Apple yesterday reported that gross revenue from its iOS App Store for 2014 was up 50 percent from 2013, although according to the numbers, sales were up only slightly from the 12 months prior to June 2014, when it last hinted at revenue.
In a press release yesterday that was part of a renewed campaign where Apple touted the number of U.S. jobs it has helped create, the Cupertino, Calif. company said that the iPhone and iPad App Store "generated over $10 billion in revenue for developers."
Apple typically couches its publicly disclosed numbers with enough wiggle room that can be difficult to parse its financials. That's the case here.
On one hand, because Apple skims 30 percent off the top, $10 billion to developers would represent a total of $14.3 billion in gross revenue, with Apple retaining $4.3 billion.
However, a year ago, Apple said App Store sales were "over $10 billion", implying that $7 billion went to developers and it kept $3 billion.
So its contention yesterday that "billings rose 50 percent" from 2013 would mean revenue climbed to $15 billion, putting Apple's slice of the pie at $4.5 billion with developers receiving the remaining $10.5 billion.
Analysts tried to figure out what Apple's numbers meant, and whether they showed significant growth in the second half of 2014.
"Apple has effectively stated trailing 12m app store rev was $10bn in both June 2014 and December 2014," tweeted Benedict Evans of Andreessen Horowitz. "Slowing growth or too much rounding?"
Evans was referring to comments Apple made during its earnings conference call for the quarter that ended June 30, when CFO Luca Maestri said, "Our developers have now earned over $20 billion for sales of their apps through the App Store, nearly half of which have been earned in the past 12 months." [emphasis added].
Jan Dawson, principal analyst at Jackdaw Research, interpreted the June 2014 and January 2015 statements -- each saying that developers got approximately $10 billion in the preceding 12 months -- as indicating a slowing of growth.
"The App Store number does seem to be slowing somewhat at around $2.5 billion per quarter to developers each of the last four quarters," Dawson said via email yesterday. Earlier in the day, he had tweeted a revised chart of estimated App Store and Google Play -- the official market for Android apps -- that showed only a slight increase in revenue from 2014's third to fourth quarters.
In its Thursday statement, Apple also said that the App Store collected almost $500 million during the first week of 2015, with News Years Day setting a single-day sales record for the company.
Apple's $4.3 billion to $4.5 billion take may have been real money -- more than its total revenue for the 2005 fiscal year, Evans observed -- but it represented just over 2 percent of the company's total revenue for fiscal 2014.