Sarah Perez, TechCrunch:
According to a new report from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, there are nearly 5,000 Message-enabled apps – the same number of iOS apps released in year one of the App Store. That should be a promising figure, given how much the iOS App Store has grown over time – it has 2.2 million apps as of January, 2017, Apple said.
But unlike the iOS App Store, the iMessage App Store is already seeing the developer interest and excitement wearing off.
From its launch in September, 2016 and the end of October, Sensor Tower says the number of iMessage-enabled apps had grown approximately 116 percent to nearly 1,100. By November, that figure had grown another 108 percent to around 2,250 apps. But by December – notably a month when developers rush to be ready for the numerous users unwrapping new iPhones and installing apps – growth slowed to 65 percent, bringing the store to 3,700 iMessage apps.
Growth continued to fall in the new year, with 18 percent growth from December, 2016 to January, 2017 followed by 9 percent growth from January to February, 2017.
I’ve long been optimistic about the potential for iMessage apps. I use them all the time. But it isn’t the new gold rush I think many developers hoped it might be. iMessage apps are, of course, much more limited in their utility and possibilities, and the novelty factor has worn off. But another big reason for this drop is surely that the iMessage App Store UI is buried behind a confusing layering of menus, and the app drawer isn’t very scalable.
Apple has done a good job of not overpowering the fundamental features of Messages with the new features added in iOS 10, but those features now might be too hidden and hard to discover. Balancing those two aspects of Messages is a tricky design problem that I hope is considered for the next major version of iOS.