Today, Apple released the results of an independent study of the App Store economy by the economists at Analysis Group. According to the report, it was supported by Apple, but the conclusions and opinions expressed in it are those of the Analysis Group alone.
If you’re thinking, ‘Wait, I thought Apple just issued a press release about the app economy,’ you’re mostly right. That was the same group of economists reporting specifically on the success of small app developers, whereas this report extends beyond apps to other transactions facilitated by apps.
What the report shows is that the App Store economy is far larger than just apps. Along with app sales and subscriptions, the Analysis Group looked at the sale of physical goods, services, and advertising through apps downloaded from the App Store. What the results of the study show is that this more broadly-defined market accounted for about $1.1 trillion in sales in 2022, an enormous number by any measure.
The study includes some interesting insights into the App Store and the economy surrounding it:
- The broader App Store ecosystem grew 29%, but digital goods and services, which is a category that includes more than just App Store sales, only grew 2% in 2022
- Over 90% of billings connected to the App Store occurred outside of it
- Ride-sharing and travel sales accounted for a big part of the App Store ecosystem’s growth in 2022
- Other categories that saw big increases are grocery sales, food delivery and pickup services, and general retail sales
It’s worth considering the broader purpose of this study and the results that Apple has highlighted. The message of the report is that the impact of the App Store extends beyond apps, which is accurate. From that broader perspective the fees paid to Apple as a percentage of overall sales are lower, which is an argument the company will surely make to regulators and in antitrust disputes. Whether that perspective is relevant or persuasive in those contexts remains to be seen.
In any event, the App Store drives a remarkably large engine of commerce, the likes of which are reminiscent of the Internet itself. That’s an enormous accomplishment, of which Apple is understandably proud. However, it’s also important to remember that it’s an engine to which just one company holds the keys.
This week on AppStories, we covered our wishes for iOS 17. One of Federico’s wishes was for Split View on the iPhone. Split View is not the sort of feature that I think would work with every app, but the iPhone is powerful enough to handle it, developers are already experimenting with in-app versions of it, and you know what? It’s useful.
To get an idea of what an OS-level Split View would be like on the iPhone, check out Basic Apple Guy’s mockups. Home Screen landscape mode never really got much traction when it debuted in 2014, but with Apple’s renewed emphasis on sidebar-based design for iPad apps, I think Split View could translate nicely to the iPhone and has a shot at better adoption if it returned whether as part of a Home Screen redesign or not.
Be sure to check out the full post for additional mockups on how landscape mode would work with widgets, the Dynamic Island, and other Home Screen elements.
With the turn of the New Year, Apple closed down Dark Sky for good. Apple acquired the app in 2020 and left it up and running until January 1st as it incorporated the app’s radar and real-time forecast features into its own Weather app. Dark Sky’s API, which was used by many third-party weather apps, was discontinued at the end of 2021 and was subsumed within Apple’s own WeatherKit API, which debuted last fall.
Over the holidays, Slate took a look at the app’s indie success story, which began with a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2011 that raised $40,000. One thing that I didn’t realize about Dark Sky is that its short-term precipitation forecasts were based solely on analysis of radar images, which didn’t win it fans among meteorologists:
Indeed, Dark Sky’s big innovation wasn’t simply that its map was gorgeous and user-friendly: The radar map was the forecast. Instead of pulling information about air pressure and humidity and temperature and calculating all of the messy variables that contribute to the weather—a multi-hundred-billion-dollars-a-year international enterprise of satellites, weather stations, balloons, buoys, and an army of scientists working in tandem around the world (see Blum’s book)—Dark Sky simply monitored changes to the shape, size, speed, and direction of shapes on a radar map and fast-forwarded those images. “It wasn’t meteorology,” Blum said. “It was just graphics practice.”
I hadn’t used Dark Sky in years when Apple bought it, except as a data source in other weather apps. Its forecasts may not have been as nuanced or accurate as a meteorologist’s, but there’s no denying its cultural impact on the world of apps, which is why I’ll be tucking this story away in my app history archives.
John: It’s time for the MacStories Selects awards, our annual celebration of the apps we love and the people who make them. Every year since 2018, we’ve paused at the end of a busy year to reflect on the hundreds of apps we’ve tried and recognize the best.
It’s been another big year for apps, driven by the ingenuity and creativity of the developers who make them combined with new technologies introduced by Apple. Note-taking apps were big again, and just as we get ready to put 2022 in the rear-view mirror, the read-later app space has begun heating up like it’s 2010 all over again.
Last year, we kicked off the MacStories Selects Awards with a new Lifetime Achievement Award, which we gave to PCalc by James Thomson whose app will celebrate its 30th anniversary in a couple of days. This year, we’ve got another app that has stood the test of time and had an outsized impact on the world of apps, which you can read about in a special story written by our Alex Guyot, whose history with the winning app makes him the perfect choice to present the award.
It’s also time to pause and honor the best apps of the year in the following seven categories:
- Best New App
- Best App Update
- Best New Feature
- Best Watch App
- Best Mac App
- Best Design
- App of the Year
which were picked by the MacStories team, plus the winner of the Readers’ Choice Award, which was picked by Club MacStories members, for a total of nine awards, plus six runners-up, all of which are covered below.
We also recorded a special episode of AppStories covering all the winners and runners-up. It’s a terrific way to learn more about this year’s apps and includes an interview with our Lifetime Achievement Award winner.
You can listen to the episode below.
So, without further ado, it’s my pleasure to introduce the 2022 MacStories Selects Awards to the MacStories community.
When we chose the second annual lifetime achievement award winner, there was no doubt in my mind that it should be Drafts. Developed and maintained by Greg Pierce of Agile Tortoise, Drafts has been the place where text starts on iOS for nearly a decade now. Times have certainly changed, but Drafts remains. Through the years, it has evolved into so much more than the simple text utility it once was.
While it has evolved, the most beautiful thing about Drafts has been the fervent dedication to its original mission statement. If you are about to type some text – any text — on your iPhone or iPad (and even, in modern times, your Mac), you should open Drafts. The app is so focused on text capture that it defaults to opening a new blank “draft” every time you open the app.
Writing text is only as useful as what you do with it, so the second pillar of the Drafts mission is its action menu; an infinitely customizable list of actions that allow you manipulate and send text from the app to essentially anywhere else you can think of. From random web services to other native apps on your devices, Drafts can almost certainly deliver your text. As your words get delivered throughout your entire digital life, you can take comfort in knowing that you can always search for and find anything you’ve written simply by looking up its record in Drafts.
It amazes me that after hearing that pitch (and even personally writing about it) again and again for over a decade, I still find it to be an alluring idea. Drafts’ longevity is a testament to the prescience of Pierce’s original vision. It pleases me immensely to see this app carrying on for so long, and it’s an honor to award it MacStories’ Lifetime Achievement award.
Freeform is a brand new iPhone, iPad, and Mac app from Apple that lets users create multimedia boards on an infinite canvas that include text, images, drawings, links, files, and more. It’s an ambitious entry into a crowded category of apps that take overlapping approaches, emphasizing everything from note-taking to collaborative design to whiteboarding.
As is so often the case with Apple’s system apps, Freeform falls squarely in the middle of the landscape of existing apps. Freeform isn’t going to replace apps that are deeply focused on a narrow segment of apps in the blank canvas category. Instead, Freeform is targeted at a broader audience, many of whom have probably never even considered using this sort of app. For them, and for anyone who has felt constrained by more linear, text-based ways of exploring ideas, Freeform is a perfect solution.
At first blush, Freeform’s spare interface may give the impression that it’s a bare-bones 1.0 release, but that’s not the case. The app is easy to use and impressively feature-rich for a new release. So, let’s dig into the details to see what it can do.
When Live Activities debuted with iOS 16.1, a long list of apps supported the feature. There were some great examples, like the ten apps I covered in October and Timery, which was updated shortly thereafter. Because developers didn’t have a lot of time to prepare their apps for Live Activities, I expected a steady stream of updates that take advantage of the feature, but that hasn’t happened. Live Activity support is still being added to apps, but I thought I’d have more interesting, innovative examples to share by now, but I don’t.
Still, I’d be remiss if I didn’t follow up October’s story with a few additions to my favorite examples of Live Activities. I’m sure there are some I’ve missed and others that will be released in the future, which we’ll cover in the future, but today, I’m going to focus on Dark Noise, Shelf, and Lock Launcher.
Apple has revealed its annual App Store Awards winners, recognizing the standout apps and games of 2022. This year, the company picked a collection of 16 apps and games from among the millions available on the App Store, naming them the Apps of the Year. The company’s App Store editorial team also recognized five apps and games that have had a cultural impact.
This year, the 16 winners from a wide range of categories:
“This year’s App Store Award winners reimagined our experiences with apps that delivered fresh, thoughtful, and genuine perspectives,” said Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO. “From self-taught solo creators to international teams spanning the globe, these entrepreneurs are making a meaningful impact, and represent the ways in which apps and games influence our communities and lives.”
In a first, Apple has included App Store links to the winning apps and games, which I was glad to see. Another difference from last year’s awards is a new category: China Game of the Year, which was added without any explanation from Apple, although based on Apple’s developer site it appears that many of the other winners aren’t available in China, which may explain the new award.
This year’s app winners are:
Apple also recognized games on each of its platforms, plus a new China Game of the Year:
The apps and games that the App Store editorial team recognized as having a cultural impact are:
Details about the winners are also available on Apple’s Developer site and through a dedicated App Store Today page story covering all of the winners and separate stories for each winning app and game.
To commemorate this year’s App of the Year winners, Apple’s designers created physical awards. The blue awards resemble the App Store’s icon and are made from 100% recycled aluminum with the winner’s name engraved on the back.
Congratulations to this year’s Apple Store Award winners. It’s always great to see developers’ hard work and contributions to Apple’s platforms recognized.
Oceanic+, the dive computer app for the Apple Watch Ultra that was previewed at Apple’s September press event will be available today. The app, developed by Huish Outdoors in collaboration with Apple, takes advantage of the Ultra’s depth gauge and water temperature sensors and can be used by divers at depths of up to 40 meters.
According to Apple’s press release:
Oceanic+ was designed to assist anyone looking to dip a toe into the adventures that await in the underwater world. The app teams up with Apple Watch Ultra to handle all of the complex calculations required to explore the ocean safely, offering simple, easy-to-understand cues and guidance before, during, and after a dive.
The collaboration between a third party and Apple on an app is unusual but makes sense given Huish’s diving expertise and Apple’s desire to jump-start development of Apple Watch Ultra apps. I’m not a diver, but judging by the screenshots, Oceanic+ is one of the most detailed Watch apps I’ve seen. The app has a pro feel and is free to download, but features like decompression tracking, tissue loading, the location planner, and unlimited logbook capacity cost $9.99 per month or $79.99 annually. There’s also a Family Sharing option for $129/year.
I’m curious whether a ‘pro’ Watch app market develops around the Apple Watch Ultra. It makes sense for specialized activities like diving, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we also see more advanced health and fitness apps emerge in other categories that take advantage of the Ultra’s unique set of features and sensors.