What is “abandoned software?” | App Stores Host Over 1.5 Million Discontinued Apps (What That Means)

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Apple recently introduced its policy for removing “abandoned” apps from the App Store. A new research paper gives us insight into the scale of the problem.

While Apple has consistently flagged and removed “abandonware” from the App Store for years, for whatever reason, its latest purge drew an unusual level of attention when several independent developers claimed their apps were being treated unfairly.

However, a new report from a market research firm Pixelate reveals that this is a much bigger problem than most of us probably suspected.

According to its Q1 2022 Abandoned Mobile Apps Reportthere are more than 1.5 million abandoned apps on Apple App Store and Google Play Store.

Note that Pixalate’s threshold is slightly stricter than Apple’s. In its report, the analytics firm defines an abandoned app as an app that hasn’t been updated for at least two years.

Pixalate uses the date the app was last updated to determine the degree of apparent abandonment. For high-level data points, we consider an app to be at increased risk of “dropping” if it hasn’t been updated for at least two years (by the end of Q1 2022).Pixalate, Abandoned Mobile Apps Report (Q1 2022)

Apple draws that line at three years while adding that an app must not meet a “minimum download threshold” before it is considered abandoned for App Store purposes.

Pixalate’s report goes into much more detail, describing “different levels of apparent dropout in six-month increments.” It goes so far as to call apps “super-abandoned” – those that remain on their respective app stores despite not having received any updates for over five years.

  • 650,000 apps on the App Store have not been updated for at least two years, against 869,000 on the Play Store.
  • 184,000 apps on the App Store haven’t received any updates for more than five years. The Play Store does a little better here, with just 130,000 apps hitting that threshold.
  • 33% of apps on the App Store and Google Play have not been updated in the past two years.
  • At the other end of the scale, 28% of mobile apps have been updated in the last six months.

The report also correlates recent updates with app downloads, noting that 84% of the most popular apps – those with more than 100 million downloads – were updated in the last six months.

However, abandoned apps have not been ruled out entirely. Apps that hadn’t been updated for more than two years still accounted for 6% of those receiving more than 100 million downloads, while accounting for slightly higher percentages in lower categories.

Based on Apple’s stated policies for app disposal, this would explain why many seemingly discontinued apps like Pocket God remain on the App Store. Apple won’t remove a popular app, regardless of how long it’s been since it was last updated — assuming it’s still working, of course.

Pixalate also broke down the frequency of app updates by category, finding that reference, gaming, and education apps were the most frequently dropped, while finance, health, and shopping were the most frequently updated. day.

For example, 40% of games on the App Store have not been updated for more than two years, while only around 22% have been updated in the past six months. The opposite is true for financial apps, 44% of which have received recent updates, compared to just 20% that haven’t been updated in more than two years.

On average, 38% of apps in referrals, gaming, and health haven’t been updated for at least two years, while 36% of apps in finance, health, and shopping have not been updated for at least two years. received updates within the last six months.

However, regardless of age, Apple will always remove an app from the App Store if it is no longer functional on relatively modern versions of iOS. Even then, users who have already downloaded an app will still be able to use it on their devices. It will usually remain in the user’s download history unless the developer retrieves it from there.

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