The monopoly of Google and Apple’s store has been the bedrock of many issues, one of which has been that of app developers losing their freedom of choice. With over 3 million apps published in 2021 as compared to just over 2 million on the Apple App Store, the Google Play store has more apps published than any other app store (Source- Statista). While this is a benefit to Android and iOS users, unfortunately, such a scenario of monopoly over the app ecosystem gives app developers limited avenues to find a better deal. 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 IOS App Store and Google Play.
It is against this backdrop that the advantages of leveraging alternative apps such as Xiaomi, HUAWEI, Vivo and Oppo and OnePlus stores have come to the forefront.
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 payment within the app. Further the US District Court of Appeals agreed to postpone a judge’s order to amend the way app developers accept payments in Apple’s App Store in December last year. 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 million players globally to not publish an app in a way that cuts the middle men out of the payment.
However, this is not a ‘be all, end all’ situation. Markets like India within South East Asia and other such regions have cultivated a more balanced ecosystem benefitting app developers. In India as a case in point, many Indian tech companies began to look for alternatives when a major giant like PayTM was temporarily removed from Google Play. Prominent entrepreneurs in India are joining forces to create their own app store that will reduce the dominance of Google and Apple.
The mobile gaming vertical also offers examples of where issues rest. Let’s talk about Huawei. Since the time that it got cut from Google Play, none of the gaming developers publishing on the Huawei store can use Google Pay. They are excluded from a sophisticated payment solution that would otherwise benefit their company.
Huawei then chose to completely waive off all fees for publishers (app developers) wanting to integrate the solution. In order to make it attractive to their clients, they split this policy 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 revenue and once the preferential policy is over the standard rate is 70%. Whether developers find this attractive or not, the bottom line is that the competition between Google and Huawei enabled gaming publishers to get a better deal.
It is also important to consider how the Global Developer Service Alliance (GDSA)- the joint project of the Chinese producers of smartphones Xiaomi, Huawei Technologies, Oppo and Vivo will impact the mobile app market and Google’s dominance. These companies created the GDSA platform allowing developers to place at the same time the applications in directories of each company of alliance- a move which will play a part in diversifying what is available to publishers. 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 app developers.
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 a smart alternative to the overcrowded Google Play and the App Store while providing a fraud-free and hence brand safe environment for advertisers.
Looking ahead this year, the ecosystem 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 and further strengthen their freedom of choice.
The article has been written by Ashwin Shekhar, Co-Founder, AVOW