Ever since the introduction of the Apple App Store on iOS in 2008, other companies have stepped in to offer competition. The largest among them is the Google Play Store, which is the main app distribution platform on Android devices.
Where should you publish first: Apple App Store or Google Play Store? What would grant your app the best chances for success? Knowing the differences between these two major app stores is useful for mobile publishers, as it will help find relevant apps faster and promote apps.
Both the App Store and the Play Store do roughly the same thing: provide apps to users through their platforms. The interesting part comes in when looking at how they achieve that goal. The design and layout of both platforms couldn’t be any more different.
When opening the Apple App Store for the first time, the first thing the user will see is the Today view. It consists of various articles that are relevant for the day, with dedicated writers posting short articles featuring apps that caught their attention. The store itself features two major sections: Apps and Games, with different categories in each section. These categories include lists of app suggestions tailored to each user, with a separate list of suggested apps based on previous downloads and search history within the App Store. The rest of the apps are either promoted by the editors of the store or appear in the top charts for their respective categories. The App Store features Apple’s gaming subscription service, Apple Arcade, in a separate tab. The final section is search, where the App Store offers app and search suggestions, alongside the search bar.
The layout of the Google Play Store, on the other hand, is designed with a more direct approach. When opening the app, the user is immediately given app suggestions, with the search bar taking a permanent spot at the top of each page. Another crucial difference in design is the entire app relying on suggesting most apps to each user individually, in addition to having a “For you” app category, to make the experience feel more personalized. All of these details are reflective of Google as a search and advertising company, as the app relies on algorithms that track past search inquiries, app impressions and downloads, as much as their other services. In addition to offering dedicated Apps and Games sections, the Play Store also offers digital books and movies, making it serve as a hub for media and app purchases on Android.
Back in 2008, when Steve Jobs, the CEO of Apple at the time, introduced the Apple App Store to iOS, he proudly exclaimed “there’s an app for that!”. He was correct in his statement, as now, there are countless apps created to accomplish almost anything a user might need. At the time of publishing this article, the Apple App Store has over 2 million apps that users can purchase or download for free. It currently stands as the second largest app distribution platform in the world.
The Google Play Store is second to none when it comes to the sheer amount of apps that it has to offer. At press time, it features almost 3.5 million apps, approaching twice the number of apps on the App Store by comparison.
This difference in the number of apps can be explained by the fact that the App Store has a stricter and longer process of reviewing apps for their eligibility to be published on the platform, whereas on the Play Store, it is much faster, and the criteria are not as strict, making it easier to release apps on Google’s storefront.
Apple’s App Store has been the market leader in app revenue, and it appears that it will only continue growing further. In the first quarter of 2022, the App Store had a 32% increase in app revenue. From 2020 onwards, annual revenue has surpassed $100 billion per year. The revenue is split between Apple and the app publisher, with the share going up to 30/70% respectively. The revenue split depends on the size of the publisher, as well as their app revenue, and popularity. This makes the App Store the best option for generating revenue, despite its more limited availability as a storefront exclusive to Apple devices.
With the Google Play Store, it’s a different story. Android takes up around 71% of the mobile operating system market. Even with the exclusion of Huawei, whose phones do not support Google services, it makes the Play Store the most widespread app storefront in the world. In spite of the significantly larger audience, however, the Play Store falls behind the App Store when it comes to app revenue, with the number not going past $50 billion a year and the increase in revenue being comparatively modest, with Q1 of 2022 only seeing a 10% growth. The revenue split between Google and the app publisher is equal to Apple’s, at a maximum 30/70 split, with the same conditions applying to this platform.
The process of submitting an app on either the App Store or the Play Store starts similarly: the publisher needs to first create a developer account in order to gain the ability to officially submit apps to each platform. Take into account the fact that it is not a free process. To register as a developer on Google Play, you need to make a single payment of $25. The registration fee for Apple’s platform is higher, at $99, which has to be paid annually to maintain developer status. Note that pricing may vary based on region and currency. After registering as a developer, you can start tweaking the elements of an app and its store page to meet the criteria set by Apple and Google for their online stores.
Apple set particularly high standards for the App Store and the apps being listed on it. Because of that, it is imperative that developers carefully examine the full App Store Review Guidelines that are listed in Apple’s Developer section of their website. Apple reinforces its strictness by adding a note stating that 40% of app rejections happen because of them not adhering to app completeness guidelines. Additionally, we have listed the Apple App Store Guidelines: Requirements for All Page Elements on the App Growth Blog. It contains useful insights for each element of the app’s store page, which include dimensions, design, keywords, among other valuable tips, all the while providing all the requirements and guidelines in a concise manner. After you ensure that your app meets the criteria set by Apple, your app will be ready for submission. To submit an app, you need to use the App Store Connect app, through which you can track the app’s review process and its performance after it gets approved and published on the App Store. Apple has a dedicated App Review Board team that manually checks the apps submitted to the store with minimal use of automated assistance. Due to that approach, it can take several days in order for the app to be approved, which is why the App Store Connect app is an invaluable tool for publishers to stay up-to-date.
Google Play’s app review process is considerably faster, from 2 to 18 hours from start to finish, thanks to the procedure being mostly automated. Yet, it is still crucial to follow the Google Play Store App Criteria. The company explains in detail the app functionality and design standards that are necessary to follow in order to get the app approved for publishing. As for the store page and its individual elements, you can find the Google Store Product Page Requirements in our dedicated article. Just like the one for the App Store, it provides useful tips and lists every design guideline to increase both the likelihood of the app being published on the store, as well as improve organic traffic. After ensuring that both the app and its store page follow the guidelines, the app can be submitted for review. To do that, you will need to submit the app for review through the Google Play Console. The same platform can also be used to track the review process and app performance.
When researching the best marketing and optimization strategies for each platform, you must keep in mind that the app market is ever-changing. As such, it’s essential to pay attention to new trends and market shifts to stay relevant and maintain app growth.
Learn more about App Store Optimization best practices
Despite the differences when it comes to delivering app suggestions to users, the general approach to ASO is fairly similar, with the key elements being the following:
The ASO process for these factors is accurately depicted in our App Store Optimization in 2022:Trends and ASO Benchmarks. We provide relevant information publishers can use in order to improve their app’s visual and text metadata and boost its performance on the storefront of choice.
The most viable strategy for testing new features and changes to the app page metadata is by utilizing A/B Testing. While there are countless services that offer that kind of tool, with [SplitMetrics A/B], we offer support with creating assets for the store page, finding the best metadata, in order to achieve the best results and ensure the growth of natural traffic. We also pay close attention to customer needs and curate the experience to your liking to make the process of App Store Optimization smooth and engaging.
As with everything, the devil is always in the details, and this case is no exception. Just recently, Apple added key functionality to the App Store that supports [App Seasonality]: In-app events. It is an extension of [App Store Custom Product Pages] tailored for events taking place in the app. That feature helps app publishers introduce multiple variants of their app’s store page, while keeping the original that most users will see unchanged. This is great for managing your [Creative Assets] by separating them into multiple pages, which prevents clutter. It is also a useful way of informing users that the app is being actively supported, thus creating a sense of trust in potential future updates.
Apple creates an incentive for developers to get their app featured by the App Store editorial team by separating them into a separate Today section, where users can read articles and find new apps for themselves. Apple lists the factors their editorial staff considers when reviewing an app you submit to be featured on their Getting Featured on the App Store page of the Apple Developer section. Those factors include such points as UI design, user experience, uniqueness, and accessibility. All of it leads into the ultimate advice for generating organic traffic: making a good app so that it ends up promoting itself.
Another great update Apple introduced includes widgets that feature apps suggested to iOS and iPadOS users. This is an incredibly powerful acquisition channel for natural traffic, as the featured app becomes part of the phone or tablet’s home screen, and it entices people to tap on the widget and check out the app. Maybe after the fact, that app might become a permanent part of the customer’s app library.
Learn more about Apple Search Ads and IDFA
While the Apple App Store encourages publishers to be more proactive with their promotional campaigns, the Play Store is significantly more passive in that sense.
Due to Google’s reliance on their search algorithms, they bolster an environment where metadata optimization is crucial to an app’s success. You need to pay close attention to current trends and relevant keywords in order to tune your app and its store page just right for the algorithms to pick it up and boost its performance.
The process of ASO on the Play Store is a slow burn, with extensive wait times from making changes to the app’s store page and seeing tangible results that might feel frustrating for some. In this case, patience really is a virtue. However, the sheer number of users on the storefront makes it more than worth the wait and effort in the end. Just like videos on YouTube or websites on Google search, the app might blow up and solidify itself as a mainstay for many.
When designing your app, choosing the platform that will suit you and your apps best can be quite the undertaking. We hope that by examining the key differences outlined in the article, you will be able to make the decision that will be best for you. Here are the key takeaways that summarize both platforms in order to help you with your choice:
If you’re dedicated enough to becoming a prominent app publisher and you seek greater return on investment, the App Store might be your best choice, despite its more expensive entry fee and Apple enforcing the requirement to uphold its high standards. The myriad of features they provide to developers only further serves to make this storefront appeal to many, and they will very much appeal to you, too.
However, if you’re looking to potentially reach a much wider audience above all else, the Play Store is great for that, even though it doesn’t generate quite the same amount of revenue as its direct competitor. The cheap price of admission to gain developer status only serves as the cherry on top of this delicious pie.
Whichever app store you pick, our SplitMetrics’ team will always be ready to assist you in making sure your app lives up to your expectations, and even surpasses them. With our valuable insights, we will set your app on just the right path to greatness, and maybe one day, it will become the next star of the top charts.