While Android apps have fewer download barriers and can be obtained by users across alternative app marketplaces as well as via the open web, Google Play Store hosted 2.6 million apps as of June 2023. The platform is in continuous expansion, with almost 90,000 thousand apps being added in May 2023 alone. Gaming and education apps accounted for the largest share of apps available on the platform. As of the third quarter of 2022, Android apps had a lower retention rate compared to iOS apps after three days from download, and the app retention rate after 30 days dropped to 2.6 percent.
Competition woes: Regulators and developersThe Google Play Store has been under the scrutiny of global and EU authorities for several years, with complaints being filed since the early 2010s due to competition concerns. The complaints alleged that the presence of preinstalled Google apps such as Search and Google Chrome and that the restrictions over the use of the Android OS were hurting competition and costed to the tech giant a fine of over five billion U.S. dollars in 2018 in the EU. Most recently, the Digital Market Acts (DMA) and a U.S. antitrust lawsuit over its Google Play Store developers’ fees have reignited the conversation over Google’s alleged monopoly in the Android market. Similarly to the Apple App Store the Google Play Store introduced several commission rate plans reducing the standard developers’ fees, set at 30 percent since the very first launch of the Android Marketplace, to 15 percent in the case of subscription app publishers and small publishers with less than one million U.S. dollars in revenues.
Android ecosystem transparency and Google Play data safetyWhile there are fewer download barriers for Android apps, Google Play Protect - the preliminary app safety check on Android phones - ensures that the number of potentially harmful applications installed via the official distribution platform remains under one percent. Mobile apps that have not been updated in recent years are regularly removed from the Google Play Store due to possible outdated safety protocols, with the platform delisting over 214 thousand apps during the first quarter of 2022. Additionally, Google reported preventing approximately two billion U.S. dollars of fraudulent and abusive transactions in the Play Store in 2022, as well as preventing 500 thousand submitted apps from accessing sensitive permissions.
Android apps hosted on the Google Play Store are required to list all the permissions needed to ensure correct functioning, and the feature has proven to be popular among users and developers alike. While the April 2022 Data Safety section in the apps’ documentation was originally meant to simplify and replace the old required and optional permissions listing, the Google Play Store reinstated the listings original alongside a new privacy section after only two months from its launch thanks to developers and users’ feedbacks.
Mobile ads experience: what’s changingGoogle’s device identifier number was first launched in 2014 and allowed advertisers to track the performance and attribution of mobile ad campaigns. As of April 2022, Google lets its users opt out of mobile advertising for personalized ads across all devices supporting the Play Store, allowing virtually all Android users to replace their advertising identifier with a string of zeros if they prefer. As in the case of the Apple IDFA (Identifier for Advertisers), the Android GAID (Google Advertising ID) was introduced in the early 2010s and has evolved from helping advertisers understand users’ behaviors and tracking their activity on mobile. With the introduction of the Privacy Sandbox, new regulations over third-party tracking and data collection at large are bound to change advertisers’ relationship with the entire Google Play Store ecosystem. The Google and Android Privacy Sandbox will implement different SDK and app runtimes to ensure transparent data collection, as well as new topic and attribution APIs. With the Android Privacy Sandbox, Android users will be given the possibility to opt out of tracking at any given time – while the Android GAID might play a reduced role in the future and be replaced by the Sandbox. In January 2023, only 0.18 percent of global Android devices opted out of personalized advertising and GAID tracking.
How to get noticed? App Store Optimization (ASO) in the Google Play environmentDuring the third quarter of 2022, the Google Play Store hosted over double the number of apps than the Apple App Store, with downloads for the quarter reaching 27.1 billion compared to the 8.2 million downloads generated via the Apple App Store. Under these terms, App Store Optimization (ASO) practices are vital for app publishers to compete in a lively digital environment.
As of June 2022, the median number of daily downloads needed for Android mobile apps in the United States to rank as the leading app in the Google Play Store was 56,000, while gaming apps required 37,000 median downloads to achieve the same result. The average number of days since the last released update for the apps ranking in the first 10 positions in the Google Play Store was 58 days, compared to the 83 days required for apps in the Apple App Store. Compared to iOS apps, the leading Android apps hosted in the Google Play Store presented a smaller average size of around 60 megabytes across all app categories, with gaming the leading gaming apps reaching an average size of 96 megabytes when occupying the first position after a user-prompted search.