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Apple study: People love these rival apps more than ours

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Apple shared the results of a study on Thursday, April 7, about the iPhone maker’s App Store which offers, among other things, an interesting finding about its customers’ preferences.

One of the highlights from this Apple-funded study (which you can read about in full right here) that was conducted by economists at Analysis Group is that the company clearly isn’t preferencing its own first-party apps. Why? Because consumers are able to so easily flock to many alternatives instead of Apple’s offerings. Spotify instead of Apple Music, for example. Google Maps instead of Apple Maps. Hulu and Netflix instead of Apple TV Plus. And, for the love of god, any app offering in the world instead of Apple’s problem-ridden Podcasts app.

Apple’s App Store study

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iPad Air 5th-generation. Image source: Christian de Looper for BGR

The study notes that, regarding third-party apps:

  • In some cases, for some app categories, third-party apps rather than apps produced by Apple are the only option for consumers. This goes for social networking, dating, travel, and various food and drink apps.
  • The study also finds that third-party apps are the most popular among iPhone users for major app types. And across major regions of the world. That includes in catagories like TV and music streaming, as well as reading and messaging.

As further indication within the study that Apple doesn’t narrowly preference its own offerings? Or have a chokehold on what’s available to customers? “iPhone users,” the study continues, “often use multiple apps within a single category, especially apps for communicating, reading the news, watching videos, or navigating — underscoring how easily users can switch between apps and the breadth of opportunity for developers.”

First-party vs. third-party

Be all that as it may, however, this still likely won’t squelch the enduring calls for Apple to allow the side-loading of apps. And the opening up of the App Store to third-party app marketplaces within that store. Stores that also, of course, support third-party payment systems.

The European Union might actually force Apple to allow the practice of sideloading apps on iPhone soon. That’s thanks to the new Digital Markets Act, which could come into effect in October.

“We believe that the owner of a smartphone should have the freedom to choose how to use it,” European Commission spokesperson Johannes Bahrke told The Verge. “This freedom includes being able to opt for alternative sources of apps on your smartphone. With the DMA, a smartphone owner would still be able to enjoy safe and secure services of the default app store on their smartphones. On top of that, if a user so chooses, the DMA would allow a smartphone owner to also opt for other safe app stores.”

The choice is yours

From what I can tell, though, Apple’s findings make one thing clear. Apple needs to re-architect the whole App Store experience under the guise of offering customers the “choice” noted above. Because consumers are already freely exercising an abundance of choice. Starting with the fact that those consumers chose to buy an iPhone, with all that entailed.

In terms of app selection, consumers also choose to buy and download other companies’ apps over Apple’s. Over and over again. Per the Analysis Group study: In four countries (the US, France, Japan, and Korea), Apple does not have a dominant share of the mapping, TV and movie streaming, or music streaming app categories.

“Since the App Store’s launch more than a decade ago, the number of third-party apps has grown from 500 to more than 1.8 million,” that study continues, “compared to 60 apps offered by Apple (first-party apps). Today, more than 99.99 percent of iOS apps are made by third-party developers, fueling a growing and competitive marketplace that contributes to a dynamic experience for users to the benefit of Apple and third-party developers alike.”


More iPhone coverage: For more iPhone news, visit our iPhone 14 guide.

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Andy Meek is a reporter who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming. Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.