iTunes App Store – The good, the bad, and the challenges of year one

On the 10th of July last year Apple launched their iTunes Application Store where all iPhone and iPod Touch users could download all kinds of third party applications for the device, either for free or for a small one-off charge. Since then the iTunes App Store has become one of the main selling points for both the iPhone and the iPod Touch, with over 1 billion applications downloaded.

one year anniversary of iTunes app store

For the 1 year anniversary we have had a look back on what has been good, and what has been bad, in the iPhone application year that has passed, as well as looking towards the future as to what we would like to see from Apple, and what challenges lies ahead for the iPhone application model.

The Good

There are so many good things about the iTunes App Store, such as the thousands upon thousands of applications that can easily be downloaded onto your iPhone or iPod Touch, usually for a small charge. The iPhone and iPod Touch has turned into a quality handheld gaming platform as well as being a digital music player, phone (in the case of the iPhone), and an overall entertainment set in the palm of your hand.

The beauty of the Apple application store model is that it makes creating, distributing, and marketing iPhone and iPod Touch applications available for pretty much anyone capable to develop them, therebye creating new businesses and entrepreneurship with many developers hoping to make their millions from creating iPhone applications, with some already having enjoyed great success from their early iPhone applications.

In the beginning many of the applications were made available for free to ensure that  users downloaded and tried them. Since then both developers and customers have become more sophisticated, and the competition in the application market has become tougher as well.

Some of my favourite applications from year one of the iTunes App Store are (these are the ones i find myself using regularly):

  1. Tweetie – My preferred Twitter application for the iPhone at the moment, although there are some good new ones out as well
  2. Google – It is simple and gives you access to many of the great services Google offers. Hoping they will bring Google Analytics to the app soon though.
  3. Facebook – Looking forward to see how facebook will develop this application further
  4. Skype App – great for keeping in tough with friends around the globe
  5. Remote – A must have in my opinion
  6. Tiger Woods PGA Tour – The game i play the most on both my iPhone and iPod Touch
  7. Tube DeLuxe – A must have when in London for getting around
  8. Parkinglot – A bit of brain exercise never hurts

The Bad

The main issue i have had all year with the iTunes App Store model is the restrictions and limitations Apple is putting on the types of applications that are allowed on the iTunes App Store, therefore also limiting the applications available on your iPhone or iPod Touch, unless you choose to jailbreak your device that is.

When Apple chose to go with the iTunes model for distributing the applications they were of course thinking about protecting their own business model and their product portfolio, making sure that as much business goes through Apple related products and services as possible. It all makes very much sense in terms of  protecting their own business, but from a user standpoint it often feels very limiting as Apple will only allow applications that are not in direct competition with any part of their own business.

The other part of the strict control Apple has on applications that are allowed onto the iTunes App Store, is related to what they consider to not be in the best interest of the users,  disallowing applicaitons that might not sit “politically correct” with the views of Apple, and perhaps even the US Government. I’m an adult, and as long as an application is not breaking any law with its content i like to have the right to decide whether or not to purchase it myself.

As a firm believer in open source and open markets, i hope that Apple will move away from their closed and carefully controlled iTunes App Store business model, although i don’t think it will happen in the near future.

I’m all for having a market that is open for everyone, and the iTunes App Store is open for developers of all sizes which is good, but it also means that there are a lot of “useless” applications crowding up the market. My problem is however not with the fact that these applications are available, but more with Apple’s review and rating model for applications, something that many developers have also raised their frustration of. Take for example when you shop at Amazon, you have all these options available to display products based on price, rating, or popularity. I think one of the areas that Apple needs to improve on is in fact improving the user experience in finding the way around the thousands of applications available.

The Challenges

Having looked at both the good and the bad of the first year of the iTunes App Store, i have also touched upon some of the challenges; making sure that it delivers what both developers and the application users want.

Improving the feedback and rating system is probably rated among the top challenges, together with opening up the market more. But one of the most interesting challenges will be to see how they deal with the in-app payment model, both in terms of how they allow developers to use it and how it will be received by the consumer. It is easy to get too greedy when it comes to charging iPhone and iPod Touch application users, which have grown accustomed to low charges compared to for example games and applications for computers and game consoles. As the market becomes more professional and the quality of applications also increases, finding the balance between charging too much too often, and too little will be a learning experience for both developers and Apple. You can read more about the evolving business model of iPhone Apps here.

In-app payment also opens up for new content distribution models, which again creates a challenge for Apple in how they deal with and allow these applications to operate through the iTunes App Store. Take for example artist applications that allow direct access to their content for direct download outside of iTunes. Will Apple allow these applications to operate freely or will they put additional charges that will perhaps limit the interest from developers to actually spend the time to develope these useful applications.

There is also a challenge for independent small budget application developers to stand out from the crowd in an increasingly overcrowded app store where big time developers are starting to demand more and more of the space and advertising time from Apple. I think it is important that Apple keeps giving these independent developers prominent positions when it is deserved by creating quality and popular applications.

There is no doubt that in many ways the first year has been a successful one, but with competitor application markets waiting in line to challenge Apple, like the Google Android market, and the new app market for Palm Pre etc. there is no time to rest on the laurels for Apple and the iTunes App Store.

If there was one thing i could ask for in the coming year, it would have to be that Apple makes the iTunes App Store more open.


Filed in: Lead Story, Third party applications

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One Response to "iTunes App Store – The good, the bad, and the challenges of year one"

  1. Joker says:

    Everything dynamic and very positively! 🙂

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