For the first time, the Google Play store surpassed Apple’s online store in number of apps. Google ended 2014 with more than 1.43 million apps compared with Apple’s 1.21 million. Amazon may have been the runt of the litter, but its Appstore saw growth of about 90 percent last year, bringing its total number of apps to around 293,000.
One of Apple’s main draws for the iPhone and iPad has always been the wide array of iOS apps, so Google surpassing the company’s total app numbers is a bit of a blow to its bragging rights. However, Apple may have been its own worst enemy, says Ariel Michaeli, co-founder of appFigures.com.
“Apple’s strict [app] review process is paying off for Google,” Mr. Michaeli says in an interview with the Monitor. “Apple rejects a lot of apps ... and it is either becoming too difficult for developers [to create iOS apps] or Google is just becoming more lucrative.... It is [easier] to submit apps to the Play store [compared to] how strict Apple is, often to the point of frustrating their developers with the vague rules that give Apple the ability to reject or pull apps without notice.”
Of course, this pickiness may indicate that Apple cares more about quality apps than the quantity of apps. But both online stores have more quality apps than a regular user could ever hope to use.
For the third year in a row, Google beat out Apple for the number of new developers debuting in its store. Google's store added about 388,000 new developers, which is more than Apple (282,000) and Amazon (48,000) combined.
One chart in appFigures' report shows the iOS App Store and the Amazon Appstore tied at 160 percent growth for the number of new developers last year, while Google hovered around 175 percent growth.
Another reason for Apple’s lag in developer growth, Michaeli says, can be attributed to its complicated app development software. While iOS 7 and iOS 8 helped simplify the process, he believes Apple’s most recent update will be its chance to win back some developers. He says Apple is "banking" on its newest software, Swift.
“Apple came out with Swift, which is supposed to be easier than [the programming language] Java and anything else on the market,” says Michaeli. “Swift is not an evolution of Apple's current technology but rather a new language created from scratch that's based on newer coding standards and is not only simpler to use but also easier to learn.”
The selection of apps in the Google and Apple online stores suggests to Michaeli that the two companies are going after two distinctly different markets. ITunes seems to be attempting to become the go-to marketplace for business apps. Last year, the fastest growing app categories for Apple developers were Business, Food & Drink, Lifestyle, and Social Networking. "Apple has been working really hard for several years to be more secure for business, and it's now paying off (given the growth in that category)," Michaeli says in an e-mail.
While Apple has been chasing this sector, Michaeli says that it has a lot of trust to build before it can get a hold on the market. Before Apple can become the next Blackberry, they must work through several privacy and security issues. The celebrity nude photo scandal of last year was embarrassing, but a leak of corporate data on that scale could cost companies millions.
Google Play, on the other hand, is going after the market that its name implies. The top growing app categories were games, photography, and music.