When you’re choosing between Android and iOS, you also have to choose between the App Store and Google Play; apps are so important to us these days that they must come into consideration when we’re buying new mobile devices.
Android has caught up with and even overtaken the App Store in sheer number of apps, but Apple’s marketplace continues to rake in lots more revenue. But which offers better titles, a greater user experience, and more features?
In this week’s Friday Night Fight with Cult of Android versus Cult of Mac, we pit the App Store against Google Play to find out which is the best mobile marketplace.
So for the longest time, the App Store offered a lot more apps than Google Play. That’s changed recently, with Google overtaking, according to the latest figures — but the App Store continues to bring in more revenue. Is that because it’s a better marketplace?
Luke Dormehl (Writer, Cult of Mac): The fact is that Apple has a quality filter that Google couldn’t dream of. That the number of apps is even close is crazy! If this was panhandling, the apps in the App Store would be solid gold; Google’s would be full of clumps of dirt — that’s why the App Store brings in more revenue.
If Google’s app marketplace is so much better — according to you — why does it earn just 40 percent of what Apple’s does?
KB: I think there are a few reasons. Firstly, more apps tend to be free and ad-supported on Android. On top of that, a large number of people who buy Android devices just because they’re affordable aren’t interested in buying apps. They want a cheap smartphone that has basic abilities and won’t cost them a lot.
But for the rest of us – those who do use apps – I think the Play Store has some advantages. One of which is that it rolls all ‘Play’ content – apps, games, books, music, movies, TV shows, and more – into one marketplace, making shopping for digital content a much more seamless experience.
LD: The problem with the point about large numbers of people with cheaper phones not wanting to buy apps is that this mindset translates to developers. App Store developers make more money with iOS, so they’re more likely to focus their efforts there.
There may be some good apps on Android, but you’re also going to get a much higher ratio of low quality ones, clones, and the like. iOS developers know they can charge money for high quality apps, which helps move us away from the dreaded freemium model, while they also don’t have to optimize their apps for dozens of different devices. If they’re not going to make big money, why bother?
Everyone’s better off sticking with the App Store. Android’s deformed twin of an app store may be called Google Play, but it sure as hell isn’t fun. For anyone.
KB: Having used both Android and iOS, I have to concede that the App Store does boast more top-quality apps, and I’m sure that’s mostly due to the revenue. I’m not saying there aren’t great apps on Android because there are plenty of them, but yes, there are more on iOS.
Having said that, Google Play does have its advantages for developers. Lots of them, in fact.
For instance, Android developers can respond to user reviews, issue refunds themselves, and perform staged rollouts for big updates. Google also allows Play listing to include YouTube videos of any length, so developers can properly showcase and explain more complex apps. Apple allows only 30-second clips.
LD: I’m glad developers can issue refunds on all that money they’re not getting. Seriously, though, sure you’re going to have one or two nice interface elements — but that’s what happens when you throw things at a wall and hope they’ll stick. One or two probably will, but is that enough to justify everything that doesn’t?
I’m never going to argue that Apple’s App Store is perfect. It’s certainly not. I think freemium games, for instance, are the scourge of mobile development. Search is broken, as another point. It’s way too hard to find what you’re looking for.
But compared to Android? It’s the difference between living in hell and having rain one day of your tropical vacation.
KB: The Play Store has some terrific features for users, too, which make shopping a whole lot easier. I’ve mentioned longer demonstration videos, but there’s also the ability to see download stats — so you can see how popular an app is before downloading.
There’s a “Users also installed” section that recommends similar apps other Android users picked up in case you want an alternative. There’s a “People” section that shows you what your friends are using. One of my favorite features is the ability to install an app on any of my Android devices remotely using Google Play’s web-based interface.
Play’s auto app updates actually work, too, and you can choose whether you want auto-updates for individual apps.
LD: Oh, yeah? Well Apple’s got a lot working in its favor, too. I’ve covered the big points, but features like Family Sharing and App Bundles are really useful and innovative.
At the end of the day, I’m not such a blinkered Apple fan that I can’t see that Android has some good points. But when it comes to which app store rules the roost, I’ll be sticking with Cupertino thank you very much.
And you know what? So will most people who care enough to spend money on their software.
KB: Well, we’ll see about that. With Android and the Play Store getting bigger every day, it’s only going to be a matter of time until it’s generating more money for developers, and then we’ll see if the App Store is still the go-to marketplace then.
In the meantime, I’d love to see Google adopting Family Sharing and App Bundles, because they are certainly terrific features.
I think we can both agree that while both platforms have some excellent advantages, neither is perfect.