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Apple's App Store sales increased 24% last year, despite investigations

A new study found that the pandemic fueled more spending on digital goods and services through the App Store.

The App Store saw major growth in sales during the pandemic.
Angela Lang/CNET

Apple's App Store facilitated $643 billion in billings and sales during 2020, an increase of 24% over the previous year due in large part to the pandemic, according to an independent study from the Analysis Group released by Apple on Wednesday. 

Growth was not consistent across every app category during the pandemic: While sales of digital goods and services rose 40%, sales in the travel and ride-hailing area dropped by 30%. Some of these trends may gradually return to pre-pandemic levels, but others may persist, the study's authors said during a media briefing, as people have gotten more accustomed to doing certain activities online, like shopping, streaming and ordering food

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More than 90% of App Store developers are considered "small" developers, meaning they bring in fewer than 1 million downloads and less than $1 million in earnings across their apps over the course of a year. One in four of these small developers who sell digital goods and services on the App Store have grown their earnings by an average of at least 25% each year for the past five years, the researchers found. 

This study comes as Apple is being heavily criticized for its handling of its App Store, as antitrust investigations are underway in the US, UK and EU, and a lawsuit with Epic Games is due to see a decision handed down by the judge in the coming weeks.

Launched in 2008, the App Store now houses 1.8 million apps and is visited by more than half a billion people each week across 175 countries, according to Apple. 

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