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The App Store turns five: A look back and forward

Lex Friedman | July 9, 2013
Five years ago, the App Store was born. Lex Friedman recounts the history of this crowning achievement of the iOS platform.

You know what's cool? Two billion downloads.
In January of 2009—just six months after the App Store's launch—Apple announced the store's 500 millionth app download. The store at that point offered 15,000 apps for sale, and the numbers kept accelerating.

While a rising tide may lift all boats, there are challenges as volume increases. When you were one of 500-some apps in the App Store, it was fairly easy to get discovered. By the time the App Store hit 15,000 apps, though, discoverability was a problem. Even today, developers are dependent upon either the press or Apple shining a spotlight on their apps in order to stand out from the ever-denser crowd.

And the number of apps in the store wasn't about to start dropping. In April 2009, the App Store hit 1 billion downloads. By September, it had crossed 2 billion downloads, offering more than 85,000 apps from 12,500 developers.

Several major apps launched in 2009: The acclaimed Doodle Jump has earned more than $10 million since its launch in April of that year. Real Racing launched in 2009, too, as did ESPN's Score Center. The former became one of the most popular game franchises on iOS; the latter became the App Store's most downloaded sports app.

At year's end, Facebook once again ended the year as the most downloaded app, alongside a game called Paper Toss.

The iPad and 5 billion downloads
The App Store showed no signs of slowing in 2010. At the start of the year, the downloads total soared past 3 billion. Also soaring was Angry Birds, which blew up in 2010: Apple featured the app in the App Store, and Angry Birds sales increased by a factor of more than 50.

The most significant App Store development of 2010, though, came from Apple: The iPad launched in April 2010, ushering in a slew of novel and clever software categories. Netflix's app arrived in the App Store at the same time as the tablet, heralding the age of instant video on-the-go. If you eschewed moving pictures for the comfort of words, there was also an influx of magazines: Time became one of the first on offer.

By June of that year, Apple announced that the App Store had eclipsed 5 billion downloads, with more than 225,000 apps in the store—11,000 of them specifically optimized for the iPad.

In June 2010, Apple said that it had paid out more than $1 billion to developers since the App Store's launch two years prior. The store, by this point, was available in more than 90 countries. Citizens of most of those countries were probably playing Cut the Rope or Angry Birds, two of the most popularly downloaded games of 2010.


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