New report examines the number of downloads it takes to reach the top of the App Store – TechCrunch
New analysis indicates that it has become more difficult to get an app to the top of the App Store, when it comes to downloads, in recent years. According to new data from the app intelligence company Sensor Tower, the number of downloads needed for an app to break into the No. 1 position on Apple’s iPhone App Store in the US has increased by 37% since 2019. More specifically, it estimates an app now requires about 156,000 downloads in a given day to reach the top spot, up from 114,000 daily downloads back in 2019.
But to be clear, downloads alone do not move an app to the top of the lists. This is just one of several factors that Apple’s ranking algorithm takes into account to manage the leaderboards.
In the early days of the App Store, Apple soon realized that downloads alone would give developers an easy way to buy their No. 1 spot.
It then expanded the ranking algorithm to make it more complex – and more of a mystery. Another company, Apptopia, believes it has reversed the current version of this algorithm, which is said to consider a number of factors such as speed, app usage, number of new users and more.
That said, downloads are still part of the equation here, and an interesting factor to examine, given how little information there is about how Apple’s App Store ranking actually works.
Among the new findings, Sensor Tower noted that Apple appeared to have adjusted its ranking algorithm to deal with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
It reports that in 2020, the number of downloads it took for an app to reach No. 1 on the US App Store reached a record high of 185,000, an increase of 62% from year to year. This would be in line with the general increase seen in app downloads and usage that occurred when consumers stayed at home during government blockades, while schools, shops and workplaces closed.
Getting to the same position on Google Play, however, was easier at the time, as the number of daily downloads required grew by only 5% year-on-year to reach 87,000 by 2020.
Since then, the number of daily downloads needed to reach # 1 has declined in both marketplaces as trends after COVID (or rather, trends after shutdown) have normalized app usage.
This year, Sensor Tower estimates that apps must reach a median of 156,000 daily installations to reach No. 1 in the App Store, as mentioned above, but Android apps now need only 56,000 installations, a decrease of 33% from the 83,000 required in 2019.
Breaking into the top 10 of the US App Store also requires more effort than reaching the same position on Google Play.
According to the report’s findings, it now takes about 52,000 daily downloads to get into the overall top 10 on the App Store, up 2% from the 51,000 required to reach the top 10 in 2019. But Android apps only need 29 000 daily downloads, which is down 9% from 2019 levels.
Nevertheless, these numbers are approximations obtained from trends across the respective app stores.
When you look more closely at numbers per category, there are different trends to be found. For example, on the App Store, it’s tougher to get into the top 10 free iPhone apps for those ranked in the Entertainment category than others like Shopping, Social Networking, Travel or Finance. Android is similar in that it also sees that entertainment needs more daily installations, but this is followed by the categories Shopping, Tools, Finance and then Communication.
It is worth pointing out that these trends only apply to mobile apper, not mobile games. It is a completely different matter.
Looking at mobile games, Sensor Tower found that iPhone games now require a median of 93,000 downloads to reach No. 1, while Android games need 37,000 installations. These figures are down from the 2019 levels, and fell by 46% and 68% respectively.
The report also notes that it has historically taken fewer installations for games to enter the top 10. So far in 2022, iPhone games have needed 26,000 daily downloads to reach the top 10, down 40% from 43,000 in 2019. And Android games needed only 16,000 daily installations, down 52% from 33,000 in 2019.
While much of the new report focuses on the US market, Sensor Tower examined how the US top 10 compared to other countries.
Here it found that it is much tougher for apps that are not games in China to reach the top 10 – which requires more than twice as many daily downloads as in the US at 108,000 (China) against 52,000 (USA)
But on Android, India is the most difficult market to top, requiring 292,000 daily downloads to reach the top 10 in the free lists for non-gaming apps.
Although the data here is worth examining, this analysis does not take into account the other factors apps and games require to climb the lists, so it is not a complete picture of how or why apps can climb to the top of app stores.
In addition, there have been some hints that Apple may have adjusted its algorithms even more in recent weeks, as larger apps such as Facebook, Netflix, Snapchat and others have received ranking hits since around mid-April, Apptopia told us last month, when we asked how relatively unknown apps had found their way to the top 10. This could be a test or a more permanent change meant to give smaller apps a chance to stand out and be discovered among the technology giants, but more time will be needed to conduct that analysis.
Nevertheless, these types of adjustments can help highlight a number of apps that take advantage of marketing, promotions and other trends. This may explain why Planet Fitness is No. 2 on the top free lists in the United States today, for example – the company gave teens free workouts for the summer. Meanwhile, DIRECTV’s recent consolidation of its apps has led it to No. 3, while the newcomer to the social networking app LiveIn, popular with teenagers, is now higher than Facebook and Snapchat at No. 7.