What Is the Apple App Store?

The Apple App Store is a digital distribution platform where individuals can buy and download digital software and applications. Apps—an abbreviation of the word "applications"—are software tools that provide additional functionality to an operating system. Apps purchased from the Apple App Store are stored in the iCloud—a cloud storage and cloud computing service from Apple—for easy access from any signed-in device.

While Apple maintains that it holds a trademark on the term “app store," the term is used to reference any platform where apps are sold. Examples of other app stores are Google's Google Play, the Amazon Appstore, Blackberry World, and Microsoft's Windows Store.

Key Takeaways

  • The Apple App Store is a digital distribution platform where individuals can buy and download digital software and applications.
  • Apps—an abbreviation of the word "applications"—are software tools that provide additional functionality to an operating system. 
  • Apps can be created by any developer but must be approved by Apple in order to be sold in the App Store.

How the Apple App Store Works

Apple’s App Store is a big business for the company. In 2019, Apple's App Store had gross sales of around $50 billion. Developers take approximately 70% of the purchase price of an app on the Apple App Store. Even still, this means that the App Store generated about $15 billion in revenue for Apple in 2019.

Apps can be created by any developer but must be approved by Apple in order to be sold in the App Store.

History of the Apple App Store

The Apple App Store opened on July 10, 2008, the day before the launch of the iPhone 3G. Apple’s first app store was originally intended for iOS, but it was later expanded to provide apps for Macs with the App Store macOS in early 2011. 

One of the many significant changes to Apple's App Store came in 2014. Attention from European regulators caused the company to change apps listed with the language of "free." Now, these apps include the word "get" in order to convey that some of these apps included in-app purchases. In 2017, this labeling practice became standard.

Special Considerations

How Can Developers Publish an App?

Developers must pay a $99 annual fee to access the Apple Developer Program. (This fee is waived for nonprofits and governments.) App publishers must submit their app to a testing process, adhere to Apple's rules and guidelines, and meet a number of prerequisites. Some prerequisites include:

  • Getting an App ID or application identifier for your app.
  • Obtaining a distribution certificate, which enables an app developer to create a provisioning profile.
  • Creating an iOS provisioning profile to distribute an app via the App Store.
  • Building settings.
  • Setting a deployment target (important to get this right the first time).

Developers should also consider basic information such as a name, pricing and availability, metadata, and ratings.

Apple App Store vs. Google Play

The Apple App Store and Google Play are both different platforms through which developers market and sell apps. Google Play, which used to be called Andriod Market, is for Android mobile apps, versus iOS apps on the Apple App Store.

For developers, the Google Play Store's approval process is considered less tedious than Apple's approval process. It's not easy to get an app into the Apple App Store, and Apple has copious standards and rules. While most apps are rejected the first time they are submitted, Apple employs an app review team that can provide developers with comprehensive feedback about why their app didn't make the cut.

The Google Play store has more lenient standards for apps; this also means that end users of Google Play may encounter more glitchy or malfunctioning apps on the platform. The Google Play Store generates more than double the downloads of the Apple App Store.

As mentioned before, the Apple App store charges developers $99 per year to enroll as an App Store developer. To become a Google Play developer, you are only charged a one-time fee of $25. Developers then receive 70% of app revenue (although most apps on Google Play are free). Plus, they can publish unlimited apps in the future.