It’s going to get a lot harder to find new Apple apps you actually want to use

So many apps, so little time.
So many apps, so little time.
Image: Reuters/Stephen Lam
We may earn a commission from links on this page.

Apple’s App Store catalogue is exploding, and this will only strengthen the hold existing top apps have over users.

The number of apps hosted on Apple’s platform is set to increase by 50% this year, from just over 2 million, according to estimates by research firm Sensor Tower. By 2020, the total number of apps will hit 5 million, or more than double the current amount.

Back in 2009, the App Store had just 5,000 apps. It was relatively easy for users to browse Apple’s categories and find the ones they wanted to install. The picture today is very different.

Smartphone users already devote almost all their time on their devices to just their top five apps, according to ComScore. Half a user’s time on her smartphone is spent in just one app, the same ComScore survey found. Here’s what that looks like charted:

There’s a good chance that those top five apps belong to either Facebook or Google, although Google Play isn’t available to Apple’s iOS users, since it’s a portal for Android apps.

Apple has taken note of the crowded app landscape. It’s opening up new ways for app publishers to make money, like through subscriptions. It’s also creating more fine-grained categories, like “Shopping,” and letting publishers advertise their wares within the App Store.

Sensor Tower thinks an artificial intelligence-powered App Store assistant may be one solution Apple could try out in its effort to spread user attention across millions more apps in the near future.

In the meantime, publishers must think of creative ways to get in front of users, including sneaking under the radar with novel keyboards, or hooking them with funny or glamorous stickers, as Kim Kardashian’s Kimoji app has demonstrated.