"The rate of App Store downloads continues to accelerate with users downloading a staggering two billion apps in just over a year, including more than half a billion apps this quarter alone," said Steve Jobs, Apple's CEO, in a statement. "The App Store has reinvented what you can do with a mobile handheld device, and our users are clearly loving it."
Apple also said that the company's App Store now offers over 85,000 apps to an installed base of over 50 million iPhones and iPod touch devices. This is consistent with the 14% monthly growth rate identified by iPhone ad metrics company Flurry, which anticipates an inventory of over 100,000 apps by the end of 2009.
Peter Farago,VP of marketing for Flurry, predicted in an August blog post that the App Store will soon carry more items than the typical Wal-Mart. "Over the last six months, the number of available applications in the App Store has more than doubled, from 25,000 applications in January to over 65,000 in July, which equates to 14% month-over-month growth," he said. "Flurry's month-over-month rate for New Project Starts has been holding steady at 30% for the last several months. Assuming that roughly half of those new project starts are for new applications, the pipeline to the App Store shows no signs of slowing."
Such rapid growth has been accompanied by growing pains. The recent release of iTunes 9, which provides the interface for the App Store on computers, made category-based browsing less accessible, a move that smaller developers have complained makes their apps less discoverable.
Among developers there's widespread dissatisfaction with the app approval process, during which apps being reviewed by Apple may sit for weeks or months before being accepted or rejected. Lack of visibility into the approval process has damaged marketing plans for major companies when apps timed to coincide with specific events aren't approved until after the event has passed.
Perhaps equally troubling for developers is Rogue Amoeba programmer Mike Ash's recent estimate that the two Apple reviewers -- among the company's cadre of over 40 full-time reviewers -- who determine whether an app is accepted or rejected spend about 13 minutes between them for each app they review.
Apple has been attempting to cope with the App Store's success through outreach from high-ranking Apple executives and by providing select partners with a direct line to the company and improved support. For partners that haven't been graced with favored-nation status, navigating the approval process remains an exercise in calling in favors from Apple contacts and making noise until issues are addressed.
InformationWeek has published an in-depth report on application development. Download the report here (registration required).