Mobile market research company App Annie released a 10-year retrospective of the iOS App Store today, providing a bunch of interesting nuggets of info about how the iPhone and iPad economy have generated billions and billions of dollars -- and about what apps might be worth a second look.
For example, there's the subscription service model, which has crept up steadily as people have looked more often for content outside of radio stations and cable TV. When Apple first introduced in-app subscription in 2011, subscription-based apps generated nearly $2 billion, and that number has blown up to $10.6 billion as of 2017.
Pandora Music: the hidden gem?
But what's interesting is how volatile it's been for music streaming. While Spotify seems to have become the defacto choice, it's actually traded blows with Pandora Radio for years, according to App Annie. And as of last year, Spotify even dropped out of the top 5, while Pandora barely hung on. Still, "barely" is relative, because Pandora is in the No. 3 slot for all-time worldwide revenue generated on the App Store.
One of the possible reasons for Pandora's continued success, as we talked about in our recent review, is the staggering number of different devices where you'll find it. It's built into smart TVs, many automotive audio systems (even without Apple CarPlay or Android Auto), and just about every home streaming device that's in production.
And with its panoply of playlists that narrow down your tastes with eerie accuracy, and the option to listen for free with ads, there's a lot to like. Because there's a no-cost option, we think it's worth at least checking out, in addition to whatever streaming service you may already be paying for.
However, if you do decide to subscribe, be aware that Apple adds a fee when you purchase through the App Store. If you want to subscribe at the lower price, you need to do so through Pandora's own website. If you don't want to pay the full $10 a month, Pandora also offers a $5 per month tier that removes ads, gives you unlimited song skips and replays, unlocks higher quality audio, and an offers unlimited number of stations.
Spotify has its own free ad-supported tier, but Pandora's sheer ubiquity seems to give it an edge.
The story of Google Maps in iOS
For non-streaming apps, it looks like Google Maps has been a thorn in Apple's side for some time. According to App Annie, it was the second-most downloaded app in 2013, and it's still holding strong at No. 8 as of 2018 -- despite the fact that you still can't use it with Apple CarPlay.
However, Apple announced at this year's Worldwide Developers Conference that it's opening up CarPlay to third-party developers, and they showed a Google Maps icon in the CarPlay interface. This has been a much-requested feature, because Apple Maps has a reputation for not working as well, and iOS users have been given no other choices for CarPlay until now.
Apple didn't announce a specific release date for Google Maps in CarPlay, but the company said that we should expect to start seeing third-party apps when iOS 12 arrives in the fall, which is also typically when Apple releases its new set of iPhones.
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So if you're at your wit's end with Apple Maps and you're ready to switch to an Android phone, it's probably worth waiting a little longer to see what Google does with CarPlay when iOS 12 comes out.
So who's the reigning champ?
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Netflix is the biggest app on the App Store. While it may have saturated the market in North America, it's stayed at the top of the charts partly because of steady expansion overseas -- which has gone both ways. Users in the United States now get loads of content from British, Canadian, and Australian TV; and a number of high-profile foreign-language shows from Germany, France, Brazil, Norway, and Spain.
So if you haven't checked out Netflix in a while, it might be a good time to come back, especially if you've been looking for more international content.
- Pandora Radio doesn't grab headlines like Spotify does, but it's been a fierce competitor that you probably shouldn't overlook. It's also possible that your car has built-in support for it, even if you can't get Android Auto or Apple CarPlay.
- Despite Apple keeping Google Maps out of CarPlay, it's remained extremely popular, and Google regularly updates it with new and refined features. And it looks like Google Maps is coming to CarPlay with iOS 12.
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