The Google Play Store for Android and the Apple App Store for iOS are the two largest distribution channels for mobile apps, offering almost global coverage to a huge potential audience. However, as competition on the two major stores has grown, developers have found it increasingly difficult to achieve visibility on them. At the same time, a host of new alternative app stores have proliferated, driven by the open nature of the Android platform (which allows third party app distribution) and growth of the Chinese app market, where Google Play isn’t officially available but still can be reached. These new app store environments offer a number of benefits for developers and can form an important part of an app marketing and distribution strategy.
Launching your app with these different app stores may fit your go-to-market strategy, if you want to reach a niche audience. Knowing what audience an app store caters to means developers can upload their app with confidence – there will be users that are interested in that type of app. For example, an alternative app store may focus on a specific app genre (e.g. games, utilities, business or one type of user segment). Alternative app stores also allow targeting of national audiences – for example Wandoujia (China), and the SK T-Store (Korea) would be key channels for Western developers and publishers seeking to access those markets. In fact, when targeting the Chinese market, there’s no choice but to use one of the Top 10 Android app stores in China.
With that number of multiple app stores and app developers constant need to diversify their distribution channels to grow their apps user base efficiently, the online tool to monitor multiple app stores was launched by appScatter team. The tool gives developers a truly holistic view of the entire app stores landscape and provides information about app performance statistics such as downloads, rankings and revenues, as well as competitors app information. appScatter system dashboard presents data for four types of data – Distribution, Tracking, Performance and Intelligence.
To quote the company’s market research:
“There are more than 2 app stores. In fact there are over 300 app stores worldwide today and still growing. Distributing, managing and tracking your apps across multiple stores possess signiﬁcant challenges. Further, the risk of not adhering to your mobile strategy in terms of legal, compliance and governance is tremendous both from a ﬁnancial and brand reputational perspective.”
Alternative App Stores
Now, alternative app stores may also offer a revenue share model that is more favourable to developers than the standard 70/30 split offered by Apple and Google Play. Some app stores may not be as generous with their revenue share model, but do offer the ability to pay for a certain amount of downloads to increase an app’s popularity, or even to buy ‘featured’ placement. This ability to access additional promotional tools is one of the key advantages of using different app stores for independent developers who may find the tight editorial control of the major stores difficult to penetrate.
Alternative app stores can deliver increasingly impressive levels of downloads and user numbers if the right strategy was applied.
Key App Stores Data Points:
- Total number of Android apps on Google Play – 3.3 million
- Total number of iOS apps on the App Store – 2.2 million
- MyApp (Tencent) market share – 25% of the China’s Android app market
- 360 Mobile Assistant market share – 15% of the China’s Android app market
- Xiaomi App Store market share – 11% of the China’s Android app market
Top App Stores for Android
As we said earlier, the nature of Android mobile platform, that permits distribution of Android apps via multiple app stores and being supported by multiple OEMs, allowed Android to get a foothold with multiple top mobile device manufacturers, among those – Samsung, LG, Xiaomi, Huawei and others. In terms of the number of apps available we have 5 stores presented in the following table, with Google Play leading the list with 3.3 billion Android applications as of September of 2017, 375,000+ on the Amazon AppStore, 850,000+ on the independent app store GetJar that began offering apps starting pre-iPhone era in 2005 and in February 2014, GetJar was acquired by Sungy Mobile.
Number of apps on Top Android App Stores, in millions
|Opera Mobile Store||0.3m|
Top App Stores for iOS
In a contrast with Google’s Android open model, Apple Inc. has established its App Store ecosystem as a closed, moderated platform that implies having a single app store only – the App Store, that by January of 2017 boasted 2.2 billion iOS apps. The app store online version users can find the same library of apps they can install via the iOS App Store app, after they find them via Google / Bing search engine search. The other distinctive feature of the Apple’s iOS ecosystem has been locking iOS driven devices (iPhones and iPads) with specific mobile operators. Since the early days if iOS multiple alternative iOS app stores have popped up that required jail-breaking and unlocking devices to be able to install iOS apps outside the Apple’s official App Store. As of 2017 only a handful such app stores exist and the data points to describe each are scarce.
Number of apps on Top iOS App Stores, in millions
App Store User base Breakdown in China
Thanks to a fast economic growth and equally fast mobile technology adoption, in today’s global mobile app economy China mobile market plays a major role. In the fall of 2016 it outpaced US in terms of the App Store iOS app revenue. But when it comes to Google Play mobile app market, we see it lagging well behind Chinese local giants such as Tencent with its MyApp marketplace that currently holds 25% of the Android OS market in China. 360 Mobile Assistant from Qihoo 360 with almost 15% and hardware giant Xiaomi with Xioami App Store that has more than 11%.
Top 10 Android App Stores Market Coverage in China, July 2017
|2||360 Mobile Assistant||14.8%|
|3||Xiaomi App Store||11.5%|
|4||Baidu Mobile Assistant||11.5%|
|5||Xiaomi Game Center||10.3%|
|6||Huawei App Market||10.2%|
|7||OPPO App Store||7.2%|
|8||Sogou Mobile Assistant||4.4%|
|9||PP Mobile Assistant||3.6%|
|10||Google Play Store||3.6%|
After covering the top players in the mobile app store space, let’s list all app stores available that cover Android, iOS, BlackBerry, cross-platform, manufacturer-specific and operator/carrier app stores.
Our List of App Stores
Android App Stores
Google Play – Google’s official Android app store, which features over 3.3 billion apps, as well as music, video streaming services, books and TV. As you can see from the graph below, since its launch the number of apps on the store has grown exponentially. Such fast pace of the Google Play growth is being possible thanks to the multiple OEMs that manufacture mobile hardware than run Android OS.
Number of available apps in the Google Play Store 2009-2017
Amazon launched their own alternative app store for Android developers in 2011 and being a well-known brand has helped the company attract quite a lot of attention to it. The store features a smaller number of apps than some of the other competing stores, this is partly due to their moderation process which has to meet certain quality standards. They offer a free paid app or game every day which can generate a significant amount of exposure for the app developer, and personalised recommendations, customer reviews and 1-Click payment options mean users can find and install a developer’s app quickly and easily.
Amazon provides useful services for developers using their app store, such as: an app compatibility test that detects problems for developers automatically – the test will let developers know if their app is suitable for publishing or not; a cross-platform analytics service that analyses user engagement through active devices, sessions and retention; a reward program for developers called the Appstore Developer Select which offers free ad impressions, boosts customer acquisition through Amazon “coins” and offers 25% credit back when purchasing Amazon Web Services products. The company is positioned as one of the largest third-party alternative app stores and they allow for the distribution of developers’ apps in over 200 countries in online and mobile store formats.
SlideMe is an alternative app store that was founded in 2008 and is based in Seattle. Serving as a marketplace (and featuring a growing community within this), it hosts a variety of Android apps catered to specific audiences. The company says their philosophy is defined on the basis that “one Application Store can’t reach everyone, everywhere with the applications they want.” They are ranked second to Google Play when speaking in terms of global reach for Android apps – an impressive milestone.
The company provides an “on-device” Application Store for device vendors, and delivers the apps themselves to niche markets through variables such as: geographical location, the device being utilised, the payment method and apps that users can’t find in a more conventional manner; SlideMe allows developers to sell their new app globally. In essence, the company is positioned as the place that distributes developers’ apps to users who do not have Google Play enabled devices available to them – many of these devices have SlideMe preloaded instead. They also offer custom distribution channels, they have no country restrictions across different Android device types and there is no setup fee for developers.
1Mobile is an alternative app store that provides a collection of mobile apps, games and videos. Multiple mobile formats are catered to on the website, but Google’s Android format features the largest library of applications. The apps are displayed in a variety of ways on the website: there is a “Games of the Week” feature at the top that lists the best new apps and games to appear on Google Play within the last week, an editor’s choice section where the editors list their favourite 50 games and apps, the top trends of recent times and more. A section of the website is also home to the 1Mobile Market APK – the dedicated 1Mobile store app for mobile devices that allows users to browse, download and install over 60,000 apps wherever they are.
Developers have to go through a standard registration procedure before they can start publishing apps on 1Mobile. Once they have registered for an account, developers submit their app to 1Mobile for an “AppReview” – if the developer’s app is judged to be of a high enough quality to be published, it will appear on 1Mobile within 2 business days. If the app doesn’t meet the certain requirements, then the developer will have to respond to the feedback and fix any present errors – it’s part of 1Mobile being a store that focuses on providing a selection of quality apps to its users. The revenue share model for 1Mobile is the standard 70/30 split – a special SDK is required for the purpose of in-app billing. 1Mobile is positioned as an app store that is focused on becoming the leading alternative choice for app store sales and distribution.
Android Freeware – Does what its name implies: hosts free Android-only applications.
CodeNgo – Fill in a single form to submit your app to more than 30 stores, from Google Play to Amazon, Samsung and more.
AppBrain is an online Android market browser store with the ability to enable installations directly to a user’s phone. The store was founded by Mathijs Vogelzang and the Zürich-based company AppTornado in 2009. The company has launched an impressive 35 Android apps, which when combined, total 50 million downloads – these apps are published by Swiss Codemonkeys. The store displays the Android apps via search, categories and rankings, and sections such as hot today, all-time popular, top rated and the popularity in a certain country, which help users to locate Android apps more efficiently – at the time of writing there are 1036815 apps available on the Android market.
AppBrain gives app developers the option of advertising their app through a pay-per-install based promotion system to acquire new users and expand their business. The option for app developers to monetise their app is carried out through the use of the AppLift SDK by AppBrain. The AppLift network offerwall behind this gives users the chance to download and install free apps to their device – each time one of these free apps is downloaded, the developer generates revenue from it. Developers can create further installs through the AppBrain network which is effective for launch campaigns. A free app can also be downloaded so users can manage their apps on their device as well, meaning there is a higher level of availability. Users can share their favourite apps installed on their device with other friends – for the developer then, this helps to drive revenue. AppBrain is positioned as one of the leading ways to discover Android apps, so it’s worth considering by developers looking to distribute their app to an large alternative store.
AppsLib – Android-tablet-specific marketplace, it’s been inactive for a while but has 38,000 plus apps listed to it.
Nvidia Shield – A highly curated Android app store by Nvidia, covers mostly games but also entertainment apps for Android TV.
AndroidPit – Not just an app store but a good source of app reviews and information. Also has a curated section with apps selected by the Berlin-based editorial team.
Aptoide – Lets you create an app store within their own storefront. Currently hosts 199k stores and over 700,000 apps.
Appszoom – A social approach to an app store, it allows users to see what apps their friends and “followed experts” are downloading and using on the same store.
Mobogenie – Has an Android and a PC platform, and offers content like wallpapers and ringtones as well as apps. Claims to have a powerful recommendation engine and puts a high emphasis on security of apps hosted.
F-Droid – An app which is itself an app store, not just for Android but for open-source applications (though it runs on Android devices).
Cross-platform App Stores
Founded in 2004 by Ilja Laurs and based in California, GetJar has had over 2 billion apps downloaded since its inception; 3 million apps are downloaded every day. Additionally, over 395,000 developers have registered with the company to distribute their apps. The supported app platforms for developers are Android, the older Windows Mobile, and even iOS, (although Android is predominant here). Users can find a developer’s app through a series of categories and top and newer apps are displayed on the front page of the website-store.
On the developer side of things, there is no upfront cost and the requirements to get an app published are minimal. Developers have the ability to target any phone or platform as well, so there is a high degree of flexibility here. Specifically for developers looking to publish Android apps, there is the ability to grow in-app revenue through GetJar’s Offerwall system and the option of displaying App deals within an app and offering in-app discounts to re-engage existing users or acquire new ones. GetJar claims to reach over 200 million Android users too – developers can target this audience with free cross-promotion and the company’s proprietary Behavioral Targeting technology. They are positioned as one of the largest alternative app stores out there at the time of writing.
The Opera Mobile Store was launched in 2011 and followed the success of Opera Mobile that launched long ago in 2000. The company’s popular store boasts support for multiple app formats: Android, Java, iOS, Windows Mobile and provides 170,000 apps and games for 6,000 different mobile phone models. The front of the website-store features the most popular apps, new paid and free software that has just been released and software that has been updated recently. The apps are split into key categories like Business and Finance, Games, Multimedia, Communication and more.
App or game developers can sign up for a developer account which allows them to publish their apps to multiple different formats; a promotional platform is also part of this free account. The store’s large range of supported app formats coupled with the fact a developer’s app can be distributed to 230 countries, means the platform is positioned as one of the leading places for a developer to reach specific local markets – this is ideal then for a developer who has created an app with a definite market in mind. A new blog has also launched on the store that offers guidance, insight and rewards for new developers with interviews, app reviews, contests and more.
NexVa – Multi-platform app store that also offers a white label product for mobile operators, OEMs and companies from multiple business verticals. It also works with affiliates to drive traffic via CPI and advertising solutions, as well as proprietary API to support in-app and subscription monetization of developers apps through mobile money transactions.
Kongregate – Mobile and desktop Flash-powered app store that focuses on videogames. Claims to reach over 6 million mobile and desktop gamers, with 56 thousand Flash games.
Mobango – More than just an app store, Mobango allows users to share ringtones, photos and videos too. Has a very useful “search by device” feature too.
NexVa – Offers multi-platform, localised apps. Specifically aimed at reaching those audiences that don’t have a credit card to sign up to other app stores by using its proprietary neXpayer system.
Appland – Both an app store and an app-store manager, allowing you to create your own. Uploading applications is free and it allows developers to showcase their apps on the app stores maintained by other devs.
Itch.io – an app store that is intended to be used by both game developers and gamers, this is a free and paid-for indie games store that covers all platforms. Has a very large choice, and also has sections for game assets, development tools and books.
Mobile9 – Not just apps but themes, wallpapers and ringtones too. Covers iOS, Android and Windows Phone.
Exent – Game-focused discovery engine, goes beyond mobile and tablets and extends to PC and TV too.
iOS App Stores
App Store – Apple’s official iOS application store and this is the only source of the Apple’s editors team reviewed apps for iOS running devices such as iPhone and iPad. The current app review time process on average takes about a day. The overall number of apps, iPad and iPhone combined, is over 2.2 million, the total number of downloads for iOS apps from July 2008 to June 2017 – over 180 billion. The number of apps on the App Store has grown from 5,000 in summer of 2008 on its launch to 2.2 million on January of 2017.
Number of available apps on the App Store 2008-2017
Cydia – Unofficial iOS app store that is only available to users with ‘jailbroken’ iOS devices. Most apps are offered for free, but there are also paid apps. Claims over 4.5 million weekly users.
BlackBerry OS App Stores
BlackBerry World – BlackBerry’s official BlackBerry app store, which features more than 260,000 apps. In terms of the platform viability for app developers it is far behind Apple’s App Store, Google’s Google Play and even Microsoft Store.
Manufacturer-specific App Stores
Samsung Apps – The official Samsung Electronics app store for apps to run on Samsung Galaxy smartphones, Samsung Gear and Samsung featured phones. It’s available in 125 and offers apps that can be run on Android, Windows Mobile and Bada mobile operating systems.
LG Smart World – The official app store run by manufacturer LG. It offers Android apps to run on mobile devices and LG smart TVs.
Lenovo App Store – Chinese manufacturer Lenovo’s official app store for smartphones and tablets, running Android (in Chinese only).
Operator/Carrier App Stores
China Mobile – The app store of China’s biggest mobile operator. Offers apps across Android and Symbian platforms. Claims a user-base of over 500 million.
Aircel PocketApps – Official app store of Indian operator Aircel, focuses exclusively on Indian market.
Turkcell T-Market – Official app store from Turkish operator Turkcell. Offers Android apps and Symbian apps.
MTNPlay – Content portal from South African operator MTN. Offers apps, music, ringtones and videos to mobile users across Africa and Asia.
There are two major mobile operating system that dominate the mobile app landscape – iOS and Android that control more than 90% of the market and their respective app stores are the major sources of mobile apps for smartphone and tablet computer users. The bulk of app stores that host Android apps are located in China and being run by local biggest mobile operators. Over the years the majority of mobile operators have closed their own app stores, developed their brand iOS and (or) Android app to be a portal to their services.