Dissecting The App Store Top Charts

Stuart Hall
by Stuart Hall
April 10, 2015

I was reading an interesting article on Forbes called “App Discovery Nightmare And How Reliance Games Is Tackling It“. The article made some interesting points on breaking into the top charts for apps and how the number of games in the top charts had been slipping.

In my mind games have always dominated the App Store, both in downloads and revenue, but what is the truth?

This inspired me to dig into the US top 200 charts (free, paid and grossing) to check out how the categories and age of the apps compared. The data is a snapshot take on April 8 2015.


Top Free Categories

Interestingly (to me at least) games don’t dominate the free charts to the extent I thought they did.

Top Paid Categories

Top Grossing Categories
This almost looks like a big blue games Pac-Man is eating everyone else up.


Games: Games dominate the grossing charts, with almost 3/4 of the entries, but on actual free downloads it falls to 30%. Other categories are competing on downloads, but have a long way to go to catch up to the effectiveness of games to convert freemium users via in app purchase.

Photo & Video: Interestingly photo & video apps have a strong showing in both the free and paid download charts, but fall away significantly in the top grossing charts.

Health & Fitness: Health & Fitness is extremely small (1%) on both the free and grossing charts, but performs much better (11%) in the paid charts. This surprised me because I found that I generated much more revenue with my fitness app being free with In-app purchases than it did being paid up front.

Social Networking: Although very small in the paid charts Social Networking, mainly thanks to dating apps, performs well both on free and grossing charts.

It appears that a really significant amount of the money (> 80% by grossing) is generated by games and social networking / dating apps, no big news to us all there.

App Age

How sticky are the apps in the top charts? I had a look across free, paid and grossing charts. Age is defined here as the time since the app was released, not when it was last updated.

Median Age (days)1013887658
Median Age (years)


The median age of an app in the top free charts is almost 3 years!

If we look at the breakdown of the charts:

Top Free Age

In the free charts 11% of the app were launched over 6 years ago, while only 35% of apps were made in the last 2 years. Pretty tough to break into that one.

Top Paid Age
 The paid charts has the most balanced age of apps.

Top Grossing Age
Top grossing has the majority of apps under 2 years since they launched, I’d say this is more of an indication of the move to freemium / IAP over the last few years.


The common thinking around apps being big launch and fade away definitely doesn’t hold true for the top charts. A significant portion of the apps have been around for many years, the same old faces.

What keeps them there? Historical downloads? Recent downloads? Total reviews? I suspect it’s a combination of these factors that cause Apple’s algorithms to keep these apps at the top of the carts.

Again it points towards the app discovery problem. How do new apps compete with these apps that have lodged themselves at the top for almost 7 years?

I think this gives us hope, even if we don’t have the big launch we can listen to our users, keep reading those app reviews and improving our products. Maybe in another 7 years time your app will be at the top, or the top 3 like Facebook.

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