The Vast Wasteland of 100,000 iPhone Apps

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Apple has now amassed 100,000 apps for its venerable iPhone and iPod touch duo, far-and-above the nearest competitor.

But according to recent research, most apps are unused, unnoticed, and confined to the vast wasteland of App Store obscurity.  A report by AppsFire outlines a quick drop in popularity among apps – the fifth-biggest app is found on more than 50 percent of devices, for example, but the 1,000th-largest app is found on less than 2 percent of devices.

And, that is just a reading of the top one-percent.  The rest are swimming in a very thin ‘Long Tail,’ to use an overused phrase.  By the time number 2,000 is reached, the take-rate is barely noticeable.

Then again, mass appeal is not always the marker of success.  Apps are often designed with incredibly targeted audiences in mind, and, for that matter, short bursts of enjoyment.  In a recent discussion at SanFran MusicTech, Tapulous chief Bart Decrem pointed to a stream of ‘the latest fart apps,’ and most iPhone (and iPod touch) decks carry apps that are rarely used after the first few days.  On the artist side, apps are often geared towards superfans – not a mainstream audience.

That said, a few of the top-grossing, blockbuster apps are music-related.  That includes Tapulous’ Tap Tap Revenge 3, EA’s Rock Band, and Smule’s auto-tuning This Is T-Pain.  On that note, the T-Pain app receives 10,000 app downloads per day, according to Smule CEO Jeff Smith.  In total, users have downloaded more than two billion apps, according to Apple.