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Can We Stop Counting Apps Now Please?



Jeez. I’m calling for a moratorium on The Great App Counting Race. It has become a meaningless statistic. If fact it has been meaningless for a long time. The other day we picked up a tid-bit saying Apple has passed 300,000 Apps in the App Store. Great. I’m thrilled. Makes me feel so much better as an iPhone user. Actually it does nothing for me and probably doesn’t mean anything for you either unless you’re an Apple fan boy/girl looking to defend your fandom with meaningless numbers.

We, and others, kinda got called on this by CNN Fortune as they point out that some Apps in that count are no longer active, making the count about 10,000 less than 300,000. But then they backtrack in an update to that post by reporting that when you include Apps that are in the overseas stores not available to the US the number is actually closer to 350,000.

Well, whoopie. I’m not calling for a moratorium because of this discrepancy. But let’s face it, the total number of Apps means nothing whether its Apple, Google, or any other App Store that we’re going to see. What matters, if any of it matters, is what Apps are available for what platform and the quality of those Apps. Of course that’s a subjective measurement and consequently tough to make news about or with. Face it, with a few exceptions the accepted “biggies” are there on most platforms and except for the Google Apple battle that keeps some of Google’s Apps of of the iOS platform you can pretty much find what you want to accomplish what you need on both platforms. The same will eventually be true with Windows Phone 7 and others.

When I was doing theatre in Chicago in the 80’s and 90’s new theatres seemed to pop up overnight. The anecdotal maxim was that if you saw three actors and a pitcher of beer in a bar you were witnessing the birth of a new theatre company. Chicago’s theatre community in the 80’s and 90’s was really proud of the ever growing number of theatres. I think at one point it got to over 250 or so, but I can’t remember accurately. With all of that quantity there was always a dividing line that made the overall number meaningless. That line was simple. There was a small percentage of really excellent work being done. There was a larger percentage of really awful work being done. In the middle was the largest percentage, where a lot of average and mediocre work was being done. The really good always stands out. The really bad does as well, but that’s never as damaging as the really large mediocre middle which dumbs down the excellent and erases the stigma of the really awful.

While it is fantastic that Apps are being created at what seems like the speed of light on many platforms, the reality is there is only a small percentage that really matters and the large percentage are mediocre at best. I mean how many Twitter clients do you really need? And do we really need to count Apps that are just repackaged public domain books, or multiple different versions of the same thing? Search for Shakespeare on the Apple App Store if you want to see what I mean.

So, let’s just stop pretending like this is a horse race that matters, shall we?



  1. Anonymous

    11/05/2010 at 1:15 pm

    Word. Volume of apps matters up to a certain point, but after you hit, I’d say, 50,000, then the law of diminishing returns kicks in.

    Or to put it another way, the age of people is measured first by months, then years, then milestone birthdays, then decades. As you tack on more time, the measured intervals get longer. Same with app volume. 10,000 is a celebration. 50,000 is a party. Get excited about hitting 100,000. The quarter million mark is noteworthy. Don’t bother with another announcement until 500,000.

  2. Justus Wingert

    11/05/2010 at 3:03 pm

    Yah, well. As a N900 Maemo user the app-count at my disposal is dwarfed by the numbers android or iphone boast. But as of yet I have not missed a single application and found numerous applications that neither android nor iphone sport, because of limitations of the operating system. It’s one thing to talk about the number of apps, but what about the diversity? From an app that gives me live F1 timings to an app that boosts the FM-Transmitter or an app for tethering. Everything you need is there. But it’s true, the N900 doesn’t have a fart-app and there likely is only one app for sending GSM Codes and displaying the result on your homescreen not 20.


  3. Utbiomedicaleng

    11/05/2010 at 4:08 pm

    You can never have to many farting apps or tower defense games.

  4. Roberto

    11/05/2010 at 6:15 pm

    Haha. Great article. I have been wishing this for a long time. It must have to do with Americans weird fetish that somehow because something sells alot or has alot of apps for instance, it’s better. I mean McDonald’s sell more hamburgers than any one but I am sure most would agree it’s not the best tasting burger that’s for sure. Hahaha

    • Anonymous

      11/06/2010 at 2:03 pm

      I like the McDonald’s analogy. I think it is very appropriate.

  5. Kupe

    11/05/2010 at 8:28 pm

    The only important metric is App Sales. That provides a real pulse to whomever is hosting the App Store as well as to the developer community in general as they decide which platforms to concentrate on.

  6. GTaylor

    11/05/2010 at 10:10 pm

    “How do I sell thee, let me count the apps.”
    This subject reminds me of that most practical of all units of measurement, the Goebbels, which was defined by that notable pundit A. Hitler, as the amount of nonsense that one can speak in an hour.
    The total app count is only exceeded by the amount of articles, posts, ads, and comments which refer to the Steve Jobs Product Club For Nerds with out saying anything original, or saying things that are actually generic to all products in the category.
    I wish we all would develop enough sense to refrain from clicking on links that seem to lead down that trail. It is time to derail the marketing train by taking our pennies off the track.

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