The Crapstore

Although I’ve been tempted to own an iPhone since the day it launched, I’d held off doing so because AT&T is the sole carrier in the US and frankly – AT&T simply sucks. However, I finally caved in and got myself one a couple of weeks ago.

First and foremost – there’s no denying that the iPhone is an amazing device and singlehandedly can be attributed for jumpstarting the entire mobile platform market. From touch screen to the accelerometer to the appstore, it has pioneered an entire market in no time. Apple has gotten such a big headstart in terms of the application ecosystem that other players are going to have a tough time catching up. But while Apple continues to flaunt the 85000 + apps in its appstore in its TV ads, I’d say the number of meaningful apps in the appstore is much less than half that number.

When you leave out the gazillion fart apps, the lighter apps, the flashlight apps and the bikini babes apps, there are just very few worthwhile apps that warrant enough justification to be installed let alone used regularly.

To illustrate my point, take an example. SpeedDate, the dating site, has no less than 100+ apps listed in the appstore. From religion based dating to geo based dating, they have an app simply for every US state / religion that you can think of. A simple search for ‘fart’ in the Appstore yields several hundreds of results.

Beyond these stupid apps, majority of the apps are  ‘nice to have’. Very few would fall into the ‘must have’ category. All these apps make the appstore such a crowded place that it takes so much effort to find the true gems.

By allowing all sorts of junk apps, I think the appstore is becoming more of a crapstore.  If the influx of such apps continues, it could actually become a downfall for Apple and in fact competitors could use that as leverage – by being more selective on what apps get approved.

What do you think ? Is Apple shooting itself in the foot by approving all these stupid apps ?

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29 comments

  1. I don’t think so. It is a market place should have what everyone needs. How many times do you actually search for the fart apps if you don’t want to install. Here is how I access the app store and believe most of the people do as well:

    1) Browse top 10 paid, free & apple featured apps
    2) search for something specifc when I need it. Mostly productive/utility apps.

    There are a lot of people who like the fart apps and pay for them, not that I understand why, but they do pay.

    Walmart has a ton of items that you don’t need and think are ridiculus, but that doesn’t mean you stop shopping at Walmart. You go there to buy what you need and that’s it.

    • I dont go searching for fart apps, but it just adds to the mess. It makes discovery of worthwhile apps that much more difficult.

      >>1) Browse top 10 paid, free & apple featured apps

      I guess thats what most users do – but over a short period of time, these lists dont change that drastically. Its finding the hidden gems that get lost in the mess becomes a nightmare.

      >>Walmart has a ton of items that you don’t need and >>think are ridiculus, but that doesn’t mean you stop >>shopping at Walmart. You go there to buy what you >>need and that’s it.

      The analogy doesnt make sense – Walmart is much more structured and organized so at least you know which aisle to go looking for say ‘milk’. Besides, in Walmart, you know what you’re looking for. In the appstore, a lot of the times you may not.

  2. The problem is no different from Internet in general.

    No doubt Internet had democratised research by allowing everyone access to lots of information (including info and access to applications), but I dont think we are anywhere close to having the tools to analysing the vast amount of information made available nowadays to figure out which the best one for me is.

    I remember reading somewhere that there is actually an initiative from top companies to train people in colleges on analysis, by providing access to supercomputers etc to encourage research in this area..

    • roopesh,

      its no way similar to the Internet. Internet is an open system – the appstore is a closed system and apple is the gatekeeper — so they have control on who makes it through the gates and who doesnt.

  3. Well, I’ve had the iPhone from back when it was 400 bucks. The trend with these apps is that they are used most for about a week after they are downloaded and then u don’t look at them ever (I think I saw a study too somewhere online which had charts to prove this).

    I do not agree with this article, I think Apple is
    blocking more apps than it should just because they provide alternates to its basic functionality. Case and point, Google Voice, I’ve been amazed at what Google voice can do only to be disappointed by Apple for rejecting it. I know its a big controversy that the FCC is looking at and hopefully will resolve.

    But then I must say, I love the iPhone and can never understand how people go by without it (You wont believe how many times I hit double-space to get a full-stop :) ). It makes you wonder why it took so many years for someone to come up with something this. Of course there will be competitors and imitators to iPhone, but it will always be the FIRST.

    • bharat,

      topic of discussion isnt whether iphone is a great device or not – its about the appstore and the quality of apps making through to the marketplace.

  4. I am surprised at this reaction of yours.

    Its business, so they will offer something that really sells and makes money.

    Since you are not new to the startup thing, you may well be knowing that that are many startups that have better products than their most popular and best-selling counterparts.

    Just because Windows or Apple or Gmail is extremely popular, it does not mean that there is no OS that is better than Windows or Mac, or that Gmail is the best email app ever.

    Retailers fill their shelves with something that sells, irrespective of their perception about the value offered by the product.

    I doubt if what you say is a “real” issue.

    • Rohan,

      Imagine the appstore a year down the lane – if there are 85K apps at this time, and such lame apps keep making their way into the app store — sifting through the mess would be even more of a problem.

      If there would be some amazing recommendation software (the apple genius is kinda ok) that would suggest new apps based on my preferences / app installation history then i wouldnt care less about fart apps or whatever.

  5. Application discovery is actually an interesting problem that many folks are dealing with. You may note that Nokia and others have also stumbled on executing an app store.

    I think a fresh/innovative approach is needed to create a logical framework for a) app discovery and b) app preview. This might require mining existing information ( text/pictures/videos) to create a new kind of user experience. We at mobikwik.com have just started on this problem and would love to hear from interested folks!

  6. Actually, what irks me is how bad the search works in the iTunes store. If that worked well, I think most of the problem would have been solved.

    And the number of “85+K apps” *is* a marketing-wise selling point for the iPhone/iPod Touch irrespective of how many of them are useful or not.

    Let’s take the hypothetical case that only sane and useful apps are allowed, but there are 15 different note-taking apps and so on, now you have the problem of deciding which one to buy without getting a trial (ignoring the Lite workaround), how to solve this problem now?

    Ultimately, the user has to search for what he wants. If he wants to track what are the best apps, then he has to visit http://www.148apps.com just like people use IMDB for movies and so on.

  7. Pranav,

    “Walmart is much more structured and organized so at least you know which aisle to go looking for say ‘milk’.”

    So are app store’s categories. I agree they are more like departments in Walmart than aisles.

    “Besides, in Walmart, you know what you’re looking for. In the appstore, a lot of the times you may not.”

    This can be true for a regular store as well. Say, you might be shopping for a birthday present for a friend.

    “Its finding the hidden gems that get lost in the mess becomes a nightmare.”

    In my opinion, it is the problem with the creators of the hidden gems. They should be able to market the apps to top 10 level if the app is 1) good 2) has a huge market. An SSH Terminal app can never be in top 10 paid or free as the market for it is not large enough.

    I don’t think these apps should be banned from the store, but Apple should come up with more entry points to find newer or less popular apps and perhaps improve their algorithms (ratings/uninstalls?) for personalized app discovery (as mentioned in other comments). The bottom line is that users download/buy these “crap” apps which helps make $ for Apple.

  8. Have you really browsed through the App Store to say this. Or yu dont have money to buy the best ones. There are apps which allow you to login remotely to your computer and host of others. Dont misguide others

  9. A lot of multinationals have come into India but failed – not because their products were not good, but because they failed to understand India’s culture. Globalisation has been the new trend, but ‘standardisation’ will not work always. As a marketer, you need to be sensitive to each culture’s identities and its unique regional preferences and customise your product offerings.

  10. The problem is no different from Internet in general.

    No doubt Internet had democratised research by allowing everyone access to lots of information (including info and access to applications), but I dont think we are anywhere close to having the tools to analysing the vast amount of information made available nowadays to figure out which the best one for me is.
    Blackberry 9900 Bold
    I remember reading somewhere that there is actually an initiative from top companies to train people in colleges on analysis, by providing access to supercomputers etc to encourage research in this area..

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  20. Funny how you named the App store and translated it as the Crap store . LOL

  21. Yes, App store is currently flooded with the same old fart prank apps and the flashlight apps.

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