Facebook-backed study claims default apps dominate on iPhone, Android

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A new App Store study paid for by Facebook says that Apple and Google's own default apps dominate key categories, making it harder for third-party developers to compete.

Following its sponsoring of research to lambast App Tracking Transparency in iOS 14, Facebook has now paid for a separate examination of the App Store. This one claims that of the top 20 most-used iPhone apps, Apple makes 15.

Similarly, the study by Comscore claims that Google owns 12 of the top 20 most-used Android apps.

"[The study shows] the impact of preinstalled apps on the competitive app ecosystem," Joe Osborne, Comscore spokesperson said to The Verge.

Significantly, however, neither Apple nor Google publish usage data for their apps. As a result, Comscore's calculations are reportedly primarily based on a survey that is said to have asked around 4,000 users which apps they used.

The full report has not yet been released, and the only further detail about the survey is that respondents were asked during the month of November 2020. There is no breakdown of what proportion of users use iOS or Android, nor any demographic detail about the respondents.

Perhaps consequently, the data revealed so far contains oddities and anomalies. The most-used app on the iPhone, for instance, is said to be the Phone app — whereas no statistically significant number of Android respondents used their phones.

Extrapolating from the 4,000 respondents, Comscore reportedly also notes that some 78 million iPhone users have used the stock Calculator app on iOS. It claims that this is more than the number of Android users who use Gmail.

Purported top 20 apps on iPhone and Android. (Source: The Verge, Comscore)
Purported top 20 apps on iPhone and Android. (Source: The Verge, Comscore)

Apple told The Verge that the survey was "seriously flawed in a number of ways," and also that its findings contradict other data from Comscore.

"This Facebook-financed survey from December 2020 was narrowly tailored to give the false impression that there's little competition on the App Store," continued the spokesperson. "In truth, third-party apps compete with Apple's apps across every category and enjoy large scale success."

Comscore's survey was conducted in December 2020, asking users about their use in November 2020. As of July 2021, the full report is not listed on Comscore's site.

In the interim, Apple has been facing rising criticism of its App Store policies.

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