Apple’s App Store for Mac appears to be stuck in neutral, according to a new report from analytics firm AppFigures. Launched over a decade ago in 2011 with a thousand apps, the Mac App Store now contains just over 31,000 apps for Apple computers, compared to nearly 5 million apps on the iOS App Store.
Worse still, the Mac App Store only adds a few new apps each month.
“If you’re developing for the Mac, this might shock you: the Mac App Store only sees an average of 15 new apps per month,” says Ariel Michaeli, CEO of AppFigures. “That’s what the App Store, which sees around 1,000 new apps every day, adds in 20 minutes.”
The main difference, of course, is that there are multiple ways to distribute desktop apps, whereas on iOS specifically, there’s really only one designated, approved, and offered method for publishing and getting apps. for mobile phones. Apple’s desktop app store is available directly on all Macs and offers an easy, integrated way to get new apps. But app developers can also distribute via the open web, where they don’t have to follow Apple’s rules or pay a commission on sales.
However, another reason why there are far fewer apps for computers than for phones is that so many features now only work in our web browsers, eliminating the need for a dedicated app.
That could change, suggests Michaeli, with something Apple is working on:
“I don’t think Apple has a plan for the Mac App Store, but I still think there’s potential once Apple starts pushing iOS apps onto Apple Silicon,” he says. “I could be wrong.”
iPhone and iPad apps can run on macbook which use Apple’s own chips, or “Apple Silicon”. These include the M1 and M2 chips. Apple’s plan here, apparently, is to open up the universe of millions of mobile apps for functionality that works in the desktop space.
“iPhone and iPad apps on the App Store are automatically available on the Mac App Store on Apple’s silicon Macs, without any changes to the app,” says Apple’s developer site. “There’s no porting process – the same frameworks your apps use on iPhone and iPad are available and tuned only for Mac, leveraging the same shared architecture across all three platforms.”
Mobile apps don’t seem to show up in the Mac App Store by default, but are visible via search:
There is however a catch.
As Apple says, “These apps box be optimized to work with keyboards, windows, and touch input gestures” (emphasis added). Just because they can be optimized to work on computers in addition to the phones they were originally designed for doesn’t mean the developers have taken the time to do so.
And in fact, a game I downloaded for my MacBook Pro required me to use the trackpad to control my spaceship, which didn’t work as well as the smartphone equivalent – a finger on the screen.
As Michaeli pointed out, Apple isn’t “pushing” these apps yet, perhaps because the user experience isn’t optimal.
According to Michaeli, the top category of apps in the Mac App Store is utilities, with just over 5,000 apps. Utilities include VPN tools for more online privacy, disk space and memory optimizers, and file archiving and extraction tools. The second largest is games, with just under 5,000 games.