Nobody knows which was the first app to be downloaded from Apple’s iPhone App Store on 11 July 2008, but the total number of downloads passed 50 billion on Wednesday, signifying the rapid growth of a business created by the explosive spread of smartphones over the past five years.
The person who downloaded the 50 billionth app will receive a $10,000 gift card. But that’s small beer compared with the payouts to app developers that Apple has made since opening the store. In April it announced that developers have received $9 billion in that time, pointing to a huge new economy that can now make teenagers into millionaires and create entire new business giants.
Apple receives 30% of the revenue from app customers, meaning the company has made around $3.86 billion from the app store.
The Finnish company Rovio, which introduced its Angry Birds game to the App Store in December 2009, has since seen almost 2 billion downloads worldwide on smartphones and tablets, while 17-year-old Londoner Nick D’Aloisio sold his company that makes the Summly app to web giant Yahoo in March for an estimated £18 million.
Apps have also been used to create new sources of publicity by musicians such as Bjork, and even Olympic athletes.