Since the introduction of the Apple App Store on iOS in 2008, followed by the Google Play Store for Android, there has been exponential growth in the app market. In the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, users can browse and download iOS or Android apps as well as music, books, movies, and television programs, but there are key differences.
Where should you publish first? What store will give your app the best chances for success? Understanding the differences between these two major app stores is essential for app developers and marketers. This article will outline the important difference to help you grow your app.
Both the App Store and the Play Store provide apps to users through their platforms, but they achieve that goal differently. The design and layout of both platforms are clearly different.
On the Apple App Store, the first thing a user will see is the Today view, which consists of various articles that are relevant for the day featuring posts of short articles that highlight rising apps. The store features two major sections, Apps and Games, and different categories within each section with suggestions tailored to each user based on previous downloads and search history. The rest of the apps are either promoted by Apple or appear in the top charts for their category. The App Store features Apple’s gaming subscription service, Apple Arcade, and a search section with app and search suggestions and the search bar.
The layout of the Google Play Store is more direct and search based. The user is immediately given app suggestions, and the search bar takes a permanent spot at the top of each page. The design is focused on suggesting more apps to each user individually, which includes a “For you” app category further personalizing the experience. These differences reflect Google as a search and advertising company.
Regarding quality and safety, the largest marker may be how long it takes for apps to be reviewed and approved. Apple App Store takes longer to review apps before uploading them on the platform with roughly 90% of the iOS apps getting inspected within 48 hours. In contrast, the Google Play Store only takes to two hours to review and approve an app.
Given that there are thousands of Android apps submitted daily each app goes through an automated process to be verified if it is virus/malware-free and whether it contains nudity or copyrighted images, with only some apps being checked manually by experts. Given that there are fewer Apps submitted to Apple, and they have a longer approval process, Apple’s process is more hands-on likely ensuring higher-quality, safer apps.
Though both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store offer the same revenue split, 70% to the developer and 30% to the store, the Apple App Store led with an estimated revenue of $85.1 billion in 2021 with 63% of the total app revenue, whereas Google Play Store generated nearly $47.9 billion and roughly 37% of the total app revenue through Android apps. In the first quarter of 2022, the App Store had a 32% increase in app revenue, whereas the Google Play store saw only a 10% increase.
In addition, Apple App Store outperformed Google Play in generated revenue even though Android accounts for 71% of the mobile & tablet operating system market share worldwide as of July 2022.
These trends have continued, and as of the start of 2023, Apple increased to a total of 67% of the total app revenue leaving Google Play with 23%. Therefore, most experts advise mobile app developers and marketers to launch apps for iOS first for a better market share.
Given that the Apple App Store launched in 2008 with only 500 iOS apps, it has grown exponentially with roughly 210 million apps today, but that makes it the second-largest app store on the market. Google Play Store is much bigger with roughly 3.5 million Android apps today. The difference in the number of apps is likely explained by the fact that the App Store has a stricter and longer process of reviewing apps for their eligibility.
In terms of downloads, Google also takes the cake. Statistics project that Google Play Store users will download 139 billion mobile apps in 2024. Since Google Play is available for a broader range of products it generates more downloads than the Apple App Store, which is only for Apple devices.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The biggest advantage of the Apple App Store for users is that it offers high-quality, safer, less-buggy apps. The advantage for Google Play Store users is Android offers access to many more free or inexpensive apps. But when comes to developers there are other key differences, starting with the publishing process.
The process of submitting an app on either the App Store or the Play Store starts about the same. The publisher needs to create a developer account in order to officially submit apps to each platform, and neither is free.
It’s much less expensive to register as a developer on Google Play, where you only need to make a single payment of $25. The registration fee for Apple’s platform is higher, at a $99 annual payment to remain a developer, this pricing may vary geographically.
Once you’re 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 sets higher standards for the App Store and the apps being listed on it. Developers must examine the full App Store Review Guidelines that are listed in Apple’s Developer section of their website. Apple notes that 40% of app rejections happen because of developers not adhering to app completeness guidelines.
After you’re sure your app meets the criteria set by Apple, you can submit your app. To submit, you need to use the App Store Connect app, which is where you can track the app’s review process and performance. Apple has a dedicated App Review Board team that manually checks the apps submitted to the store. The App Store Connect app is an invaluable tool for developers and marketers to stay up-to-date.
Google Play’s app review process is faster, roughly 2 to 18 hours, since the procedure is mostly automated. It is still important to follow the Google Play Store App Criteria with details for the app functionality and design standards you must follow in order to get the app approved for publishing.
After ensuring that both the app and its store page follow the guidelines, your app can be submitted for review where 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 either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store, keep in mind that the app market is constantly changing. If you pay attention to new trends and market shifts, you can continue to grow your app successfully.
Despite the differences when it comes to delivering app suggestions to users, the general approach to ASO is similar to the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. The most viable strategy for testing new features and changes to the app page is by utilizing A/B Testing.
For Apple App Store Optimization strategies, it’s crucial to keep up to date. Just recently, Apple added key functionality to the App Store that supports App Seasonality. For A/B testing there is now a feature that helps app developers and marketers introduce multiple variants of their app’s store page while keeping the original that most users will see unchanged.
Another great update Apple introduced includes widgets that feature apps suggested to iOS and iPad OS users. This is a powerful acquisition channel because the featured app becomes part of the phone or tablet’s home screen, which drives people to tap on the widget and check out the app, helping that app become a permanent part of the user’s app library. Apple also incentivizes developers to get their app featured by the App Store editorial team by separating them into the separate Today section.
While the Apple App Store encourages publishers to be more proactive with their promotional campaigns, the Google Play Store is significantly more passive and automated. Due to Google’s reliance on search algorithms, metadata optimization is crucial to an app’s success. You need to pay close attention to current trends and relevant keywords to tune your app and its store page just right for the algorithms to boost its performance. Despite the slow testing process, the sheer number of Android users on the storefront makes it worth the wait and effort to optimize.
Although the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store both provide users and developers a chance to buy, sell, and promote a myriad of apps in a vibrant marketplace, there are important differences.
Apple App Store leads in revenue, and unlike Google Play, it is available in China too. Also, Apple App Store users are used to paying for their iOS apps, which contributes to their yearly revenue advantage. On the flip side, Google Play differs from Apple App Store by being more developer-friendly, and less expensive, with a less strict approval process. Finally, when it comes to ASO, Apple gives the opportunity to grow fast if your app gets noticed by the editors whereas Google is a more automated search-based process.
Which is best for you? Most likely both, but with an emphasis on starting in the stricter Apple marketplace, as that is likely the best testing ground to ensure your app has what it needs to grow. If you have a great app and want to get started on ensuring its growth with an elite DSP and team to support you, please get in touch.