Robert Wildner, CEO & Co-Founder of AVOW, says that developers are losing their freedom of choice due to Google and Apple’s app store monopoly, but that it’s not too late to leverage alternative app stores.
The Google Play store has more apps published than any other app store, with over 3m, compared to just over 2m on the Apple App Store. While this benefits Android and iOS users, the monopoly these companies have over the app ecosystem gives publishers little room to find a better deal. Furthermore, once such dominance in the market has been created, the middle man gains unprecedented control over how app developers choose to run their business. To keep up with the competition, they have no choice but to shape their entire business model for mobile user acquisition for the App Store and Google Play.
It has been a proven observation that in a monopolistic scenario, a move made by a player ends up affecting everyone else. For example, a head-to-head legal battle between Epic Games, Google, and Apple in August 2020 took place when the former released an updated version of its popular game, Fortnite, that had side-stepped payment options in the App Store and Google Play. Apple was quick to remove Fortnite from the App Store. In September ‘21, Apple scored over Epic with a major caveat, according to the US District Court judgment. While most of the Epic claims were dismissed, an injunction from the court forced Apple to permit app developers to inform their users of alternative ways to make payments within the app. Further, the US District Court of Appeals agreed to postpone a judge's order to amend the way app developers accepted payments in Apple's App Store in December last year. As a result, apple now has ample time until its appeals process with Epic concludes formally. In another case, Google and Facebook told one of the biggest games with 350 mplayers globally not to publish an app in a way that cuts the mediators out of the payment.
But it doesn’t have to be this way: Regions such as South East Asia are a sign that there is a more balanced ecosystem that can benefit app developers. The controversy between PayTM and Google Play – whereby the app was temporarily removed from the store – has led Indian tech companies to look for alternatives. Prominent entrepreneurs in India are joining forces to create their app store that will reduce the dominance of Google and Apple.
The mobile gaming vertical also offers examples of where the problems lie. In the case of Huawei, since they got cut from Google Play, none of the gaming developers publishing on the Huawei store can use Google Pay. As a result, they are excluded from a sophisticated payment solution that would otherwise benefit their company. So Huawei needed to find a solution. In order to make it attractive to clients, they completely waived all fees if publishers integrated the solution. This policy was split into two periods. Developers of non-gaming apps receive 100% of revenue in their first year, while mobile games get 85%. In the second year, developers get 85% of the revenue, and once the preferential policy is over, the standard rate is 70%. Whether or not developers find this attractive, the bottom line is that the competition between Google and Huawei enabled gaming publishers to get a better deal.
It is also essential to consider how GDSA will impact the mobile app market and Google’s dominance. Chinese app developers Xiaomi, Huawei Technologies, Oppo, and Vivo, have teamed up to provide a platform for developers outside of China. This enables them to upload apps to all of the companies’ app stores simultaneously. This will play a part in diversifying what is available to publishers. Of course, a unified platform still doesn’t necessarily mean a unified payment solution, but at least there is an alternative that benefits mobile OEMs (original equipment manufacturers) and publishers.
GDSA is yet to be fully realized, but it is still possible to find untapped audiences by working with mobile OEMs and their respective app stores. These companies are taking deliberate steps to offer an authentic and safe alternative to the overcrowded Google and Apple app stores. Lead Analyst and Founder of MobileGroove, Peggy Anne Salz, noted the importance of mobile OEMs in her feature for MMA: “There is a wealth of opportunity for marketers who tap the vast distribution opportunities offered by alternative app stores. It starts with a clear understanding of each app store's unique characteristics and business practices, and it extends to approaches that monitor app performance, track app interactions, and – ultimately – ensure brand integrity.” These app stores offer a smart alternative to Google Play and the App Store while providing a fraud-free environment for advertisers. Moreover, AVOW has partnered with mobile OEMs worldwide and helps clients access these stores with a consultative approach.
Looking ahead, we should promote the benefits of a diverse market with multiple app stores and integrated payment systems. This will address the elephant in the room and enable publishers to identify the best place for their mobile apps – reclaiming the ability to choose what is best for their business.