Zombie Apps Keep Developers Awake At Night!

A zombie app is an app that is essentially invisible to consumers because it doesn’t appear in the top 300 lists on the App stores. A zombie app can therefore only be discovered by searching for a specific type of app, or by knowing the name of the app and searching it directly. Because zombie apps are invisible, they aren’t downloaded often enough to provide the app developer with the funds needed for further development. As a result, they are often abandoned.

It is hardly surprising that there are zombie apps, given the huge numbers of apps available through the various stores. This data is from June 2016.

App Store Number of Apps 
Google Play 2.2 million
Apple 2.0 million
Windows 669,000
Amazon 600,000
Blackberry World 234,500

Most and Least Popular Categories of Apps

The most popular category of apps in the Apple store is Games (24.4%) followed by Business (10.07%) and then Education (8.82%). The least popular is Navigation (1.17%).

In the Google Play store, Games is also the most popular category but that is followed by Education. Education is in second place because Android tablets are more affordable than iPads for schools and universities.

Navigation is the least popular category everywhere. It is very expensive to do the territory mapping needed for navigational apps. Besides, Google Maps has this category sewn up!

Number of Zombie Apps

In 2012, an app advertising and tracking company called Adeven made a big splash with their announcement that more than 60% of apps had never been downloaded, not even once. When app developers responded with comments like, “Hey! That’s not true. I know I downloaded it and so did all of my friends”, the language was changed from ‘never downloaded’ to that of a zombie app–downloaded but not often enough to count.

Updated numbers from January 2015 put the percentage of zombie apps at 83%, up from 74% in 2014. Notice the 80/20 Rule at work here!

The percentage of zombie apps varies widely by category. The Games category, for example, is saturated by big mobile game corporations. A full 80% of Games apps are zombies. In contrast the Finance category, for example, has significantly fewer apps and therefore very few zombies.


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  1. Hi Karen, This is very interesting data, and also a little sad as some of the best apps start out as zombie-apps. I think developers need to think about more cost-effective ways to market their apps. A new industry known as ‘growth-hacking’ speaks to this specifically for digital product designers/developers.

    1. I agree, Shiraz. It’s a difficult problem to solve, partly because we humans don’t do well with too much choice. When the options are so plentiful, we tend to default either to what our family and friends recommend or to listening to the app company that yells the loudest (meaning has the most money for promotion.)

  2. Hi Karen, I think you’re right…too many choices means we lose some great apps in the vast seas of ordinary but well promoted apps. I will have to look into “growth hacking” Shiraz thanks for the heads up. I am all about learning about new things so your mention of growth hacking has my curiosity peaked. 🙂

      1. Don’t I know it! LOL, I am learning new things in more ways than I ever imagined.
        I am learning to play mandolin and now I am also learning how to use the soundboard at church…talk about stepping out of your comfort zone! I find new information, talents and experiences exciting. 🙂

  3. Thanks Karen. To date I have not used any apps whatsoever; but I can see the possibilities if I keep following you. : ) Once again you never fail to surprise with your infinite and diverse knowledge.

  4. I was chatting with my friend, Candee, at lunch yesterday when she mentioned that this Zombie Apps post was an example of the 80/20 rule being alive and well. I remember being excited by that when I was researching but then promptly forgot the connection when writing the post. Thanks, Candee, for the reminder. I’ve inserted a link to the 80/20 rule in this post.

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