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Apple Threatens More Than 750,000 Apps

Update: Apple seems to be moving very quickly with this cleanup. Thousands of apps have already been removed. We’ll be releasing a report in the next few days with details.

Yesterday Apple launched a slew of goodies to get excited about. Less known however, is that Apple also introduced new rules for developers that go into effect immediately and threaten new and existing apps alike.

The new rules state that apps can’t have names that are longer than 50 characters and that existing apps that are outdated will be removed immediately.

What’s the magnitude of these new requirements? We used Explorer to dig through all iOS apps and here’s what we found.

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11% of apps have names that are too long

Length of app names

App Store | As of September 2016

A large number of apps, to the tune of 220,000, are currently in violation of the new name length requirement. Since this rule applies to new apps as well as app updates, that’s quite a few developers that will have to adjust.

Games will be hit the hardest

Apps with long names by category

App Store | As of September 2016

Games, the single largest category in the App Store, takes the cake for category with most apps with names longer than 50 characters. In fact, a little over 25% of games have names that are too long. That translates to more than 100,000 games.

Next on the list–Education, Entertainment, and Photography–will take a hit of nearly 30,000 apps. Not as big as games, but considering the categories that’s pretty big to begin with.

Top ranked apps are mostly in the clear

Length of app names

App Store Top 400 apps in the U.S. | As of Sep. 2016

We analyzed the top 400 Free, Paid, and Grossing apps in the U.S. and discovered that most app names are already short enough. Of the top 400 Free, Paid, and Grossing apps 78, 72, and 84 apps (respectively) have names that are too long. That number drops by about a half to 35, 27, and 45 as we move up to the Top 200, and gets even smaller, 13, 11, and 24 as we move into the Top 100.

We reviewed those offending apps by hand and discovered that in most cases the extra characters do seem to be keywords stuffed into the name, most likely for ASO. This is exactly what Apple is trying to prevent. That said, none of the names looked like a list of keywords and they mostly looked like sentences describing the app. However, that’s not necessarily consistent as we go deeper into categories, so Apple’s ruling still makes sense.

Fun stat: The average length of a top app’s name is 31 characters.

Three out of four of those apps are free

Apps with long names by price

App Store | As of September 2016

Free apps, be it freemium or ad-supported, seem to be the biggest violators both as a percentage (74%) and also as an absolute number (170,387). This makes sense given those strategies have grown very quickly in the App Store in the last few years.

Outdated apps

The second requirement, which Apple states is grounds for immediate removal from the store, is a bit more general.

From Apple’s statement

“We are implementing an ongoing process of evaluating apps, removing apps that no longer function as intended, don’t follow current review guidelines, or are outdated.”

There’s no real good way to automatically identify such apps, so in this part of the analysis we’ll be using the date an app was last updated as our proxy metric.

We’ve set our filter to two years, and refer to any app that hasn’t been updated in that period as “outdated”. We chose two years because that’s when Apple transitioned from the 5S to the 6, which has a different screen resolution.

More than 550,000 apps haven’t been updated in over two years

When were apps last updated

App Store | As of September 2016

562,688 to be precise. Wow. That’s quite a lot of apps. This number doesn’t include apps that are no longer available on the App Store. All of these apps are currently available for download.

When you’re thinking outdated app you’re probably thinking apps that never really “made it” and thus never got any updates. However, our analysis found some past hits, including: Tiny Wings (last updated on Aug. 2014), Temple Run (Sep. 2013), and Infinity Blade (Feb. 2012). Will Apple pull these apps?

Games (again) are the biggest offenders

Outdated apps by category

App Store | As of September 2016

Of the ~550k apps that are in jeopardy, a little over 139,000 are games. Surprised?

If we look at share-of-category, about 24% of games might disappear soon. Categories like Education and Entertainment stand to lose about 30% of their inventory. Reference, the category that stands to lose the most, might see almost 50% of its inventory erased. Hmm…

Don’t worry about top apps

We looked at every app that’s ranked in the top 400 Free, Paid and Grossing charts in the U.S. and it looks like top apps get updated very often. We found 19 paid apps and just 1 free app that were outdated. We found no top grossing apps that were outdated.

More outdated apps are paid

Outdated apps by price

App Store | As of September 2016

62% of outdated apps are paid. That makes sense if we continue our note from before about how free apps are taking over the App Store, replacing their paid variants at times. But, this also means many new developers will have to either update their paid apps (and get no money because updates are free), release a completely new paid app (a la Tweetbot) and risk losing users, or monetize some other way. They can also just let the apps disappear and forgo that revenue stream. Decisions, decisions…

Well that’s it for our analysis. Do you think these rules will have any impact on App Store purchasing trends? Will developers react quickly? Tell us what you think on Twitter and keep an eye out for a follow-up report.

About the data

The data for this report was gathered using Explorer, our mobile app search and intelligence platform. Explorer covers 9+ million apps from all major app stores and provides app store info, SDK analysis, app ranks and ratings, and more.