Uncovering the Mystery Behind the App Store Editors’ Choice

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Kevin Ford

September 22nd, 2015

The App Store Editors’ Choice placement was rolled out to the App Store in May 2012. Apple’s goals for the new featured placement was to highlight promising apps and to improve the app discovery process.

After two years, the app discovery process is still a mystery to some and there has been a lot of speculation about what it takes to get featured on the App Store. I did some digging into the history of featured placements on the App Store including Editors’ Choice and included some trends below.

Free Apps vs Paid Apps

Based on recent hirings of high profile retail veterans, it seems that the App Store is moving closer towards being managed like a retail store. Every pixel of space is valuable and if focused on displaying content that will sell. Unlike some of the other app marketplaces that sell featured placements to developers, the App Store awards their featured placements to apps that are likely to drive revenue for Apple. Whether an app is free or paid, Apple is focused on highlighting content that is fun to play for users of their store.

editors_choice_free_vs_paid

By looking at the history of the App Store Editors’ Choice placement, we found that nearly 2/3s of the apps selected were free apps and 1/3 were paid. The current trend favors free apps, with 70% of the most recent selections being free. Out of the first 30 selections in 2012, only 47% were free. At that same time, 84% of the apps on the App Store were free.

The top price points amongst Editors’ Choice apps are displayed below. As you can see, 63% of apps selected have been free, followed by 11% at $2.99, 11% at $4.99, and 6% at $0.99. The remaining 9% of Editors’ Choice selections includes apps that were $1.99, $3.99, $6.99, $9.99, $14.99, and $15.99.

top_editors_choice_app_price_point

Games vs Other Categories

The first app ever featured in the Editors’ Choice placement was a Finance app. Since then, there has never been another finance app selected. While only 25% of all live apps on the App Store are games, the Editors’ Choice list heavily favors games, with 65% of all selections. Coming in second behind games were Education apps, with a measly 9%. Following them with 5% each were Health & Fitness, Photo & Video, and Social. With 2% of all selections were Productivity and Reference apps. Finally, with just 1% of all selections were Books, Entertainment, Finance, Food & Drink, Lifestyle, News, and Sports apps.

editors_choice_app_categories

So far this year, 70% of the apps selected for the Editors’ Choice placement have been games. Last year, only 55% of the apps selected were games. The increased ratio of games to other categories supports claims that the App Store is being managed like a retail store because games monetize better than other categories, just look at the Top Grossing apps. Right now, 76% of the Top Grossing apps on the App Store are free games.

Aside from rare one off occasions, the editors are going to select the apps that they think are the most marketable, while staying within a few basic parameters (app isn’t deceptive, passes review, etc.). Right now the most marketable apps are games so game developers have more opportunities to get featured in the Editors’ Choice placement than their counterparts from other categories.

Game Center vs No Game Center

Amongst the games selected for the Editors’ Choice placement, only 19% were NOT using Game Center. Of those without Game Center, 80% were major gaming studios – a clear indication that indies have to work harder to please Apple. For Apple, there is less risk in featuring games with strong brand recognition because the company name or IP will drive downloads.

editors_choice_games_with_game_center

Quality vs Quantity

Obviously, the App Store editors are looking for quality apps so I won’t spend much time on ratings. The average rating for apps that have received the Editors’ Choice recognition is 4.3 out of 5.

Aside from a couple outliers, the quantity of apps you have produced does not have any correlation with your chances of getting featured. In fact, 20% of all developers selected for the Editors’ Choice placement only have 1 app available on the App Store and 59% have fewer than 10. The median number of apps amongst developers selected for the Editors’ Choice placement is 8.

Of all the developers ever selected for the Editors’ Choice placement, only 12% have been selected more than once. Unfortunately, no indie developers have ever been featured in the Editors’ Choice placement more than once.

Final Takeaway

If you have a high quality app that offers something new or unique to the App Store, you have a fighting chance to be selected by the crew in Cupertino. Before you pitch your app to the editors, prepare yourself by following this list oftips for getting featured on the App Store.

If you’re interested in learning more about NativeX’s app monetization solutions for mobile games, click here. You can also follow our future blog posts on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Kevin Ford

Marketing Manager

2015-09-22
  1. I was just leaving a long winded rant on the App Store review of the free app of the week. In it I went off on the stupidity of putting a 4 year old game that was already free as the free app as well as popular as the week. I then went on the highlight the misguided judgement of the App Store editors and how ridiculous the selections were in the editors choice section, then went looking for some names and found your piece. I enjoyed it throughly and Nice work on backing it up with hard stats. I believe that mobile gaming has become an explosive greed fest full of ferocious corporate sharks and the prey are extremly young. The responsibliity of big business like apple to protect their customers from blatant money grabs and freemium cash register apps seems to be falling through the cracks to say the least. I’m working on a piece about it and if I could send you a draft in a few weeks I would love to get some feedback and perhaps some contribution. Once again enjoyed this very much.

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