Platforms comparisonIn terms of content volume, Google Play is the largest app store in the world. The number of apps available on Google Play has been continuously increasing since the release of the platform in 2008. After surpassing the one million app mark in 2013, the number of apps temporarily declined in mid-2018 before growing again and reaching a peak of 4.67 million available apps at the end of 2021. Even though the majority of Google Play Store apps are free, Google’s digital content and app platform generate double-digit revenues in billion U.S. dollars each year from games sales and in-app payments.
Apple’s App Store is the second-largest app store worldwide. The pioneering platform offered over two million apps to iOS users at the end of 2021. Although Google has led the ranking of available apps and app downloads for several years, Apple continues to record higher mobile user spending and gross app revenue figures. Among the various app categories and genres driving consumer spending on the world’s first app marketplace, gaming stands out as the largest source of app revenue in the Apple App Store.
Third-party app storesWhile Google Play and the App Store are the most prominent distribution channels for mobile apps, offering almost global coverage to a broad potential audience, alternative app stores have been holding a small but significant foothold in the market. Notably, the Amazon Appstore has been steadily increasing the number of available applications for Android users, reaching a peak of 488 thousand apps at the beginning of 2022. The Amazon AppStore, which launched in 2011, distributes exclusively Android apps that are mainly free to download.
Additionally, regional differences and global dynamics have been playing a role in the creation of additional app stores and global distributors. The unique digital environment of China provides one of the most variegated ecosystems for app distribution. As China hosts a mainly mobile-first economy, users in the county engage with an average of seven mobile apps per day, downloading approximately 50 apps on a monthly basis.
The Chinese app market has been growing particularly fast: As the Google Play Store is not available in the country, various Android stores have already been developed; resulting in a fragmented app store landscape. Among the many players, Tencent Appstore held the largest Android app store market share in China as of 2021. The Huawei AppGallery has also saw a growth trend, with the number of downloads and updates on the platform increasing by 83 percent between 2019 and 2020. In 2019, Huawei was caught in the middle of the trade war between the United States and China, resulting in the limitation of some Google services on Huawei devices. Huawei smartphones users can currently only rely on AppGallery as their preinstalled app distributor as Google Play is unavailable to them.