I’m currently engaged in some background research on Australian app developers, and I figured I need to look into how the Apple
app store App Store actually works (Apple has previously attempted to claim ownership over the term ‘App Store’). As a digital distribution platform, the App Store is entirely closed (as opposed to the Android App Store which is nominally ‘open’) allowing Apple to tightly control the service and take a 30 per cent share in each app sold (subscriptions services sold directly from a website for an app can now avoid this cut).
The App Store business model has been phenomenally successful. Developers have to pay US$99 per year to gain access to the development software, which are then submitted to Apple for approval. More than 500,000 apps have been approved, with 14,000,000,000+ downloads generating an estimated $3.6 billion (an unverified but impressive figure).
David Smith has a excellent timeline of the development of the iPhone, App store and iOS (Apples operating system for mobile devices) here, and he covers many of the current concerns with Apple’s approach, particularly the way Apple can refuse applications and incorporate those features into its own iOS updates (Apple employs an NDA to restrict information about the terms of rejection from the store).
One of the major issues for developers is the arbitrary approval process for Apps, and the way that Apple
can ban apps from the store and then appropriate (steal) those innovations within new versions of the iOS (see also this blog on those apps to be affected by the new iOS5 update). Apple has its share of defenders and the ‘jailbreaking’ option provides a way for user to escape the confines of the Apple oligopoly, but jailbreaking is not as attractive an option as it was before Apple launched the software development kit (SDK) for developers allowing innovation to make it way into the app store.
Being ‘featured’ in the App Store is highly advantageous to developers as it increases sales of their apps, and can happen in a number of ways. The ‘New & Noteworthy’ section seems only nominal different to the Staff Favourite section, and both, I presume, are arbitrarily decided on by a bunch of Apple boffins. I quite like the idea of the Staff Favourites section, I imagine various compulsory polls and surveys that Apple employees have to take each week to decide which apps will be featured, or perhaps some sort of in-built surveillance that tallies the aggregate use of apps by Apple staff just for this section.
The ‘Genius’ featured page is even more obscure, it seems to offer a list of recommendations based purely on apps that I have installed rather than the ones I actually use on a regular basis. The Top Chart feature page seems very straight forward, and has the added bonus of helping those apps doing well, do better, in terms of sale. I’ve jut noticed the new ‘purchased’ tab, which I swear wasn’t there yesterday, that has a listed of all the apps I’ve previously installed (not just the ones I have paid for but the free apps as well).
Still no real insight into the process on becoming featured, other than simply gaining some kind of attention of those in charge of the App Store at apple, via sales or positive reviews, so more digging needs to happen there.