While Apple still has a ways to go to be the dominant cell phone provider in the world, CEO Steve Jobs is comfortable with his lead in selling mobile applications.
Apple announced Tuesday that after a year in existence, its App Store has counted 1.5 billion downloaded applications for the iPhone and iPod Touch. In a press release, Jobs said, "The App Store is like nothing the industry has ever seen before in both scale and quality. With 1.5 billion apps downloaded, it is going to be very hard for others to catch up."
Indeed, the rate at which customers are buying the apps seems to be increasing. In April, Apple announced 1 billion apps had been downloaded from its store, after just 9 months of being open. Just three months later, another 500 million apps have been purchased. Apple says there are 65,000 apps available in the store, and 40 million iPhones and iPod Touch devices sold thus far, with new iPhone 3GS owners likely bumping up those download numbers in the last month.
Apple's success with attracting developers to make all those apps is certainly inspiring imitators. Just Tuesday morning Verizon announced it is looking to develop an application store for its wireless phones. Phone makers Nokia, RIM, and Palm have similar platforms for selling apps for its devices, and there are also repositories for apps that work on the Windows Mobile and Android platforms only.
But the App Store, despite its success, is not without its problems. Many developers still appear flummoxed by the sometimes ambiguous policies for creating applications and the inconsistencies in how they're applied. For example, MLB At Bat, which streams live baseball games, gets the stamp of approval from both Apple and AT&T, the exclusive carrier, but SlingPlayer Mobile from Sling Media, which streams live television, does not.
And application developers report that trying to get answers from Apple on the inconsistencies or clarifications when their apps are denied is frustrating. Even at the recent Worldwide Developers Conference in June, developers sitting on a panel regarding App Store publishing said the company took no Q&A on the process and referred questions back to its Web site.
Still, many of those same confused developers continue to develop for the iPhone and iPod Touch for reasons illustrated by today's news: the App Store is still the most viable way for mobile developers to get their applications in front of customers.