iOS Developers Ship Fewer Apps as Non-Native Frameworks Suffer

According to data from AppFigures, Apple’s App Store is in decline while the Google Play Store remains on the rise. There’s a good bit of context to that, and data showing that developers may be picking their battles.

If you glance at the raw data, 2017 was the first year Apple’s App Store saw a retraction. In 2016, it had roughly 2.25 million apps available; in 2017, that number hovered at around 2 million.

The Google Play Store, by contrast, picked up about a million apps, growing to 3.6 million or so. Furthermore, AppFigures says only about 450,000 apps are cross-platform, leaving 1.6 million unique iOS apps and 3.2 million Android apps. In a broad scope, the Play Store is literally twice as big as the App Store.

Context is king, and AppFigures data shows non-native app development is cooling. A likely contributor is Apple and Google waging a shadow-war against non-native tools such as React Native, and drawing lines in the sand about APIs. AppFigures says 24 percent of iOS apps and 10 percent of Android apps are non-native. In 2016, those numbers were 32 percent and 27 percent, respectively, showing a sharp decline in non-native app development.

Some non-native tools are blessed by Apple and Google. Unity, a 3D game engine, is a de facto tool used by many developers. It’s in use by almost 31 percent of non-native apps, says AppFigures. We expect this percentage to grow quickly as augmented reality (AR) becomes more standard across mobile devices and in iOS and Android apps.

Away from gaming, it seems React Native isn’t a threat. It only accounts for 1.85 percent of non-native apps. Of the roughly two million non-native apps available across iOS and Android, only about 35,000 are React Native. A much larger issue is Cordova: just shy of 40 percent of non-native apps utilize its framework, or right around 750,000.

AppFigures also says iOS developers released far fewer apps in 2017:

Android developers kept busy, and in the last year alone released more than 1.5 million new apps. This is an increase of about 17 percent year over year, the largest jump since 2014. iOS developers on the other hand, took their time releasing just 755k new apps in 2017. That’s a big drop! 29 percent to be precise, the first drop since the App Store launched in 2008.

In terms of app porting, iOS apps are turned into Android apps far more frequently than Android apps are coming to the App Store. We should also point out AppFigures data highlights new apps that are actually published; it’s very possible Apple is turning away more apps, which is causing this downturn.

But quality matters more than quantity – and iOS still brings more revenue than Android. If AR kicks the platform wars into a new era, it’ll be interesting to see if that remains the case.

Related