10 years of the App Store: How much is the app economy worth now?

10 Jul 2018

App Store icon. Image: BigTunaOnline/Shutterstock

The Apple App Store only offered 500 apps when it launched in 2008, but it has since grown into a multibillion-dollar industry.

The ubiquity of apps in 2018 is something we all take for granted, but it wasn’t always like this. 10 years ago today (10 July), Apple first unveiled the App Store in Cupertino, California.

At the time, Steve Jobs said: “We’re excited about creating a vibrant third-party developer community with potentially thousands of native applications for iPhone and iPod touch.”

The “thousands of applications” turned out to be a very conservative estimate from Jobs as the App Store today boasts more than 2bn apps. Developers and publishers have made billions creating applications for the App Store.

Multibillion-dollar industry

According to Statista, iOS developers have earned a fortune since the debut of the online marketplace a decade ago. The growth of revenue for the developers has also skyrocketed in the last handful of years – in 2014, revenue hit a little more than $20bn. Just four years later, the June 2018 figures hit the €100bn milestone.

A chart from Statista detailing growing revenue on the App Store

Click to enlarge. Graph: Statista

AR next step for the App Store

Augmented reality (AR) is the next big step for Apple in terms of the evolution of app development. It released its AR development kit in 2017 and there are already more than 3,000 AR apps on the App Store, such as Pokémon Go.

Apple democratised app development in a major way with the introduction of the App Store – before it arrived, the software industry was dominated by a handful of companies. Now, even a single developer can create and deliver an app to millions of users.

The App Store also made a massive change to the e-commerce industry when in-app purchases were introduced in 2009. By June 2010, $1bn was paid out to developers from in-app spending and paid apps.

Health benefits

Healthcare and accessibility have also reaped the benefits. Dr Francoise A Marvel, a preventative cardiology specialist at Johns Hopkins Hospital, said: “Our mobile health research relies on the App Store to deliver lifesaving and life-changing apps to our patients.”

According to App Annie, here are the 10 most popular App Store apps of all time:

  1. Facebook
  2. Facebook Messenger
  3. YouTube
  4. Instagram
  5. WhatsApp Messenger
  6. Google Maps
  7. Snapchat
  8. Skype
  9. WeChat
  10. QQ

The most popular apps of all time in terms of consumer spend are:

  1. Netflix
  2. Spotify
  3. Pandora Radio
  4. Tencent Video
  5. Tinder
  6. Line
  7. iQiyi
  8. HBO Now
  9. Kwai(快手)
  10. QQ

App Store icon. Image: BigTunaOnline/Shutterstock

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects