Entries in Zombies (1)


Zombie? So what?

CNBC published a "news" story last week under the title "Apple's 'Zombie Apps' Cloud App Store's Birthday"; other outlets did similar stories.

The angle of the story was that although Apple touts over 900,000 apps available on the iOS App Store, a "study" found that "579,001 apps in a watched database of 888,856 are 'zombies'", where a "zombie" is defined as an app "...not found on the top lists that Apple publishes every day". The implication is that the App Store economy as not as healthy as Apple would like you to believe.

This is misleading in so many ways.

Our two apps almost certainly qualify for "zombie" status; Eye Tide sales are modest (certainly not enough to make a living on), and CompArea downloads are in single digits after a few months. But both have been "successful" on some level for various reasons.

  • Eye Tide's active user base, while very small, is growing, based on anecdotal evidence from friends and family and upgrade activity. User feedback has driven new feature development, and there's lots more we can do to make this app even more useful.
  • The principal motivation for developing and releasing Eye Tide in the App Store was career development. As a professional software developer, I was trying to break into iOS development, because the iOS economy is thriving and I find that working with Objective-C and Cocoa is a real joy. Recruiters advised me that having an App in the Store was generally a requirement even for consideration for a full-time iOS development position. Indeed, although I was able to land a job doing iOS development very shortly (i.e., hours) before Eye Tide appeared in the Store, my experience developing the app made me a credible candidate for the position.
  • The expertise I've gained in working on both apps has made me more proficient in my "day job". Software Development is a career that demands continued learning and self-improvement, much of it on one's own time; so much the better that I can do so with technologies I enjoy working and see some positive feedback as well.
  • Like so many other "zombie" apps, both apps are "niche" apps that are well along the "long tail" of user interest. There may not be all that many people whose daily interest in ocean tides make an iOS app at all necessary or even useful, but for those few, the solutions are there. The availability of solutions for so many niche markets is part of what drives the growth of the mobile device market.
  • The authors of the "study" are not impartial observers of the marketplace. They have a service they want to sell, which relate to analysis of usage patterns and advertising. The underlying intent of the "study" is to suggest to developers that success (i.e., breaking out of zombie-hood) depends on their services.

To be sure, users and serious developers would be well served if it was easier to separate quality apps from serious developers from some of the haphazardly developed junk that has accrued in the App Store.

In the meantime, we'll just keep writing and improving on our software, because there's more value to be had than the bank deposits from Apple.