Apple highlights work of small developers amid ongoing questions about the App Store

·3-min read
 (Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

A study commissioned by Apple has highlighted the work of its small developers, amid ongoing questions about the future and fairness of the App Store.

The research showed that small developers have seen strong growth in their revenues, and that they have outpaced larger developers in finding new customers.

Smaller developers – those that earn up to $1 million per year and get fewer than a million annual downloads – saw their revenue increase 71 per cent between 2020 and 2022, according to the research, conducted by Analysis Group. In Europe, revenues among those developers were up 64 per cent.

Announcing the results of the study, Apple pointed to the work it has done to support those smaller developers.

It highlighted initiatives such as its “Small Business Programme”. That gives those smaller developers a larger proportion of their revenues, with Apple taking less of a cut, in an attempt to encourage independent businesses on the store.

Many of Apple’s initiatives come amid an increased focused by regulators on its behaviour in relation to the App Store. Larger companies have accused it of using its control over the iPhone to benefit itself, while smaller ones have complained about the difficulties of finding new customers given the vast number of apps that are available on the store.

The new report looked to address that latter belief by pointing to the small developers who were able to flourish on the App Store. As well as seeing an increase in revenues, those smaller developers were going on to become large ones quickly, the study noted – 40 per cent of those earning more than $1 million in 2022 earned less than $10,000 five years ago or were not on the App Store at all.

It also looked to show how the global reach of the App Store meant that developers were able to show their app to users in a variety of countries. In 2022, almost 80 per cent of small developers were active on multiple storefronts, and about 40 per cent of total app downloads for those small developers came from users outside of their home country, the research showed.

Apple has commissioned a range of studies from the Analysis Group that have examined the nature of the App Store amid that increasing regulatory scrutiny. The latest comes amid particular pressure over the position of the App Store on the iPhone and iPad as the only way to download apps, with some arguing that Apple should allow “sideloading” so that new software can be installed from other sources.

Rumours have suggested that Apple could be preparing to allow at least some version of that sideloading in future versions of its iOS operating system, at least partly in response to regulatory pressure in the US and Europe.

The company will host its Worldwide Developer Conference early in June, and is expected to make a range of new announcements about the App Store and its software more generally. Ahead of that conference, Apple’s head of developer relations Susan Prescott hailed the importance of having apps “built by everyone” in an interview with The Independent last month.