There are many abandoned Android apps out there and that says a lot about indie development

There are many abandoned Android apps out there and that says a lot about indie development

Hundreds of thousands have gone without updates for at least 2 years

Applications have a high degree of correlation with companies. Unless it’s based on intellectual property can last many of them not take an awfully long time. The climb is steep, and many developers aren’t equipped to meet all of the challenges along the way unless they get a decent investment or are bought out. While that’s not the story for every app out there, there are plenty of them that show up in your App Store’s search results that haven’t received an update in months or even years. A new report attempts to show just how many of these so-called “discontinued” apps exist.


Analysts at research firm Pixalate say (via The Register and Esper’s The Android Edge Newsletter) that they found 1.5 million applications in both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store that have not been updated for at least 2 years, with 314,000 apps have not been prodded for 5 years or more. On the other hand, 2 million apps received an update in the last year, of which 1.3 million were launched in the last 6 months.

On the Android side, about 870,000 apps fall below the 2-year threshold (58% market share), with the majority in the 2-3 year segment at 465,000. Of the apps that haven’t been updated for 4 years or more, iOS accounts for the larger share at 290,000 (56%). AppBrain counted more than 2.65 million active offers on the Play Store at the time of writing, which means that almost a third of them have been abandoned for at least 2 years.

To begin with, there are very few maintenance-free evergreen apps, although a good chunk of them tend to be cult followings. However, there will be fewer of them in the future as operating systems become more complex to ward off security threats and improve user experience. The Play Store is already increasing the pressure on app publishers to commit to frequent updates or risk having them removed from the platform. That’s not to say that Google Play is the be-all and end-all of Android app releases — Amazon’s App Store is another lucrative example — but none can offer looser update policies to such a large audience.

Indie developers serving smaller communities will find it even harder to keep up than it already is. AppBrain states that about four out of five Android apps have 10,000 or fewer downloads. Still, 31% of apps with 10,000 downloads or fewer on both Android and iOS have not seen an update in at least 2 years, versus 27% who have had at least one in the past 6 months.

It seems to quite a number of programmers that independent mobile app development is quickly losing its viability as a side hustle. Will they be able to chase and earn Google and Apple earnings full-time? Or are they pushed out of the picture by life circumstances or an acquisition?

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