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Can we stop the app-counting madness, please?

PhonesIt seems like not a week goes by without new numbers of how many apps there are in Apple’s iPhone App Store or Google’s Android Market. And frankly, it’s starting to get ridiculous.

First of all, there is the old adage of “quality, not quantity” to think about (remember that one?), and then there’s another aspect: what counts as an app?

Android and iPhone app counts, different stories

Yes, Android Market now has 50,000 apps and counting. But this is a completely free for all app market. There are no restrictions whatsoever of what can get in. Anything made by anyone thrown in there is counted, regardless of quality or merit. How many of those 50,000 apps are actually useful or any fun? Our guess is less than a thousand, if that.

But we’re not saying that Apple’s numbers are any better. Yes, there are more apps, 200,000 or so, but frankly, at this point who cares? The App Store has stricter admittance rules than Android Market, but even with Apple’s much-discussed approval procedure, the majority of apps will not be any good, and only a small percentage will actually be widely used.

So you see, you can’t even compare the numbers. Apple’s App Store has one set of dynamics, and Android Market another.

And then there’s the matter of what counts as an “app”. This is where things get really crazy.

Misleading app counts

There are a ton of ebooks for the iPhone that are sold as apps. Each one of those is one of those 200,000 apps. Books make up the single largest iPhone app category (currently almost 18% of all apps), beating even games.

Does anyone in their right mind think that a book is an app?

Then there is the matter of the way developers handle the whole “shareware” or “tryware” thing. A ton of apps have a free and a paid version. Although the “lite” version of a paid app is usually little more than a demo for the paid app, it counts as a separate app.

Then there are also some apps that have separate versions for separate languages, or separate sets of data, which again bumps up the number of apps. There are even extreme cases where one app has 800+ versions, each counted as a separate app.

Then there’s the classic dynamic that exists on every software platform: For every successful app and game, there will be a ton of clones trying to cash in on the success.

Since both platforms are relatively easy to develop for and have a good amount of handsets out there, they will both have a lot of apps from talented and creative individuals and companies. That’s good. But there is also the nasty flip side of the coin: a large group of subpar software will be made by less quality-conscious or talented people and companies. We really don’t care about the apps that come out of the latter group, even if they will boost the number of apps out there. If anything, they are making our lives harder because we have to sift the wheat from the chaff.

Stop counting, start caring about quality instead

What we’re trying to say is, can we please stop this obsession over app numbers? It became irrelevant soon after we knew that Android as a platform did indeed have a healthy developer following. Sure, the number of apps is a fun number, and it’s easy to throw out there, but take a step back and think about what it is you’re counting, and if it actually matters at this point.

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