At the dawn of the smartphone era, Apple famously quipped, “there’s an app for that,” to promote its rapidly expanding App Store. Somewhere along the way, we stopped being impressed by how many apps were available on iOS and Android. Maybe we just hit the point where there were enough, and the numbers don’t matter anymore. In fact, a lot of those apps we were so excited about 10 years ago might now be on the chopping block. A new report estimates that recent policy changes in the Play Store and App Store will see 1.5 million apps scrubbed, amounting to about a third of both platforms.
As we saw from the failure of webOS, Windows Phone, and Blackberry, the modern smartphone era was all about software support. If people couldn’t get the apps they wanted, they were less likely to stick with one of those platforms as Android and iOS boomed. Apple and Google made it easy to create apps for their platforms with free development tools and low fees. That led to a glut of apps, many of which have fallen into disrepair.
So, why not just leave them to rot in a neglected corner of the store? After a few years of abandonment, these apps are no longer up on the latest security features, which makes them easier to exploit, and that poses a danger to your privacy. That’s why Apple and Google are planning to ditch so many of the apps they coveted a decade ago.
According to data from analytics firm Pixalate, there are about 869,000 Android apps and 650,000 iOS apps that have gone two or more years without an update. Together, that’s 1.5 million apps that are not long for this world. Google will hide these apps from most Android devices, save for those running old versions of the OS that are compatible with the apps. Apple hasn’t been as clear on its plans, but developers have said Apple has told them it will remove their abandoned apps completely.
This is being spun as a negative in some corners of the internet — an indictment of developers who have left their users in the lurch. However, who says an app needs to be updated forever? Many of them have served their purpose as a promotional tool or providing access to a now-defunct service. Others were simply supplanted by newer, better apps with sustainable business models. And any open source project that hasn’t been updated in two or more years clearly lacks enough community interest to make it viable.
We have more than enough software from which to choose today. If an app doesn’t stand the test of time, it’s best to sweep it aside.