Closing in on 100,000 Apps, is iPhone All About Quantity or Quality?


The internets are a rocking with posts about the iPhone's App Store unofficially hitting 100,000 apps, but while we wait for official word from Steve Jobs, the blogsphere is also debating the important of the sheer quantity of those apps, and whether that's more important that quality.

It isn't.

Scoble (and others, I think MacBreak Weekly covered this earlier) suggests that the huge number of apps makes for a greater chance each individual user will find that unique assortment that best fills their needs. In other words, while everyone has the same iPhone, they don't all have the same apps, and those apps essentially create a personalize experience -- a different iPhone -- for each user.

What's more, those must-have apps, and the money, effort, and time spent in acquiring, setting up, and becoming proficient in them, creates a cost that prohibits users switching to another platform. To go from iPhone to Android, in Scoble's example, means you lose Tweetie, Tap Tap Revenge,, NASDAQ, etc. (Never mind if you've bought Navigon or other, high-priced content).

John Gruber, for his part, asks if the App Store is popular because the iPhone is great, or is the iPhone great because the App Store is popular.

The number of apps already in the store — and, even more so, the momentum with which new ones are being added — almost certainly guarantees the continuing popularity of the iPhone and iPod Touch for the next few years. But Windows is proof that popularity doesn’t guarantee market-leading quality.

But the iPhone isn't Windows. Neither popularity levels not quantity of software can be used to balance that particular equation.

Unlike the iPhone, Windows has never been a poster-child for great user experience (Windows 7 may alter that, but it's just going to market now). Fact of the matter is, the iPhone debuted in 2007 without an App Store at all, and sold for the entire first year (until the launch of the iPhone 3G and iPhone OS 2.0) without an App Store. It sold on the strength of its user experience.

It's that focus on usability that makes the iPhone great, and that in turn makes many of the apps great. Just like with the Mac, Apple has built in core technologies and development tools to handle a lot of the heavy lifting. So, while it still takes the very best developers to make the very best apps, even fair-to-middling developers can make apps that are surprisingly usable.

Those great apps, combined with a large quantity of usable if not inspired apps, is what makes the iPhone so compelling. The App Store itself is proof. Where Palm, Windows Mobile, Nokia, and RIM have had apps -- many thousands of them -- as well, it took Apple to create a single place, with a single home screen icon, to find and acquire them all. If it was just quantity, Apple would have had a hard time catching up to them.

Have something to say about this story? Leave a comment! Need help with something else? Ask in our forums!

Rene Ritchie

EiC of iMore, EP of Mobile Nations, Apple analyst, co-host of Debug, Iterate, Vector, Review, and MacBreak Weekly podcasts. Cook, grappler, photon wrangler. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.

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Reader comments

Closing in on 100,000 Apps, is iPhone All About Quantity or Quality?


The ratio I think shows it's quantity but there are a lot of good apps and games but it's just hard to find them if they are not featured.

Agreed with JIM,, its all about quantity and 90% of the apps are crap. Dont get me wrong there are a few good ones actually alot of good ones.

If the number of apps keeps increasing at this current rate, Apple will need to revamp or overhaul the search function. At this point, it's pretty hard to find any useful or interesting apps (outside of the top 50 lists).

@Rajiv, couldn't agree more. The whole AppStore needs to be revamped. It's impossible to find anything except for using the Top 25 and Top Grossing. Too much junk to filter through when searching for something.

I think the iPhone sells because it's simply Apple. Or more was marketed to the normal consumer as an iPod with a phone.
That name is known throughout as the single most distinguishable name in the tech world. When the ROKR came out...everyone was on it because it had iPod capabilities. Even though the Walkman series of phones were the obvious superior phone, everyone's eyes were on the ROKR because it had Apple's support and the iPod name.
That's the same with the iPhone.
As far as the apps, that's what 80% of iPhone users I know tout as the selling force now. That the app store has X amount of apps. Not what kind of apps...not the usability, not even the looks. Just that we have all these apps.
And now it's at the point have an iPhone, you're "cool". It's what I call the Sidekick effect. When the Sidekick came out, everyone hopped on it because it was popular (and the $30 plan didn't hurt either).
(Disclaimer: This is my experiences. Not to be taken as fact. Thank you)

I don't even bother searching the app store any more. I get recommendations from trusted web sites, like this one, and then I go look them up in the store.

I think Apple proved they're all about quantity and not quality. They want to reach a critical mass to make it clear to developers that "Apple is the shit" (excuse my French).
Apple is also all about throwing big numbers in your face. THey like that. It's part of their marketing.

Haha, nice censorship of the word "s**t" in my previous comment. I think I need such a plugin for my blog too.

Anyone that spends a few weeks looking at Pinch Analytic's Recently Approved Applications RSS feed can only come away with an understanding that it is ALL about quantity over quality. The crapware flood is absolutely unreal.

Definitely quantity.
I haven't browsed the App Store in probably a year or more. I find out about apps on TiPb, Macworld, and other sites. Once in awhile I click the App Store icon just to check for updates.. but other than that, I don't bother with it. I've bought something like ten or twelve apps total, and have some free ones.
The Apple apps remain, by far, my most used, and I hope Apple develops many more native apps while discontinuing redundant third party apps.

Agree most apps out there are poorly made and you can't get your money back. There are several really good apps but they are very hard to discover.

Lately it’s definitely been Quantity over Quality and the competition has been watching!!!!

They have 1,000 F-art apps alone. Definitely Quantity. There are some apps I downloaded that are ABSOLUTE garbage... Probably 75,000 of them.

I agree the app store need to be redesigned. For example for for each categoty should include the top rated/downloaded and added by date.
The i-phone is great (in my case) because of it input/output interface. Most of the phones arent great because of the dificulty to enter information like contacts/email/text messages. The iphone has the ability to adapt your keyboard to your preference 100%(landscape/simbols). The multi touch technology is incomparable, zoom, rotate, dual virtual sticks are a great example to the potential the iphone have in adapting your needs and make it the fastest way available in a phone to obtain. I fall in love with the first iphone since i saw the touch screen and once it got apps... WOW.
You dont want the iphone because of so many aps, you want it because of what those, many aps DO.
Of course there is othe types of people who wold just buy a pink/ small/ or funny phone just because of looks but they dont hesistate the iphone because it also have a beautifull atractive desig.
Even with all its pros, the iphone lacks of liberty of usage since it blocks away a lot of actions/programs that can show the real potential it could show( well until u hear too much about them and jailbreak)

There are almost zero apps available on other platforms that are not available on the iPhone. On the other hand, the iPhone has tons of apps that others don't.
The numbers don't matter. The fact that I can do anything with my iPhone does.

The stand alone iPhone (fresh from the box) is really not competitive anymore with Android 1.5 or 2.0.
Without the app store, the iPhone's popularity would dropping.
Its the App store. Its ALL the App store.
It is SOOOO MUCH the App store, that someone is sure to develop a wrapper for iPhone apps that lets you run them on Android. Like Boot Camp or Cross Over Mac.
(And when this happens, it will ignite a firestorm of fanboy whining, because this practice of platform emulation is only allowed when it benefits Apple, not the other way around.)

Apple is on the brink of becoming Microsoft. The selling point of buying a PC over a mac years ago was the large amount of software available and which is what Apps are. Now every iPhone ad is about apps. Is that many apps necessary?

It is true that many of the apps are worthless. Even if 99% of the apps are garbage, that leaves 1000 apps that could be potentially very useful. If you're not into fart apps, don't download them. The point of having so many apps is that they appeal to an extremely broad audience. Variety is the spice of life!

Quanity definately quanity... Search App Store for battery and see how many pages of battery apps exist. If you look at the images they all look the same and they are all $0.99. Are there good Apps? Of course, but finding them is a full time job. There needs to be a more advanced search engine. Price: low to high. Ratings: high to low and keywords...All at the same time to narrow the 85,000 to a handful. Perhaps Google should make one for iTunes and App store?

Wow, I see there are still voice recorder apps, note apps, landscape keyboard apps, SMS apps, and camera apps in the App Store.
So, anyone can still sell any app as long as they include some off-the-wall option that nobody needs. Someone makes an note app that allows you to change the text color and it's accepted and tossed in the mix.
What a mess.

Too many useless bad apps.
Too many non-detailed app descriptions.
Lousy app store search features.
Too much wasted money looking for the needle in the haystack.
With that said, I still LOVE my 3gs! though irked at it right now as the camera/photo app is not showing saved photos! (a common problem I hear).
So I wish someone would create a Fix-It app for that!!

The stand alone iPhone (fresh from the box) is really not competitive anymore with Android 1.5 or 2.0.

Well that's a pretty useless comparison since it DOES come with the app store. And are you saying that a stock iPhone is less functional than a stock Android phone? You're full of shit.
Also, cross platform emulation is pretty heavily frowned upon by other companies as well. Remember Styletap on Windows Mobile? Palm's lawyers went knocking VERY quickly.

thanks dude, for discussing a nice topic..i think everything is related with everything else...and itz popularity depends on all it's features.. U know...i feel kool n clam wheneva i c those iPhones... those are elegant
and well as decent in look... i hv decided to have it for me from

Definately quantity over quality. I don't blame Apple for the crApps but I am upset that they restrict some killer Apps.
I really think the App store needs to have better search functionality. I would love to be able to refine App searches by star rating, price range, number of downloads etc.
It's too hard to browse and find new quality Apps, it's a bit of catch 22 that Apps get to the top 50 and stay there simply because they get the publicity of being in the top 50.
The App store has been improved, but not yet enough in my opinion.

I agree with Bosco, p.e. you might not use one app fom the app stroe, but the simple fact that you can is what lets you wonder what great app will they come up with next.
@icebike if an emulator hits, thre users still should buy the apps from itunes, so really only the geeks will do that. Cause with pc software you go ta a website and you buy it, but with iphone os apps its either app store or itunes (legally) so, for users to ge get the .app/ipa and stuff its just going to be too mich of a hassle for it to hurt the iPhone that much

It's all about the numbers baby!!!! It seems like Apple is starting to use that number as a badge of honor. It is no longer how great the phone is, now it's "there's an app for that". Well, you know what that is telling me?? That your phone, out of the box, is pretty lame. And you NEED all those apps to make it work. It's a thin line between "look what you can do" and "look what the phone DOESN'T do"......also, maybe they need to start a "shelf life" system on apps. It seems like once you are in, you are there forever. Maybe they need to be some type of review from time to time, and if the app is no longer selling, it gets pulled. Of course, it would hurt that nice, big number.

Let's see: Google Voice? Nope.
Google Navigation? Nope.
Multitasking? Nope.
Best screen resolution for movies? Nope.
Drag and drop content additions? Microsoft Offfice Apps? Widgets? Choice of music-playing software? Adobe Flash?
Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope. Nope.
Buh Bye, iPhone. Hello Droid!

Google Voice web app or Jailbreak app. TomTom or Navigon. Push. Movies that can be purchased or rented from iTunes on the fly. Drag and drop office docs and content through QuickOffice. Widgets are just low class apps, which are surpassed by quicker apps with native code. Flash content on the way.
Check, chek, check, check, check. The iPhone isn't perfect, but your reasons are as stupid as Verizon's. Go away. You'll continue envying the iPhone's ecosystem for the next two years.
I really should stop posting here. Too many know-nothing children talking about stupid specs.

Def. The number of apps is the focus but with all those apps there are also plenty of very good, usfull, & fun apps. I do like the genius feature(needs ALOT of work) but is shows they are trying to come up with new ways to search through the sea of ifarts. Also I dot care for fart noises but I'm sure from how many there are others(prob. Kids) like 'em. So buy the 1s that work/fit into your needs and ignore the crap. I just can't beleave how many people whine about the app store having tons of bad apps. I like the many options of the same apps so to find the one that fits my needs.
Ps. Thanx Bosco for explaining to the hater above that there are many resons that so many iPhones have been sold world wide. But with that said I do like the progress androind is bringing to the mobile platform. Very exciting time for gadget lover right now. 

Quantity. That is why I have yet to even fill three of my pages. Most of it is garbage from developers who thought they could make a quick fortune selling any old junk.