It’s weird to remember, but the App Store did not launch with the iPhone. It came a year later — a year of nothing but default apps and the occasional web app; a year where you couldn’t even change the iPhone’s background image. When the App Store launched, it would have been hard to predict the challenges it would face, the impact it would have on software development in general, and the positive and negative effects it would have on developers.
When Apple introduced the App Store on July 10, 2008 with 500 apps, it ignited a cultural, social and economic phenomenon that changed how people work, play, meet, travel and so much more. Over the past decade, the App Store has created a safe place for users of all ages to get the very best apps and a vibrant app economy for developers of all sizes, from all over the world, to thrive. Today, customers in 155 countries are visiting the App Store more often, staying longer and downloading and using more apps than ever before.
While there have been many notable moments since apps first came to iPhone and later iPad, the milestones and testimonials below reflect some of the most significant over the past 10 years — defining how the App Store democratized software distribution and transformed how we live every day.
Apple’s own retrospective is predictably upbeat, but it hits every major milestone and positive impact the App Store has had. The App Store still has a long way to go in some regards, but it’s also amazing just how far it has come.
One of the most significant design opportunities in recent history was announced with a simple blog post on Apple’s website. “Let me just say it: We want native third-party applications on the iPhone, and we plan to have an SDK in developers’ hands in February,” Steve Jobs wrote. On a quiet Thursday morning less than a year later, the App Store opened to iPhone users with a selection of just over 500 apps.
Few contemporary innovations have changed how we live our lives and interact with the world around us more than iPhone apps. The creators of the first 500 available at launch had the unique opportunity of shaping the design direction and interaction methods of the millions of apps created since.
To celebrate the App Store’s 10th anniversary, let’s study the visual evolution of 10 original App Store apps.
I loved browsing though the iterations and redesigns of the apps and icons they featured. A couple of these apps — like Twitterrific and Evernote — I’ve used for years and have been able to watch the apps as they evolved. Others are new to me. The only downside with the flatter aesthetic in later designs is that some of the apps lose a bit of personality. Case in point: the current version of OmniFocus looks so much like Fantastical, I had to look twice.
Not everything has been smooth sailing for the App Store and developers, however. Even well-respected Apple-centric developers ran into App Store headaches from time to time, and some of those issues have never been fully resolved. Some of those frustrated developers left the App Store and have never returned.
Apple’s vision for the App Store has always been driven by privacy and security. Rather than sending users out to a host of unvetted websites to find software that may or may not be what it claims, the App Store was a single unified market for approved, malware-free software to live. As a user, you could download any app in the confidence that it wouldn’t be able to bring harm to your device – and you could do so without providing your credit card details to anyone but Apple.
Apple created and has maintained the safety of its closed platform thanks to its thorough review procedures and guidelines. Every app on the App Store must follow Apple’s rules, which for the most part is widely accepted as a good thing. If an app’s aims are nefarious, it should be rejected by Apple and, hence, not allowed in public view. However, throughout the App Store’s life, there have regularly been controversial app rejections that stirred up the Apple community. Here are a few of those controversies.
Apple has been steadily improving their guidelines and expectations, but the truth is that developers could still be served better. Though software demos are coming to a future App Store update, it could be better communicated in the store interface that a user is getting a demo instead of a free app. Also, upgrade pricing and more lenient content purchasing guidelines would go a long way.