Let’s talk about app stores.
There’s actually hundreds of different app stores, but by far the best known are the two giants: Google Play and Apple App Store. The average user tends to download apps from one of the two, depending on the operating software their phone runs - iOS (Apple App Store) or Android (Google Play). From the perspective of clients and developers, it may seem that there is no choice but to submit the app to both and reach maximum users possible.
But there might be another kind of app store you haven’t considered. There are many other app store options for Android devices and several for iOS. So let’s take a look at the 3 key factors that matter to developers and their clients: submission, pricing and visibility. After all, once you’ve nurtured your app through the exciting (and challenging) development process, it very much matters that your baby moves out to a good neighbourhood.
1. Submission process
Once the main development of an app is complete, it’s time to be released to the world. So how easy is it to gain entry to these marketplaces and their millions of users?
The Apple App Store approval process is quite drawn out and rigorous - even tiny errors can get you rejected. On the plus side, the app review team are super helpful in explaining to developers exactly why their app has been rejected for the hundredth time, so those alterations can be made more quickly.
The Google Play Store has a much less time consuming submission process, with a lot more flexibility on the editorial content. What they don’t have is such an efficient and helpful review squad. Google Play can sometimes be a lonely place for a new developer, struggling to know how to optimise their app for submission and success.
Whilst a lot of the other, smaller app stores don’t have such a sophisticated and streamlined process for app publication, there are some that offer a lot more freedom. GetJar, a Californian-based app store, has a large degree of flexibility for developers, even allowing them to target specific devices. Meanwhile, 1Mobile has a helpful in-house review team similar to Apple.
2. Pricing structure
What? You thought there was no entry fee? Sadly, app stores require a subscription cost as well as taking a percentage of every download sale or in-app purchase.
Apple App Store requires a yearly developer membership in order to submit apps, costing $99 or $299 for a team (about £75 and £226). Once the app is approved, you get 70% of app sales or in-app purchases (or 85% under the new 2016 incentivised costings for in-app-subscription style apps). Interestingly, it is generally accepted that iphone users will pay more for apps, resulting in a lower proportion of Apple apps being free, compared to Google Play. Perhaps this makes it more acceptable to charge a higher developer membership, if developers are likely to make money on their apps… which Apple takes a cut of... Hang on...
Google Play has a significantly lower initial cost of $25 (about £19). After that, it has the same 70/30 sales percentage structure. When Apple announced its reduction in fees to 15% on subscription style apps, Google followed suit in 2017. Recently there’s been a lot of opinion pieces wondering why the 30% price slice is still taken for granted. Shooter-survival game and global sensation Fortnite snubbed Google Play and its fees by releasing their mobile app through Samsung’s Android app store instead. Unfortunately, not all brands are as popular as Fortnite, and can’t count on users following them to new platforms.
In terms of other stores, all app stores have varying revenue share models and might offer a better rate than ‘the big two’. They might also offer better promotional or featured opportunities for cheaper costs. Amazon App Store (which runs Android apps) is one of the next most used app stores after Apple and Google. They first wavered the developer access fee in 2011 and have since made it permanently free. Their app store isn’t considered as desirable or usable, but they’re improving. They also have an intriguing coin reward scheme that incentivises users to spend more on in-app purchases without eating into any developer revenue share (that share is still only 70% though....).
If there’s no visibility, then your app won’t see many downloads and, ultimately, profit. What constitutes ‘good visibility’ will depend on the app you’re looking to market. App stores rank apps on a number of factors, but the exact algorithms used aren’t public knowledge.
With the Apple App Store you have the chance of getting your app promoted on ‘app of the week’, but it is an incredibly crowded marketplace, with new apps in every category, every day. You can pay for costly promotion fees to see your app top search lists, or you can try submitting your app to different Apple App Store directories. Ultimately though, developers and clients must do plenty of marketing work outside of the app store to drive downloads.
Google Play is just as crowded. Just like Apple, it seems to allow apps to rise up the search rankings based significantly on the number of downloads. This has led to many developers paying for a bunch of initial downloads (from third party companies) as a more cost effective method of promotion than traditional marketing methods!
Visibility is an area where other, lesser known app stores could be very beneficial, as many of them cater to a particular niche. Industry-specific apps in particular can be seen by the right people, without getting crowded out. Some app stores are specific to certain sectors - for example, healthcare (eg: allscripts, cerner, athenahealth) or engineering and construction (autodesk).
In terms of international visibility, Google Play is not available in China, but Apple App Store is. There are also national stores in countries like India (Airtel India) and South Korea (One Store) which are very popular - making it more sensible to head straight to one of these if you only want to reach users in that particular country.
Although this only scratches the surface, we hope it’s been a useful insight into app stores. If you’d like to learn more about taking an app to market, check out some of our other blog posts, like this one on how to prototype your app in 6 easy steps or lean what is meant by a minimum viable product, here.
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