App Store ecosystem grows 24% during pandemic to hit $643 billion


App Store
The App Store contributes far more to the global economy than just software sales.
Photo: Ed Hardy/Cult of Mac

The App Store ecosystem enabled $643 billion in billings and sales during 2020. That’s up 24% over the previous year, with much of the increase related to people taking more of their lives online during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new study that examines how the App Store helps small businesses.

Apple touted these numbers as it waits for a federal judge to decide whether to order significant changes to the App Store.

The study is called “A Global Perspective on the Apple App Store Ecosystem” by Analysis Group.

Totaling the App Store ecosystem

Getting the $643 billion figure requires more than just asking Apple how many sales happened on the iPhone software store in 2020. The total for the entire App Store ecosystem includes transactions Apple wasn’t directly involved in. For example, it includes physical goods and services sold by grocery-delivery apps. The category grew 24% to $511 billion, according to the Analysis Group.

But the increase wasn’t general. The pandemic brought winners and losers. “Sales facilitated by the App Store ecosystem in the travel and ride hailing sectors decreased by more than 30%, as mobility and tourism decreased in most of the world,” noted the Analysis Group. “Conversely, as online shopping soared, sales facilitated by the App Store ecosystem in the general retail, grocery, and food delivery and pickup categories all increased significantly. “

The ecosystem total also includes digital goods and services sold outside the App Store but used on iPhone or iPad, like ebooks. That category hit $86 billion in 2020, up 41%. In-app advertising totaled $46 billion, up 24% year over year.

App Store growth boosts small business

The App Store study looked at participation by small businesses — companies with fewer than 1 million downloads and less than $1 million in earnings. The number of small developers increased by 40% between 2015 and 2020, according to the Analysis Group.

And they are making more money. Earnings for this group of developers reportedly nearly tripled between 2015 and 2020.

Apple is showcasing these numbers to show that the App Store is a force for good. The study bolster’s Apple’s position that the App Store helps small businesses achieve success. That’s an argument for not changing the App Store, as Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers might do in her upcoming ruling in the Epic Games v. Apple lawsuit.


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