Apple Offers Another Fleeting Glimpse At The App Store's All-Time Leaders

Yesterday Apple announced that it was closing in on its whopping 1 Billionth application download from the App Store, which now features over 25,000 apps built by thousands of developers. In honor of the milestone, Apple has also posted an updated version of the store’s most popular apps ever (iTunes link) – something they’ve done only once before, at the end of 2008. The list includes such popular mainstays as Facebook, Koi Pond, and Shazam, allowing the millions of new iPhone owners to discover favorites of months gone by. It’s a shame this list will probably be shortlived.

This isn’t an accident. One attribute that has helped the App Store reach its upcoming billion download milestone so quickly is the fact that its featured App Lists are constantly churning – even the most popular applications probably won’t be on the top lists a few weeks down the line. This ensures that users who pop into the store will always have some new, quality apps to try out, boosting downloads and giving new applications a chance to shine.

But it can also be frustrating for new iPhone owners, who visit the store unsure of what they should download. This isn’t to say they’ll leave empty handed – there’s always a variety of great apps being showcased on the App Store. But the classics that everyone else already has, like Tap Tap Revenge, Ocarina, and Shazam often aren’t featured on the App Store’s homescreen any more, so new users might miss out on them. Apple has made progress since I wrote about this issue last August, now allowing users to browse through apps by category, each of which features its own top lists. But the need for a more readily available all-time leaderboard still remains.

To give an idea of how popular these applications have been, ComScore recently reported that 32% of all iPhones and iPod Touches have a version of Tap Tap Revenge installed, making it the platform’s most popular game ever with around 6.5 million installs of TTR and 3 million installs of its sequel. But a new user wouldn’t know it from the App Store’s homepage – they’d have to drill down to the Games section, where TTR2 is currently ranked as the 7th most popular free game. iBowl, a Wii-like bowling game, is on 25% of all iPhones according to the same ComScore report, and isn’t featured on the Games section at all.

There have been many other tweaks suggested for the still-nascent App Store, including a section for higher-priced premium apps and a new method for calculating popularity that measures how much money an app has gained, not just the number of times it has been downloaded (the current system tends to strongly favor cheaper apps). Apple has done an incredible job building this platform and masterminding its massive popularity. Now it just needs to give users a better way to find the cream of the crop, not just the latest fad.