As a smart entrepreneur, you’ve identified your target market for your app. Therefore, you already know which of the platforms you’ll hit: Android, iOS, or both. Just to be on the safe side, we’ve compared these platforms to help you better prepare for publishing your app. We’ve also described the pros & cons of each platform along with the other obstacles that can get in your way. Ready? Let’s go!
A bit of statistics
Before we start the iOS App Store vs Google Play Store comparison, we’ll supply some statistics. We know that stats can be boring. But it’s necessary to understand the size of the app marketplace you’re going to enter. Here are a few facts and figures that a nascent entrepreneur may find helpful.
Apple App Store review
There were 1.8 million apps on Apple’s App Store as of Q1 2019, according to Statista. This is a ton, especially considering there were only 5,000 apps at the end of 2008.
But how many apps are being released each month on the App Store these days? According to data compiled by Pocketgamer.biz, developers are currently submitting over 9,000 (sometimes over 11,000) apps per month on average. A record number of apps – 160,665 – were submitted for approval by Apple in September 2016, with the mobile game category accounting for 29 percent of that figure.
Meanwhile, the total number of apps downloaded from the App Store reached 205.4 billion in 2018 and is forecasted to hit 258.2 billion by 2022. Even though these figures may seem impressive, downloads don’t always correlate with retention. Unfortunately, 21 percent of all mobile apps downloaded by users worldwide are only used once during a six-month period after installation.
Google Play Store review
As of December 2018, there were nearly 2.1 million apps on the Google Play Store. From 2016 through 2018, there were over 6,000 apps added per day. The total number of applications downloaded from Google Play was around 197 billion in 2017, with Business of Apps forecasting 352 billion downloads by 2021.
How much does it cost to distribute an app on the Google Play Store and the App Store? This is probably the key question bothering most app developers.
But it’s not only the platform entry fee that matters. It’s also important to weigh the opportunities you get once you pay this fee. Let’s find out how much it costs to access the App Store and the Google Play Store and consider what benefits you’ll get once you part with your money.
You’ll need to pay just $99 a year to build and distribute your mobile products on the App Store. That is to say, you need to become a full member of the Apple Developer Program. But what’s included?
First of all, you get access to all of Apple’s cutting-edge technologies that allow you to build hot and engaging applications. These technologies include Apple Pay, Maps, HealthKit, and HomeKit. Apple kindly provides you with all the necessary tools (think SDKs and APIs) to build pure and compelling user experiences.
Second, you get the opportunity to beta test your app before releasing it. Thanks to TestFlight beta testing, you can share early builds of your product with your internal team and get comprehensive feedback in no time. Up to 25 members of your development team can take part in beta testing if they’re assigned a Developer or Admin role in iTunes Connect. Moreover, each member can try your product on up to 30 devices.
If your internal team’s feedback isn’t enough for you, you can also invite up to 10,000 independent testers to run your app on their devices just by using their email address. Every time you invite a new tester, they’ll receive an email inviting them to join the ranks of the beta testers. They’ll also be prompted to install the free TestFlight app from the App Store for their iPhone, iPad, or other iOS device.
Once the beta version of your app is installed, TestFlight will notify testers every time a new build is available, offering an easy way to leave feedback and giving testers clear hints on where to focus.
Third, you’ll get the opportunity to distribute your apps (including for iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, Apple TV, and other devices) and Safari extensions via the App Store. There are no hosting fees or any concerns regarding payment procedures inside your app: Apple handles it all. They will take a 15 percent cut of your revenue, however. But that’s a topic for a separate article.
Lastly, you’ll get fresh insights on user engagement, marketing campaigns, app performance, monetization, and other metrics with App Analytics.
Google Play Store
To register a Google Publisher Account, you need to pay a $25 fee. But unlike Apple’s Developer Program, membership in which must be renewed yearly, you only pay this fee once.
Your account will then be associated with your Developer Console, “a home for publishing and managing your apps.” The Google Play Developer Console allows you to upload your Android apps, build product pages, manage in-app purchases and subscriptions, configure distribution, and publish and promote your apps.
Google’s Developer Console provides a number of useful features that make it easier to publish an app, but trying to summarize all of them in one short piece would be pointless. Below, we’ll cover only the most notable features.
Since there are thousands of different Android devices, it’s necessary to understand how well your app runs on many different devices. That’s the job of the Cloud Test Lab.
[Cloud Test Lab page]
Thanks to Test Lab, you can try out your app on devices running in Google’s data center. This way you can detect issues that may only occur on specific device configurations.
Alpha and beta tests allow you to collect impressions of early versions of your app from real-world users. You can distribute your pre-release app to testers either as an open beta (using one-click opt-in links) or as a closed beta (using an email list and Google Groups). The valuable insights you gain from alpha and beta testing can help you polish your product to perfection at its early stages without the humiliation of public fails.
Additionally, you can use staged rollouts, a feature that lets you discover and fix issues with a group of devoted users before the official “gala release.” With staged rollouts, you can release updates consistently and to an increasing number of users. This approach allows you to detect and eliminate problems before your app reaches a wide audience.
App review processes
So you’ve done your best to build the perfect application to reach your target users. What’s next? How do you submit your app for approval by Google or Apple? What are the differences?
Apple App Store
For a long time, Apple was thought to have the most severe and inquisitive quality control process. To make sure that your app complied with all the company’s guidelines and didn’t contain any code that might harm customers, Apple would torture your product for up to four weeks. But those times are past, and now it takes only up to two days for you to see your brainchild on the App Store.
[App Store Featured page]
In addition to a quicker review process, Apple rolled out some other improvements in fall 2018 with regard to evaluating already published apps.
Although there are around 1.8 million apps on the App Store, some of them have never been downloaded or haven’t been updated since day one. Since quality is very important to Apple, they’ve decided to take control of the situation and have begun removing all abandoned and poor quality apps that don’t comply with the latest review guidelines.
App developers are informed about any problems with an app by email. After that, they have a month to fix these problems and submit an update for review. Otherwise, the app is removed.
Quicker app releases had for a long time been one advantage of the Google Play Store over the App Store. Previously, Google Play relied heavily on algorithms to scan its apps (with no humans involved) so they could be released quicker. Not so long ago, Google disclosed that it now has “an internal team of reviewers” who carefully examine all submitted apps before they go live on Google Play. But this move doesn’t have any impact on approval times, and the average app review time is still under three hours.
One of the greatest improvements to the revision process for Google Play, however, is the pre-launch report, which can be manually enabled in your Developer Console. Once activated, this report gives you the opportunity to see all bugs and crashes before you even release your app.
To learn more about ways to monetize your app, you can check out our recent post. Below, we’ll look at how each of the platforms allows developers to get revenue from their apps.
The transaction fee for applications and in-app products offered on the Google Play Store is 30 percent of the selling price. Developers get only 70 percent of total revenue, the rest going to cover hosting fees and Google’s hard work.
In-app advertising is one of the most popular monetization models, according to Statista. Around 79 percent of app developers prefer in-app ads as their main monetization model.
You can choose among various ad formats. With ads, you can generate revenue based on the number of ad clicks within your app. The rules are simple: The more clicks an ad gets, the higher your profit.
AdMob by Google is a mobile advertising platform that provides easily integrated SDKs to display AdMob ad banners within your app.
In-app purchases are the second most popular monetization model that doesn’t involve charging users for downloading your app.
[The Simpsons: Tapped Out “Day Old Donuts” in-app purchases]
In-app Billing is a Google Play service that lets you sell a wide range of digital goods (media, game levels, potions, ammunition, etc.) from within your Android application. This service can be integrated with your app using a special SDK and APIs provided by Google. And, of course, Google handles all payment details, so your app will never deal with any sensitive user data and financial transactions on its own.
In-app Billing is also used to sell in-app subscriptions. Subscriptions let you sell products with recurring billing at a variety of intervals (monthly, yearly, etc.). Subscriptions are handled through the Developer Console.
The App Store offers an 85/15 split with app publishers, which is pretty generous compared to Google’s fees. What’s more, subscriptions are available to all apps across all categories – even games. Previously, the subscription-based model was limited to certain categories including cloud services, media streaming apps, productivity apps, dating apps, and news apps.
[TunnelBear’s subscription purchase page]
To enable in-app purchases in an iOS app, Apple offers its StoreKit framework, which allows you to sell a variety of items including subscriptions.
App store optimization and app discovery
Marketers know that making your app stand out on an app store is as hard as building it. That’s why you simply can’t get away with poor app store optimization (ASO). Even though the success of your app depends on the effort you put into ASO, both Google and Apple do their best to help you.
Google Play Early Access is a section on the Google Play Store where you can see new and upcoming products (either not yet released or in beta). The Collections section now recommends contextually relevant apps instead of featuring related apps or apps that others have downloaded to their devices, as was the case previously.
[App ads on the Google Play Store]
You can use Google Ads campaigns to promote your app across Google’s networks – Google Play, Google Search, YouTube, and other services. You can set up advertising campaigns in your Google Play Developer Console.
Apple believes that “powerful marketing communications will help bring continued success for your apps.” That’s why they’ve prepared really great App Store marketing guidelines to help you succeed.
Apple is trying to address the app discovery problem on its platform. First of all, they decided to change the Featured section, which now doesn’t recommend apps you’ve already installed but shows only new apps. What’s more, Apple promises that its App Store will be refreshed more often with new content in the future.
Perhaps the biggest improvement has been the rollout of Search Ads. These are meant to improve app visibility via search. To avoid any ad copy or cheating, Search Ads use metadata and imagery provided by a developer when they submit their app for review or updates.
[Search Ads examples]
Search Ads on the App Store are available via the second-price auction system, so app publishers can bid to make their ads appear in the first position in search results.
To keep up with ASO techniques, you definitely should work on your app’s product page. Marketers normally use different ad campaigns to attract iOS and Android users, as they have different ways of thinking. You should consider that when filling out your product page with content and comparing your app with competitors’.
[App Store vs Google Play Store page layouts]
On your product page, visitors will first see the featured graphics for your app, then the gallery. For this reason, we recommend you focus on creating a great feature graphic for your app page and working on your gallery images, testing various combinations of portrait screenshots and videos. As a result of these tests, you might get a significant increase of 18 to 40 percent in the conversion rate for your product page.
Speaking about preview videos on the App Store, it’s important to record one in portrait mode to let visitors view it without having to enter full-screen mode. Moreover, it’s important to convey your app’s value within the first three seconds, as the average video watch time on the App Store is around four to six seconds. And according to the App Store rules, you can only provide actual app footage and can’t show any people interacting with a device. Also, mind that preview videos on the App Store are device-specific, so you’ll need to record versions for all current iPhone models.
Your app’s page on Google Play will be slightly different from the page on the App Store. Android apps no longer have a featured graphic at the top of the page, so videos and screenshots in the gallery will have to do their best to attract and engage potential users. And don’t neglect videos on your product page, as they can add 24 percent to your conversion rate.
Videos on Google Play are YouTube videos that don’t start playing automatically, but once users start playing them, they play in full-screen landscape mode. This means that the cover picture for your video has to be appealing and interesting, and the video itself should be in landscape mode (so you can’t use a portrait video like on the App Store). The average video view time on Google Play is around five seconds, so demonstrating the main value of your app in the first three seconds is vital here too.
Well, that’s it for today. Keep this cheat sheet at arm’s reach and refer to if you have any questions about what to expect when you go to publish your app on the App Store or the Google Play Store.