There is always some mention in the tech news of the size of various platforms application app stores. Apple’s App Store has over a million apps, and reached this number back in November 2012. Google’s store isn’t far behind. Windows Phone and Blackberry also have application counts that number in the tens and hundreds of thousands. But what does this really mean for consumers? Do we need that many apps? How do we find what we are looking for, or more accurately, what fits what we want to do?
Let’s say you get a shiny new iPhone 5. You think “I should have a nice “’to-do list’ app for my phone”. Yes, great idea! Let’s go to the App Store and search for one. You type in “to-do” in the search box, and are presented with a list of hundreds of different to-to list apps. Which one do you pick? A top rated one? A free one? One with a name you might recognize, like Evernote? You reluctantly pick one and try it out. Maybe it works for you, maybe not. Maybe you ask a friend and get a referral to another app. It can be a frustrating experience, just to find a simple to-do list app.
At what point does too much choice harm consumers? I’d say when are looking for something relatively simple, and the search itself becomes burdensome. Now, I fully believe in free markets and choice for consumers, but when there are hundreds of choices, it becomes so overwhelming that you get into analysis paralysis. I also have to believe that if an application store like Apple’s have a million apps, what percentage of those never get downloaded and/or are total garbage apps?
So perhaps we should not be using application store counts as some sort of benchmark for the quality of app stores. Maybe a better benchmark is “number of apps, with at least N 4 star or better reviews” (where N is some percentage of owners of the type of device that can access that store)? Quality matters, not sheer volume.
[side note: if you are looking for a to-do list app, might I suggest Clear for iOS, or Clearer for Windows Phone. I use a Windows Phone and love Clearer].