For Apps, iPhone Growing Faster than Facebook

Updated: When it comes to apps, the iPhone platform is now bigger growing fast  than the Facebook platform, according to a report by Flurry, a San Francisco-based mobile analytics company. The company compared the first 18 months in the life of the two platforms and counted the number of applications developed for the two platforms during that period. Flurry said today that Apple’s (s aapl) iTunes App Store has over 140,000 applications compared to 60,000 apps available in the first 18 months of the availability of the Facebook platform.

“Since the App Store launched in July 2008, 35,000 unique companies have released applications, which translates to 58 new companies launching apps each day,” Furry said in its Smartphone Industry Pulse report for February 2010.

iphonevsfacebook.pngThat’s quite amazing, considering that Facebook launched its platform more than a year earlier than the iPhone platform and has north of 400 million users. In comparison, the iPhone OS platform has about 70 million devices. And developer momentum for the iPhone platform isn’t going to wane anytime soon.

Why? To paraphrase Jerry McGuire, Apple is showing developers the money. Thanks to its one-click payment option, it’s easy for app developers to make money -– whether it’s by selling apps or selling virtual goods within apps.

ipadpushesiphoneapps.pngWith the iPad showing up as a platform extension, more developers are looking to focus their energies on the iPhone platform. “Over six weeks since Apple announced the iPad, Flurry continues to measure a significant increase in iPhone OS new application starts within its system,” the analytics firm said. Much of it is said to be developers looking to adapt their applications for the larger-format device.

The most interesting part of the Flurry report was the iPhone developer DNA. Its analysis revealed the following categories:

1. Native iPhone: Companies founded to create applications for iPhone (e.g., PageOnce, ngmoco)
2. Traditional Media: Companies established on Film, TV, Print and Radio (e.g., Disney, TBS, New York Times)
3. Mobile: Companies having started on J2ME, BREW, BlackBerry, etc. (e.g., Digital Chocolate, eBuddy)
4. Retail & CPG: Brick-and-mortar companies or ones that manufacture goods (e.g., The Gap, DKNY, Kraft)
5. Online: Companies who began on the web including e-Commerce, social networks, online gaming, streaming music, etc. (e.g., Google, eBay, Facebook, Pandora, PopCap, Zynga)
6. Traditional Gaming: Video game companies from console, portable or PC (e.g., EA, Activision, Namco, etc.).

iphonedeveloperdna.gifDespite the fact that the App Store is now maturing, reaching its two year anniversary this summer, we are encouraged that native iPhone application developers are still relevant, representing 20% of the heritage pie, the second largest category. This means that the barrier to entry is still low enough for start-ups to enter and innovation to flourish. However, those days may be numbered as “discoverability” has become a significant issue, and now “marketing muscle” is starting to count more in the App Store.

Update with corrections: After publishing this story, it was brought to my attention that the data from Flurry was faulty. A Facebook spokesperson pointed out that there are:

* More than 500,000 active applications currently on Facebook Platform.

*  More than 250 applications have more than one million monthly active users.

* More than 80,000 websites have implemented Facebook Connect since its general availability in December 2008.

Flurry’s VP of president Peter Fargo responded to this data in an email:

We had a sentence in our report that insinuated the App Store has more applications than Facebook does today.  The point we meant to make is that the App Store has more than twice the number of apps than than facebook did at its 18 month mark (which fb reached in Nov of 2008).  Our graph is correct but we made a mistake in the description of the paragraph.

The company subsequently updated its report.

“…For example, comparing the number of applications created for the Facebook platform to the App Store over their respective first 9 months, Apple boasted 25,000 apps to Facebook’s 14,000. Comparing respective growth in apps after 14 months, Apple had widened its gap to 85,000 apps over Facebook’s 33,000. At the App Store’s 18 month mark, reached this January, the number of iPhone apps was reported to have exceeded 140,000 compared to the 60,000 we estimate Facebook had reached over its first 18 months. We believe the difference in growth rates can be attributed to the App Store providing better monetization possibilities for application developers than Facebook did through its first 18 months. Developers, like all rational companies, pursue markets where the path to revenue generation is clear.”

This update clearly changes the focus of the original story. The error is regretting.