Apple App Store

Apple App Store facilitated $643 billion in billings and sales during 2020

New study details how small businesses innovate on the App Store to reach customers around the world

Apple today revealed that the App Store ecosystem facilitated $643 billion in billings and sales during 2020, a 24 percent year-over-year increase. An independent study by economists from the Analysis Group found that developers selling goods and services across many categories grew their businesses while reaching customers around the world. App creators applied their creativity and passion to help people stay connected, healthy, and entertained — while the App Store played a vital supporting role as developers adapted to the year’s challenges and brought new innovations to life. 

The new study, “A Global Perspective on the Apple App Store Ecosystem,” takes an in-depth look at how the App Store supported small businesses, which have quickly become a thriving and inclusive engine of opportunity for economies around the world. The number of small developers worldwide has grown by 40 percent since 2015 — and they make up more than 90 percent of App Store developers.

The study defines small developers as those with fewer than 1 million downloads and less than $1 million in earnings across all their apps in a given year.

“Developers on the App Store prove every day that there is no more innovative, resilient or dynamic marketplace on earth than the app economy,” says Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO.

“The apps we’ve relied on through the pandemic have been life-changing in so many ways — from groceries delivered to our homes, to teaching tools for parents and educators, to an imaginative and ever-expanding universe of games and entertainment.

The result isn’t just incredible apps for users: it’s jobs, it’s opportunity, and it’s untold innovation that will power global economies for many years to come.”

More than 1 in 4 small developers who sell digital goods and services on the App Store have grown their earnings by an average of at least 25 percent each year for the past five years. Nearly 80 percent of small developers on the App Store are active across multiple countries’ storefronts — and on average, these developers see earnings from users in more than 40 countries.

The ability to reach a global audience on the App Store has helped developers of all sizes create life-changing opportunities not just for themselves, but for their teams and communities.

For a subset of developers on the App Store, acquisitions and public offerings have blazed trails, enabling them to grow their businesses even further. In a conservative estimate for Europe and the US, the study found that more than 75 app-based companies for whom iOS apps are central to their businesses have gone public or been acquired — with a total valuation of more than $510 billion at the time of their offering or sale.

Bumble launched in 2014 with a team of less than 20 people. Fast forward seven years and Bumble Inc. has become the parent company of both its namesake, the woman-first Bumble, and dating app Badoo, which now host a combined 42 million monthly active users globally. Bumble Inc.’s February 2021 IPO raised $2.2 billion and the company says the App Store and iOS ecosystem are “inextricably linked” to its success.

“For the entire team, the IPO was a real moment of validation,” says Miles Norris, Bumble’s chief product officer.

“It’s going to allow us to accelerate our growth into more markets and scale our mission, which has always been to create safe, healthy, and equitable relationships across all facets of a woman’s life. To realize that kind of change, you have to reach a lot of people, and the App Store has enabled us to do that.”

Success looks different for each app on the App Store. Apple says its goal is to provide the developers behind each and every app, regardless of size, with the tools to build a thriving business and deliver a great app experience for Apple users.

Developers Reach Customers Worldwide

The study found that the App Store enables app businesses of all sizes to reach customers across 175 countries and regions.

Versa is the developer behind Makaron, a photo and video editing app from Shanghai, China, that has been downloaded nearly 8 million times by App Store users in 173 countries and regions. Since Makaron launched in 2018, its valuation has increased 172 percent, from $55 million to $150 million in 2020, and its staff increased from 25 to 125 employees.

“The App Store has helped us connect to customers all over the world,” says Tianyi Cai, Versa’s CEO.

“As a small company, we didn’t have the resources to go international by ourselves, but Apple gave us the tools we needed for expansion. For example, we would have never guessed we would be in Turkey, but the App Store’s analytics gave us a really clear sign that we needed to go there — and now people love us there.”

Secure Payment Methods Internationally

Localized storefronts and payment processing mean developers can focus on their apps and their customers while the App Store facilitates secure, international transactions — including support for 40 languages, almost 200 local payment methods, and 45 local currencies.

Childhood friends Pedro Wunderlich and Andres Canella from Guatemala launched their app, Wakeout!, in 2017 with the goal of making the world a little bit more active. The app helps more than 2 million users in 171 countries and regions around the world incorporate movement into their lives using everyday items. In the last 12 months, Wakeout! has seen its billings increase an astonishing 455 percent.

“Apple’s payment system is essential for us, especially as a small business,” says Canella.

“It’s enabled us to expand globally without having to worry about calculating things like local taxes or currency conversion. And using it is so transparent for our customers — we’re able to reach everywhere, China, France, you name it. We get all the benefits of selling globally without ever having to think about it, which is priceless.” 

Developer Technologies and Tools

Apple has helped this thriving community of small developers build incredible apps with more than 250,000 application programming interfaces (APIs) included in 40 software development kits (SDKs). For many developers, these tools enable them to add new functionalities to their apps easily and quickly — harnessing powerful capabilities like machine learning, augmented reality (AR), and many more — and empowering them to focus on using their areas of expertise to build great apps.

Primer: AR Home Design uses AR to help users imagine what redesigned spaces could look like with new paint or wallpaper. A three-person team out of Oakland, California, launched the app in April 2020, and in just over one year, Primer: AR has enabled almost 600,000 AR product views, meaning a user has looked at a virtual swatch through the app.

“ARKit anchors our entire app experience,” says Adam Debreczeni, Primer: AR’s co-founder.

“What I love about this SDK is that Apple took the stuff that was incredibly intricate and complex and would’ve been really hard for us to build and they made it really accessible, abstracting it in ways where we could just be creative on top of it.

Within three or four months of development time we had a great prototype we could take to brands, and give them these superpowers they didn’t know they had before.”

Developer Educational Resources

The dynamism of the App Store has its roots in a large and growing community of new and emerging developers, many of whom benefit from Apple’s educational and app-building resources. The more than 10,000 graduates of Apple’s Developer Academies — which offer classes for new and aspiring developers looking to hone their skills — have launched over 1,500 apps.

Entrepreneur Camps and App Accelerators have helped even more developers take their apps from good to great, with a special focus on resources for women and communities of colour. Open access tools like Everyone Can Code, App Development in Swift, and Swift Playgrounds are helping to bring a new generation of developers into the app economy, reaching nearly 2 million students and educators in 2020 alone.

Every year, hundreds of student developers are selected as scholarship winners at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference (WWDC). In 2017, one of those winners was 17-year-old Vladimir Danila from Berlin, Germany. Later that year, Danila launched Vectornator, a graphic design app that has since been downloaded more than 4 million times.

“WWDC helped connect me to a community of developers around the world and in Germany,” says Danila.

“Those relationships helped me get to know other like-minded people and their feedback has been invaluable. We’ve since added four other WWDC student scholars to the team — we push each other forward, which is incredibly important as we grow and evolve.”

Small Businesses Benefit with Marketplace Apps

A number of apps on the App Store have built their own digital marketplaces, which in turn have provided new platforms for small businesses to reach more customers. Some of these marketplaces take a specialized approach, such as EatOkra, which helps consumers find Black-owned restaurants, or Etsy, which allows artists and creators to share their work with the world.

Lake is a colouring app featuring artwork by more than 80 artists. Launched by a team of five out of Ljubljana, Slovenia, in March 2017, the app has been downloaded over 8 million times.

“We’re proud that we’ve built this community of artists from around the world that are receiving a steady income because of Lake,” says Goran Ivašić, Lake’s co-founder.

“Artists from some countries that have not had the best couple of years have told us this income was a lifeline. As well, a lot of our artists and users are women and it’s very meaningful to us that we’ve been able to champion this positive space for creative expression and inclusiveness.”

Helping brick-and-mortar businesses to move online

The study focused on 2020, a year when apps played a more significant role than ever in helping colleagues collaborate, teachers keep their students engaged, and family and friends connect with one another. The App Store provides the tools and the platform for traditional brick-and-mortar businesses to move online — a crucial economic lifeline during the pandemic and as companies adapt to an increasingly digital world.

Rogers-O’Brien is a commercial general contractor headquartered in Dallas, Texas, that has harnessed the power of technology to help its business evolve. Using iPad and a variety of apps, the company has been able to more than triple its annual revenue — from $220 million in 2012 to more than $705 million last year.

“Taking our business digital with Apple platforms has been a game-changer,” says Todd Wynne, Rogers-O’Brien’s chief innovation officer.

“It’s allowed us to transform so many aspects of what we do — everything from making heavy physical blueprints portable to revolutionizing the mechanism for reporting daily safety reports and conditions. We’re even using drones now, which are providing visual intelligence on our construction projects that we’ve never had before.

One of our core values is ‘a better way’ — and apps have definitely helped us live that truth.”

The App Store, which launched in 2008, is currently home to 1.8 million apps and visited by more than half a billion people each week across 175 countries. It helps creators, dreamers, and learners of all ages and backgrounds connect with the tools and information they need to build a brighter future and a better world.

Independent Study

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