Apple's App Store is infested with "Zombie apps" that are rarely downloaded and do little more than bolster the overall number of titles, researchers claim, with an estimated two-thirds of the total available being barely used. The download store celebrated its fifth birthday this week with a selection of high-profile freebies, but according to Adeven figures seen by the BBC, many of the titles in the store get little to no attention from users themselves. Updated after the cut.
Adeven, a mobile marketing tracking service, describes those unseen apps as zombies: software that never appears in Apple's master list of most-downloaded apps across the world, which encompasses more than 300,000 titles. "579,001 apps out of a total of 888,856 apps in our database are zombies" the company claims.
However, Apple itself has been buoyant about how much attention even less popular apps get in the store. Speaking at WWDC, CEO Tim Cook claimed that 90-percent of all apps are downloaded at least once each month; total downloads have exceeded 50bn.
The tracking analysis firm says that the discrepancy in claims is down to what information Apple actually makes public. "We can't say exactly how many downloads they have - Apple doesn't reveal this - but it is very small" Adeven argues.
It's not the first time the App Store has been criticized for focusing on total numbers and ignoring quality in the process. Back in 2009, another research company criticized Apple for not dealing with so-called "bulk apps", where a basic template is injected with different sets of data, such as for travel guides and local search apps.
Still, you could argue that the real result is how much money the App Store makes. According to Apple's latest figures, it has paid out $10bn to developers in the past five years, half of that in the last twelve months alone.
Update: PC Mag throws some cold water on the study, pointing out that Adeven has a vested interest in promoting the idea of "invisible" apps since it offers a service to promote titles for developers, and arguing that the so-called "zombies" are in reality the long-tail of software. That could mean bad or unloved apps, or it could mean particularly niche titles that are only really intended to appeal to a small subset of users.