Using the development of apps in Apple’s App Store as a gauge, you can start to see a given company’s mobile agenda when it comes to how a they believe their customers are using Apple’s iPhone. When the iPhone was first introduced as a “breakthrough internet communicator” at MacWorld back in 2007, few truly understood that how people access and use the internet was about to change. Five years later, by looking at four of the dominant leaders in web-based search, mail and chat from the past decade — Google,(s GOOG) Yahoo,(s YHOO) Microsoft(s MSFT) and AOL(s AOL) — you can clearly see the strengths each have used to transition themselves from web to mobile by how they’ve developed apps in their rival’s App Store. Some of them are in transition (Yahoo) or have their own mobile platforms (Microsoft, Google) but all of them have found comfortable homes on the iOS platform.
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 2012. Each app listed under the company’s name was counted, along with the latest release date, category, number of updates made in 2012, whether or not the app was introduced as a new in 2012, as well as their peak ranking within each app’s respective category. Here is what I found:
Google – With more than 26 apps in the App Store today, 12 of which have held top 10 most-downloaded spots in the last 30 days, you can begin to see that Google is not solely dependent on Android when it comes to mobile platforms. Google introduced nine new iOS apps in 2012 like YouTube, Maps, Chrome and Drive, many of which were immediately well-received by Apple’s customers.
Setting the bar for mobile development on Apple’s iOS platform, Google entered into 2012 with an already-strong portfolio of apps in the App Store. When Apple forced Google’s hand in 2012 by excluding YouTube and Maps from the iOS 6 release, Google responded in kind by delivering two great apps in their place. The only thing really missing from its lineup is a native music app that can access Google’s online music service.
Yahoo! – Early in 2012, Yahoo! announced that it was pulling several seldom-used app from the App Store. This move however did not mark the end of Yahoo on the App Store. By introducing eight news apps in 2012, its total number of apps is currently at 15. Managing 66 releases, Yahoo has been able to adapt as it currently has 10 apps that have held top 100 positions in the respective categories in the last 30 days.
An area where Yahoo thrives that Google does not is sports content. By focusing a lot of attention on their successful series of Fantasy sports titles, Yahoo has had quite a year re-defining itself on Apple’s mobile platform. With its major services like Mail, Messenger and Search well represented as native apps, the introduction of its own branded browser in 2012, and a well received Flickr for iOS redesign, Yahoo is proving to be a much better organized mobile development shop. While the rest of Yahoo may be in a state of chaos, its iOS team appears to have gained a clearer vision of what mobile means to Yahoo in 2012.
Microsoft – Leading the pack with the most new iOS apps of these four companies, Microsoft added an additional 13 apps to the App Store in 2012, bringing its total to 29. But it hasn’t seen the same broadly popular reception as its rivals: While almost half of its apps have held top 100 positions in their respective categories in the last 30 days, not one of them has been in in the top 10. Microsoft needs to step up its game a bit to add new features to its iOS app lineup if it is looking to break into the top 10 with a must-have app.
Despite the introduction of its Windows Phone 8 introduced in 2012, Microsoft clearly has not abandoned Apple’s mobile platform for its own. Microsoft is choosing cater to its Xbox audience in particular on Apple’s platform — it has the highest number of gaming apps for iOS out of the four. With Office for iOS just around the corner in 2013, there’s hope for Microsoft to have a megahit — outside of its Xbox franchise — on iOS very soon.
AOL – If you just look at the number of app upgrades and releases AOL has managed in 2012 (98!), you would think that it has one of the hardest-working iOS development shops around. Despite that, this year the theme was simplification: the company managed to clean house by removing several of the 49 apps it had introduced since the first day the App Store was open. Holding on to just 28 apps overall, AOL has seen nine apps achieve top 100 status. Two of which, MapQuest and TechCrunch, have held the No. 1 and No. 2 positions in their respective categories in the last month.
One thing you should notice about AOL’s app lineup is the inclusion of dedicated news apps for services like Engaget, TechCrunch and TUAW. With good amount of news, weather and information services in there lineup, AOL appears to be focusing on what it’s good at: content delivery more than its core search, mail and chat services. AOL also has a decent music presence with SHOUTcast, PLAY and its own AOL Radio apps.
Most app activity in 2012
Overall, it is clear that each company has aggressively embraced and developed apps for Apple’s mobile platform that they feel are important to their customers. While Google may have set the iOS app development bar in 2011 by already having a strong presence in the top 10 for so many of the apps they have developed, it does not appear as if the other three followed Google’s example. While Google opted to double down on iOS development by continuing its focus on creating a native version of its online services, the other three looked to promote their content. Microsoft is catering to gaming customers, Yahoo has focused more on sports, and AOL is leading the way with news, entertainment and lifestyle information. While Yahoo has definitely made great strides in turning its mobile agenda around in 2012, it is Microsoft with its 13 new apps and AOL with its 98 releases and updates that were the most aggressive in 2012. Each of the four have cemented a solid foundation with a much clearer vision in 2012 for what they intend to accomplish in the year to come.