducted by an external research group – also comes at a time when scrutiny of the App Store is perhaps higher than ever before. Just weeks ago, Apple bosses including chief executive Tim Cook defended its policies in a court case against Epic, and the release comes just days ahead of Apple’s annual developer conference.

In the wake of that trial, some developers have criticised the way that Apple appeared to suggest that developer should be grateful for the opportunities that the platform gives. Overcast developer Marco Arment, for instance, took issues with comments from Tim Cook that appeared to suggest Apple saw itself as creating the money spent through its App Store.

“Apple thinks all commerce on iOS is 100 per cent thanks to them, and we owe them,” he wrote on Twitter during the Epic trial. “Reality is more complicated. It’s a symbiotic ecosystem, most of which was going to happen somewhere regardless of their actions, with both sides providing value to each other.”

Mr Moser said, however, that the company was trying to “build a partnership” with developers on the store, and that they had a number of options for how to distribute their apps. He said that the report showed that users were grateful for the features that come with downloading apps from the service,

“Really, we see our mission to be a safe and trusted environment, a safe and trusted space, where customers trust the App Store with their personal data; do not have any concerns around transactional, transacting, and most importantly drive growth for developers,” he told The Independent. “At the end of the day, they are on the App Store, where they choose to develop the App Store – and they could choose to develop for many other outlets or distribute software – because because they're interested in engaging with the many customers that we together have been able to bring towards the store service.”

Asked why he believed Apple had been able to grow the number of developers on its service so dramatically, it said that it looked to set itself apart by “build[ing] the best and the safest environment for developers and customers”.

“At the end of the day, the mission of the store is for you to find great apps that you're looking for, and secondly, to discover new apps that you might have not come across yet,” he said. “So that I think is is what we spend most of our time on.

“But the fact that it's a trusted and safe environment is key has been key for success and will continue to be key for success in the future.”

The App Store was first revealed on the iPhone 12 years ago. Since then it has grown vastly, with 1.6 billion iOS devices now available around the world and downloads in 175 countries – but that growth has also brought criticism from companies like Epic, who argue that its vast size and power has allowed Apple to impose unfair terms on those developers.

The full report, titled ‘A Global Perspective on the Apple App Store Ecosystem’ and compiled by Analysis Group, is available on the Apple website.

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