Apple has used some of its nearly $100 billion cash pile to purchase app-search service Chomp, according to a report from TechCrunch. The free app helps users of iOS and Android devices find an app they'd like, based on what the app does.
Apple is said to have paid $50 million for Chomp, according to Bloomberg. Apple wouldn't confirm the price or offer details other than to confirm the sale, though a spokeswoman told Bloomberg: "We buy smaller technology companies from time to time and generally don't comment on our purpose or plans."
Whether there's a plan to keep Chomp whole or absorb it into Apple is unknownand neither is it clear how or if the deal will affect Chomp's relationship with Verizon Wireless, which uses the app to power its Android app searches.
On the surface, however, the plan seems rather cleargiven that the Apple App Store now has more than 550,000 apps on its shelves, users have complained that it's rather hard to find what they're looking for. Chomp can help with that.
Chomp's view of the apps space also yields interesting analytics. Its January App Search Analytics report, for example, found a building trend toward free apps, with "free" being the top search term across all countries on Android devices. In December, 97 percent of all downloaded Android apps were free, while free iPhone app downloads rose from 70 percent to 77 percent.
In January, Chomp's top 10 downloaded Android apps were all free; the top five were Pandora, Lookout Mobile Security, Go Launcher EX, Zedge Ringtones and MP3 Music Download Program.
The top 10 iOS apps were also all free, but completely differentWords With Friends Free, VEVO, Temple Run, Facebook and Instagram.
Showing off the necessity of Chomp's services, 86 of the search inquiries used by Android devices in January were by the app function, versus 14 percent by the app's name. Apple iOS users were only slightly more specific, with 19 percent searching by name and 81 percent by function.
Among iOS users, games was the most popular category, accounting for 32.6 percent of downloads, followed by entertainment, at 10 percent, and social networking and utilities tied at 7 percent. Among Android users, utilities, at 25 percent, was tops, followed by games, at 20.6 percent, and entertainment at 13.8 percent.
Apple's cash pile is unusual, for its enormity, and the Chomp purchase will hardly make a dent. Apple CEO Tim Cook told shareholders at a Feb. 23 annual meeting that Apple is "exploring" how to use some of the cash and lighten its balance sheet, which investors say "holds too big a hoard," according to Bloomberg.
The comment pleased investors, as did Cook's announcement that a majority vote, rather than a pluralityas was the case under Steve Jobswould be needed to elect new directors.
Perhaps most pleasing of all, however, and surely inviting much speculation, Cook also told shareholders, according to the Bloomberg report, that Apple is working on new products that will "blow your mind."