Six months in, iMessage App Store growth slows as developers lose interest

When the iMessage App Store first launched, it was touted asthe next big platform for apps a new way for developers to gain users and make money, and was followed byan initial surge of iMessage app downloads. Now, however, the excitement is fading as is the app stores growth. During the first few months after its debut, the iMessage App Store was seeing growth of over 100 percent month-over-month. Between January and February of this year, thats dropped down to just 9 percent.

According to a new report from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, there are nearly 5,000 Message-enabled apps the same number of iOS apps released in year one of the App Store. That should be a promising figure, given how much the iOS App Store has grown over time it has 2.2 million apps as of January, 2017, Apple said.

But unlike the iOS App Store, the iMessage App Store is already seeing the developer interest andexcitement wearing off.

From its launch in September, 2016 and the end of October, Sensor Tower says the number of iMessage-enabled apps had grown approximately 116 percent to nearly 1,100. By November, that figure had grown another 108 percent to around 2,250 apps. But by December notably a month when developers rush to be ready for the numerous users unwrapping new iPhones and installing apps growth slowed to 65 percent, bringing the store to 3,700 iMessage apps.

Growth continued to fall in the new year, with 18 percent growth from December, 2016 to January, 2017 followed by 9 percent growth from January to February, 2017.

Games continue to be the most popular iMessage app category, ahead of entertainment, utilities, social networking, and photo & video apps. However, even within these categories, many of the apps are stickers like those that use the existing IP froma popular gaming franchise, for example.

Of course, it should be expected that growth will taper off to some extent after a new platforms launch, as this is the time when developers push out their new apps in order to be readyfor the new users. However, to see growth so close to leveling off this early into the iMessage App Stores existence should be concerning for Apple and its developer community it suggests that users have not yet embraced apps on iMessage in large numbers.

There are a number of reasons that could be the case, ranging from poor user interface design choices, to the variety of available apps (nothing truly groundbreaking), to a general sense of app overload among iOS users.

I myself am something of an app addict, but find iMessage apps cumbersome to use because of the user interface. Many users may still not even realize theres an app store tucked away under their keyboard, in fact, because of the way the integration has been designed.

Meanwhile, the more iMessage apps you install, the more challenging it is to swipe through all their little icons to find the one you want.

Plus, given the popularity of sticker packs, it seems that instead of forcing users to swipe over to the right app to access these expressive add-ons, your sticker downloads should be available right from yourkeyboard.

As it stands now, its a lot of work to get to the sticker you want you tap the arrow next to your iMessage text box to find the app store button, which takes you to the last app you used. You then have to tap the four-dot button on the bottom left to return to your list of apps, then swipe through the pages until you find the app for the stickers you want to text to your friend.

This user interface flow makes using an app in the middle of a conversation something that slows things down, instead of adding value.

By comparison, look athow Facebook Messenger does things or any other messaging app for that matter. Stickers are only one tapaway. If Apple truly wants iMessage to become one of the top messaging platforms it needs to think about what already works in the larger messaging app market, and make the necessary adjustments. With any luck, well see this problem addressed in the next big iOS release.

If Appledoesnt, then it wouldnt be a shock to see developers entirely abandon the iMessage App Store in favor of othermessaging platforms where their apps are more visible and can get traction.

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