Summary:

Google continues to excel on Apple’s own platform by going native on iOS with its online services. Not to be outdone, the likes of Microsoft and Yahoo are closing in while AOL continues to find itself.

Google Yahoo Microsoft AOL

By the end of 2012, Microsoft, Yahoo, Google and AOL had all shed a considerable number of iOS apps from their collective portfolios. With the exception of AOL, each of the other companies managed to increase the number of apps they have in Apple’s iOS app store in 2013. And with the release of iOS 7 in the second half of the year, which required many development teams to update their apps, it is no wonder that all four companies saw a surge in app updates in 2013 as well.

I gathered data from online app services like AppShopper.com, 148Apps.biz and Apple’s own Search API in order to gain some insight as to what each company has accomplished in 2013. Each app listed under the company’s name was counted, along with the latest release date, category, number of updates made in 2013, whether or not the app was introduced as a new in 2013, as well as their peak ranking within each app’s respective category.

Here is what I found:

Google

Google – Adding 12 apps to its iOS portfolio, successfully deploying 140 releases to the app store, and having no less than 20 apps in the top 200 of their respective categories, one would think that Google was dominating iOS above and beyond the other four. Well, almost (more on that in a moment). What does make Google stand out is the fact that it has made great strides at making iOS its own and delivering a Google experience to its users. With Chrome, Maps, YouTube, Gmail and Search, Google has more apps achieving the top position in each app’s respective category than any other iOS development team in the lineup.

In 2012 when Apple and Google parted ways over the Maps app, it appeared at first that Google was intent on making Android the dominant mobile OS when it comes to accessing Google’s online services. Adding real-time driving data from Waze, Google contacts integration, and offline map data, Google Maps for iOS kept up with its Android counterpart in 2013. Google has made each and every one of its iOS apps a complete part of the overall Google online experience.

Yahoo

Yahoo – Yahoo has two very interesting characteristics to its app store stats in 2013. The company has the highest ratio of releases per app at almost 6:1. Three apps in particular — Yahoo, Yahoo Mail, and Yahoo Weather — represent almost half of all releases to the app store in 2013. Yahoo also added a significant number of apps in the top 200 for their respective categories, with 75 percent of its apps in these top positions. Yahoo has openly stated that mobile was very important to it in 2013 and these numbers show that the company is focusing.

While it does not have nearly as many apps in the app store as Google, the ones it does have are successful with the Search, Mail and Weather apps all holding top positions in the last 30 days. By executing on its plan to focus on technology rather than content in 2013, Yahoo’s commitment to Apple’s mobile platform appears to be paying off.

Microsoft

Microsoft – While Microsoft may not have be as successful with its own mobile phones, the company has made some serious strides on iOS in 2013. By adding 20 new apps to the app store this year, Microsoft has made its way to the top with 39 apps currently in the app store. One way the company made it to the top was by having separate apps for both the iPhone and iPad rather than develop a universal app.

What is most interesting about this strategy is that almost all of the iPhone versions such apps are in the top 200 for their respective whereas their iPad counterparts are nowhere to be seen. In fact the iPhone versions of Bing, Lync, OneNote, SkyDrive and Office Mobile all ranked in the top 25 for their respective categories.  This strategy was reinforced when Microsoft released a mobile version of its Office 365 product as an iPhone-only app.  If you want to use Microsoft Office on your iPad, you will have to look elsewhere.

AOL

AOL – Having had a total of 53 apps in the App Store, AOL would appear to be a top contender when it comes to managing the most apps in the app store. However, by the end of 2013, AOL only has 21 total apps active in the store. The odd thing is that not all apps have actually been removed from the App Store. Many that AOL had previously purchased have been sold, sometimes back to their original owners. Such is the case withAbout.me, Bebo, and even Shoutcast. Others have gone their separate ways and are now on the app store under the Time Inc. banner like Fortune magazine available in the newsstand.

So what is AOL’s crown jewel on the app store?  MapQuest. It is the only app developed under the AOL banner to hold a top ten position in the last thirty days. Many of AOL’s remaining apps have dropped positions in 2013 from where they were in 2012. While one-third of its app portfolio still hold top 200 positions, those positions are falling further and further from number 1.  Clearly buying one’s way to the top is not a strategy that works.  Perhaps focusing on an even smaller portfolio and increasing the number of releases per app like Google and Yahoo would be a better strategy for AOL to adopt.

App activity in 2013

App Numbers Summary Data 2013

Looking at the changes year over year you can see that Microsoft has managed to maintain its hold on the most iOS apps in the app store while Google has taken the top spot for the highest number of app releases away from AOL. Yahoo has remained focused on a small number of successful apps, and with a near 45 percent increase in app store submissions, the updates it did make in 2013 helped increase the number of apps they have holding top positions.  What Google and Yahoo have in common are a high number of releases for each app they own, as well as a high number of apps holding top positions in the app store.

If Microsoft could only achieve the same numbers with the iPad versions of each app, it would have a profile more like Google and Yahoo when it comes to holding top positions in the app store.  Not having any sort of symmetry with tablet based development on iOS, Microsoft’s numbers respective to number of releases and positions held in the app store are more like those of AOL, and that is not a good thing.

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