Like anyone else with a smartphone, I have a lot of apps on my devices - 145 on my iPhone 6s+, 165 on my iPad Pro. Some of these are apps I use every day, some routinely, and others only on rare occasion. And - lets be honest - a few of them are leftovers from a bygone era. Did I really download and play Heads Up!, the app from the Ellen Degeneris show? I guess I did, because here it stares at me. And I'm sure I'll play Plants Vs. Zombies again, so I'll just go ahead and keep it there in my games folder...
Some of the apps on my phone, as it turns out, have become orphans - applications that are still there, that I may use with some regularity, but which are no longer being actively developed by their creators.
When one goes searching for a given type of application there are often dozens of options to choose from in each category, and prices range from free to much farther up the spectrum, with options across that price range within every category. The array of choices can make selecting an app challenging - when you have dozens of versions of the same basic thing, which do you choose? Do you go with price, with features, with...?
I've begun to select apps based, at least in part, on a pair of different features: Longevity and active development. All other things being equal, I will prefer an app that has been around for a while and which has been actively and readily updated. In iOS, this information is available in the App Store on a given item if you scroll down a bit:
PC Calc, an advanced calculator app for the iPhone and iPad has been around for a long time - it's on its third major upgrade version (e.g. Version 3.5.3), and it's been updated as recently as March of this year. This is a clear example of an app being actively maintained by a developer who has demonstrated longevity in the iOS app market. In relative terms it's not an inexpensive app - $9.99 for a calculator app will seem to many a high price when there are multiple free options in the same category. But for my money a part of what these variables indicate is that the app will be much less likely to become an orphan in future updates of the operating system.
Unfortunately this perspective comes from experience. I have one app, for example - AccuFuel, a Mileage Tracker by a company called Appigo, which also makes a fairly popular to-do productivity app called "Todo" - that I've been entering mileage into since 2007, all told, and since 2011 for my current vehicle. All told, I have nearly four years worth of mileage data entered into this app (I am, shall we say, mildly fond of data).
Unfortunately, the company stopped updating the app back in 2010 and, while it continued to work for some time, it didn't make the transition to iOS 8. Since that update the entry interface is buggy (although it works), and it is impossible to export data out of the app. The company was aware of the problem, and claimed they were working on an update to the app.. Still - that was over a year ago, and nothing has happened with it. The company could have, at the very least, honestly admitted to users that they didn't intend to update or, ideally, provided an update that at least allowed the export to work so a user could get his or her mileage data out of the the app. Instead, it's clear the app is an orphan. I've given up up on it, and set up a spreadsheet for mileage in Numbers instead. While I like to support independent developers, it seemed best to move this task to an app developed by a more stable company.
And I'll be unlikely to use anything produced by Appigo in the future.
In other cases there is a middle ground, where I can see the orphan status in the cards. I have a speedometer app called aSmart HUD by Atoll Ordenadores. The app hasn't been updated for a year and a half, and while it works under iOS 9, some features are buggy (trip time sometimes starts in the negative numbers, which makes me seem faster than I am, I suppose, but cuts down on accuracy). The developer no longer lists the original app on the website (though it does have updated versions of it), and has provided no communication regarding intention on providing further updates or supporting this version of the app going forward. It looks like this apps parents are, metaphorically speaking, preparing to drop this app off at the orphanage.
Overall, the lesson in all of this is that I've found that it pays dividends to make some evaluation of the level of support and stability of the company producing the applications you use, particularly if I they are things that you intend to use over the longer term.