One of the more interesting metrics to regularly emerge from Apple’s annual Worldwide Developers Conference is the one illustrating the growth of its app ecosystem. Today, the company revealed the latest figures, announcing a total of 50 billion total downloads from the Apple App Store, up from the 30 billion to date it announced last June, and still just ahead of Google Play’s recently touted 48 billion. There are now 900,000 iOS applications available for download for iPhone, iPad and iPod touch, with 375,000 designed specifically for iPad.
In June 2012, Apple said there were then 650,000 iOS applications, 225,000 built for iPad. And that was up from 425,000 iOS apps in 2011, when just 90,000 were iPad-ready. Apple also announced today there are 575 million paid customer accounts on iTunes, from people who can buy those apps.
Again the company made the point today that the app ecosystem is a financial boon to its developer community, too, saying that it has now paid out over $10 billion to third-party app developers. Apple paid developers $5 billion in 2012, $2.5 billion in 2011 and $1.5 billion in 2010 (to date), to give you an idea of the growth in years past.
Apple is still credited as being the leader when it comes to app developers’ abilities to monetize their creations. App analytics firm App Annie found that Apple mobile app developers earned around 2.6 times more revenue than Android developers in the first quarter of this year, for example. Competitor Distimo confirmed similar trends, including also Google Play’s steady growth on this front. And in the U.S. market in particular, that report found Apple’s lead was strong — among the top 200 grossing apps in both stores, Google Play applications brought in $1.1 million in daily revenue, compared with $5.1 million in the Apple App Store in April 2013.
That being said, the growth of the Apple app ecosystem has been a double-edged sword for many developers. Though the opportunity is there, it’s increasingly becoming a winner takes all market, where only 2 percent of the top iPhone publishers in the U.S. are newcomers, for example. It would be interesting to see how much of that $10 billion is going to those at the top of the charts, these days.
To the long tail of app developers, the announcement of app store growth and revenues to be gained may sound like a missed or out-of-reach opportunity. With app growth now reaching a more stable point, and Google Play’s speeding up, some of those developers may have already decided to ply their wares elsewhere.