A new study looks at how many downloads it takes to reach the top of the App Store.

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According to new research, getting an app to the top of the App Store in terms of downloads has become more difficult in recent years. According to fresh statistics from app analytics business Sensor Tower, the number of downloads required to reach the top of Apple's iPhone App Store in the United States has increased by 37% since 2019. In particular, it forecasts that an app now needs about 156,000 daily downloads to reach the top place, up from 114,000 daily downloads in 2019.

However, it's important to note that downloads alone do not propel an app to the top of the charts. It's only one of numerous elements taken into account by Apple's ranking system when managing its Top Charts.

Source: Sensor Tower

Apple quickly understood that downloads alone would provide developers with an easy method to purchase their way to the top of the App Store in its early days.

It subsequently increased the complexity of its ranking system, making it more mysterious. Another company, Apptopia, claims to have reverse-engineered the current version of this algorithm, which is supposed to take into account a variety of criteria such as velocity, app usage, new user number, and more.

However, considering how little information there is about how Apple's App Store ranks function, downloads are still a component of the equation and an important issue to investigate.

Among the new discoveries, Sensor Tower discovered that Apple seems to have tweaked its ranking system to account for the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

It claims that the number of downloads required for an app to reach No. 1 on the US App Store reached a new high of 185,000 in 2020, up 62 percent year over year. That would fit with the general increase in app downloads and usage that occurred while people stayed at home during the government shutdown, with schools, shops, and jobs shuttered.

However, getting to the same place on Google Play was easier at the time, since the needed number of daily downloads only increased by 5% year over year to 87,000 in 2020.

Source: Sensor Tower

The amount of daily downloads required to reach No. 1 in both markets has decreased since then, as post-COVID (or rather, post-lockdown) trends have stabilized app use.

As previously mentioned, Sensor Tower forecasts that applications must attain a median of 156,000 daily installations to reach No. 1 on the App Store this year, whereas Android apps only require 56,000 installs this year, down 33% from the 83,000 necessary in 2019.

Breaking into the top ten on the App Store in the United States likewise takes more work than doing so on Google Play.

According to the conclusions of the survey, it now takes around 52,000 daily downloads to reach the App Store's Overall Top 10, up 2% from the 51,000 necessary in 2019. However, Android applications only require 29,000 daily downloads, which is down 9% from 2019.

Source: Sensor Tower
Source: Sensor Tower

Nonetheless, these statistics are estimates based on patterns in the individual app marketplaces.

There are diverse tendencies to be seen when looking at numbers in greater depth on a per-category basis. For example, breaking into the Top 10 free iPhone apps in the Entertainment category on the App Store is more difficult than breaking into the Top 10 free iPhone apps in the Shopping, Social Networking, Travel, or Finance categories. Android is similar in that it considers Entertainment to be the most important category in terms of daily installs, but it is followed by Shopping, Tools, Finance, and Communication.

Source: Sensor Tower
Source: Sensor Tower

When it comes to mobile games, Sensor Tower discovered that to reach No. 1, iPhone apps now demand a median of 93,000 downloads, while Android games require 37,000 installs. These percentages are down 46 percent and 68 percent, respectively, from 2019 levels.

The study also mentions that in the past, games have gotten into the Top 10 with fewer installs. To enter the Top 10, iPhone games have needed 26,000 daily downloads so far in 2022, down 40% from 43,000 in 2019. And Android games only need 16,000 daily installations in 2019, down 52% from 33,000 in 2019.

While the new analysis focuses mostly on the US market, Sensor Tower did look at how the Top 10 in the US compares to other nations.

It was discovered that getting into the Top 10 in China for non-game applications is far more difficult than getting into the Top 10 in the US, need more than twice the amount of daily downloads (108,000 in China vs. 52,000 in the US) (U.S.)

On Android, however, India is the hardest market to crack, requiring 292,000 daily downloads to crack the top ten free non-game application lists.

Source: Sensor Tower

Source: Sensor Tower

While the data is interesting, this research ignores the other elements that applications and games need to succeed in the app shops, thus it's not a full picture of how or why apps succeed in the app stores.

Furthermore, there have been some hints that Apple may have been tweaking its algorithms even more in recent weeks, as larger apps like Facebook, Netflix, Snapchat, and others have seen ranking drops since around mid-April, according to Apptopia, when we asked how relative unknown apps were making their way into the Top 10. This might be a test or a more permanent adjustment designed to help smaller applications stand out and get noticed among the IT giants, but more time will be required to complete that investigation.

This type of tinkering, on the other hand, might serve to emphasize a range of applications that are benefiting from marketing, promotions, and other trends. This might explain why Planet Fitness is currently ranked No. 2 on the Top Free Charts in the United States – the firm offered free summer gym passes to teenagers. Meanwhile, DIRECTV's recent app consolidation has propelled it to No. 3, while the newbie social networking app LiveIn, which is popular among youths, has surpassed Facebook and Snapchat to take the No. 7 spot.

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