An app store (or app marketplace) is a type of digital distribution platform for computer software, often in a mobile context. With an introduction of an app store software distribution model, software developers got a new way to distribute applications they develop and profit on it. The app store model has its pros and cons. To the pros we can attribute an app store much bigger capacity to reach out app users, leveraging the trust, established by a company that runs an app store, as well as apps purchasing transactions handling takes place on an app store side. As an app store cons we should mention app discoverability issue that app owners have, lack of software trial support and the fact that app owners don’t have access to information about people who purchase and download their software.
The Apple’s App Store is built on a curated model, it implies Apple’s control over apps quality and their compliance to certain standards, defined by Apple. On the positive side of this model is the ability to provide app users with apps, free of malware, bugs and content, which is inappropriate for minors. On the negative side, there are inescapable issues with disapproving for publication of apps that mistakingly fall under Apple’s app content publication guidances. The reason for Apple for choosing a curation model is that it’s extremely important for the company to keep mobile apps quality on par with its iconicity high hardware standard and keep customer satisfaction rate as high as possible.
The Google’s Google Play store app publication process implies much less strict guidelines for Android app developers to comply. An app review process takes much less time than the Apple’s App Store one does. As a consequence app developers can publish their apps much faster but the flip side is that a significant number of malicious Android apps being published on Google Play and it’s ongoing problem Google has to deal with. Google see its Android app store as yet another channel to distribute software, where the company can place ads and being able to profit on it.
From a business perspective, for Amazon its Amazon AppStore serves as an add value proposition for people who trust the company’s brand and purchase on the Amazon’s online store a great number of various products. Amazon doesn’t consider its app store from a revenue generating perspective. That’s why Amazon provides its customers Android apps and doesn’t invest in creating its own mobile software ecosystem, as Apple and Google do with their iOS and Android OS respectively.
The list of the major app stores consists of the following stores – Google Play, Amazon AppStore, other stores that host Android apps, such as Aptoide, GetJar, AppBrain, Samsung Apps, Baidu, Tencent App Gem and others, Firefox Marketplace, Ubuntu App Store, Windows Phone Store, Windows Store, Mac App Store, App Store, BlackBerry World.
In this article we’re putting together the data to analyze three biggest and the most dynamically evolving mobile application stores – the App Store, Google Play and Amazon AppStore.
Key App Store Statistics:
- Total number of apps on the App Store – 1,5 million (as of the summer of 2015)
- Total number of apps on Google Play – 1,8 million (as of the winter of 2015)
- Total number of apps on Amazon AppStore – 400k (as of spring 2015)
- The most popular App Store category – Games (23% of the total number of apps)
- The most popular Google Play category – Games (21% of the total number of apps)
- The most popular Amazon AppStore category – Games (21% of the total number of apps)
- Cumulative number of apps downloaded from the App Store -100 billion (as of winter of 2015)
- Cumulative number of apps downloaded from the Google Play – 50 billion (as of winter of 2013)
- Total number of app publishers – 620k (Google Play), 400k (App Store), 63k (Amazon AppStore)
In summer of 2008 Apple revolutionized software distribution by introducing its mobile application store – the App Store. Over the course of the 7+ years since that moment, it’s been growing exponentially and has come a long way from several thousands at its launch to 1,5 million apps by the summer of 2015. The current rate of its growth is more than 1,000 new apps a day.
The reason behind such massive growth lies at Apple’s ability to build an ecosystem. The company provides app developers with easy-to-use, powerful tools to build apps, as well as support with a training program, including WWDC annual conference, where developers are introduced to the latest platform updates and can participate in many workshops hosted by Apple.
Also such growth was and is caused by so-called a Halo effect – the App Store is part of the iTunes store, the marketplace that, over the years, has won hundreds of millions Apple’s paying customers trust. Today the Apple’s App Store represents the half of the mobile duopoly that commands the mobile app industry and it continues setting the tone for all other players on this market. It continues to be a prime app development platform for millions of app developers around the world and recent tvOS and WatchOS Apple’s development platforms, for AppleTV and AppleWatch respectively, provide new angels to the iOS App Store growth. Now app businesses can develop apps for multiple Apple’s devices and beat their competition.
Number of Available Apps in the Apple App Store from 2008 to 2015
The Android Market, which later become part of the Google Play marketplace, was launched 3 months after the Apple’s App Store in October of 2008. By October of 2012 Google Play app store matched the Apple’s App Store by the number of apps and by the end of 2015 it reached 1,8 million Android app mark, which was 300K apps more than the Apple’s mobile application store had. The current rate of its growth is more than 1,300 apps a day. The reason why Google Play app market has been growing faster than the Apple’s App Store is that Android OS, the operating system that drives apps published on it, was released by Google under open source licenses. Multiple companies sell smartphones and tablets that run Android OS and hence the overall volume of hardware, for which Android app developers create apps, is much larger than its Apple’s iOS counterpart.
The Alphabet Inc., the Google’s parent company from 2015, has multiple branches that provide Android OS with areas to grow into. Such as wearables, health care, robotics, autonomies car, smart home and desktop applications such as Chromebook.
Number of Available Apps in the Google Play Store from 2009 to 2015
Amazon Appstore is an app store for Android apps run by Amazon Inc., it was launch three years after the Google’s Google Play app marketplace (former Android Market) in March of 2011. On its launch the app store had only 3,800 apps and on March 2015 it reached 400k application mark, with a growth rate range equals to 50k-100k apps year over year.
Number of Available Apps in the Amazon AppStore from 2011 to 2015
Among all app categories of the App Store, games has always been the biggest category and in 2015 it commanded 23% of all iOS apps on the App Store. Prior to the iOS 8 release in 2014, the Games category was the only one on the App Store that had sub-categories. It was and remains to be the most profitable category among others, even though it’s certainly has reached its saturation point and the bulk of the revenue generated with iOS games belongs to a small number of big mobile games powerhouses. The second most popular category is Business with slight more than 10%, the reason for such popularity is that with the current level of the Games category saturation, app developers are switching to apps that facilitate e-commernce on mobile. This is the category where a great potential to profit lies and it’s far from its saturation point. The least popular category is navigation, because creating navigational apps require not only iOS development expertise but significant investments in territory mapping. It’s an expensive one to develop for and it’s dominated by Google and Apple duopoly as well.
Most Popular Apple App Store Categories in 2015, by Share of Available Active Apps
Similar to the Apple’s App Store, Google Play most popular category is Games, it contributes 21% of the total number of Android apps on the store. With 9% of the total number, Education apps are the second most popular category. For education Android OS presents a viable alternative to Apple’s iOS, Android tablets are much more affordable for schools, universities and other educational institutions. Also many families are seeking for ways to improve their kids education and they see Android tablets with educational apps as the way to go. It all creates a demand Android app developers are seeking to meet. Lifestyle, Entertainment and Business categories follow shortly after the Education category, with 8, 7.9 and 7% respectively.
Most Popular Google Play Categories in 2015, by Share of Available Apps
The Amazon AppStore is dominated by games that represent 61% of the total number of available apps. Many Android app developers see this market as just another outlet for the apps. In a contrast to the Apple’s App Store and Google’s Google Play markets, it’s not well researched, very few app success stories have come out of it and therefore developers can’t see significant value to gain by publishing any kind of apps on this market, expect games. Games as a category has proven its enormous popularity and success on both App Store and Google Play and so developers do their bet on succeeding with their game title on the Amazon’s AppStore too.
Most Popular Amazon Appstore Categories in 2014, by Downloads
In June of 2015 the App Store crossed a 100 billion app downloads mark. This number illustrates its extremely high level of adoption among smartphone and tablet owners and app developers, also it corresponds to the amount of revenue it has brought to them, since 2008 iOS app developers earned $25 billions on app sales.
Cumulative Number of Apps Downloaded from the Apple App Store from 2008 to 2015, in Billions
Unfortunately Google has stopped providing data about the number of downloads in 2013 and hence the graph below can only demonstrate the latest publicly known number of Android app downloads as of June 2013 and it equals to 50 billion. With the growing number of sold smartphones and tablets that run Android, the number of Android app downloads will be mirroring this trend but there is fundamental difference between the Apple’s App Store and Google Play growth and it calls fragmentation. Only a fraction of smartphones and tablets that run Android OS, have its latest version installed on them, meanwhile with iOS the picture is completely different – currently about 70% of all iOS devices run iOS 9, the latest version.
Cumulative Number of Apps Downloaded from Google Play as of 2013, in Billions
A number of publishers each app store has reflects it’s adoption rate and how attractive and lucrative for app developers a specific store is. On the graph below we see a snapshot of the current number of publishers on the App Store, Google Play and Amazon AppStore. Even though the App Store continues its domination in terms of how much revenue it generates for app developers, Google Play has more registered publishers. As the matter of fact, Android has much higher level of adoption in India and China, countries with the biggest population in the world and in case of China, a rising middle class and therefore it’s quite logical that Android app store should have more registered publishers than other platforms. The Amazon AppsStore number of registered publishers mirrors the platform, comparing to Apple’s and Google’s, smaller scale.
Number of App Publishers, by App Store
The app store landscape features the Google and Apple duopoly with their Google Play and App Store mobile application stores. Next to this duopoly, with a big gap in a number of apps and generated revenue, comes the Amazon AppStore that, like Google Play, also provides its customer Android apps. Because each of these app stores has its own advantages, the smart strategy for app developers to follow is to release a mobile app on multiple platforms. Among these three stores, the App Store generates the biggest revenue, Google Play provides the greatest reach and Amazon AppStore serves as an alternative for Android developers to explore and define how much profit it’ll able to generate for their apps. Building an app store, as crucial part of a mobile app ecosystem, is very complex, time and finance consuming effort and hence it’s very unlikely that any company will be able to shake up the existing Apple-Google-Amazon trio of the mobile application stores.