At the moment, if you want to download or launch an app, you only have two well-known options when it comes to app stores.
If you have an iPhone or iPad, you have to go through the Apple Store. If you have an Android device, then it’s the Google Play Store for you.
For makers and app marketers, it’s pretty much the same. However, in the future, this might not always be the case. Discontent has been growing for some years, and many developers want to explore other options.
While savvy Android users have been sideloading apps (that is, downloading apps without using any app store) for years, this is not common among consumers.
Most people don’t really know how to do this, which is what makes app stores so important.
But, could there potentially be dozens of popular app stores someday?
What would this mean for developers, consumers, businesses, and the future of apps?
Let’s take a look.
Why Developers Want More
The Google Play Store and the Apple Store are the world’s largest distribution channels for mobile apps right now.
While it is unlikely that they will be replaced overnight, a wide range of new options have started to crop up.
I believe this is a natural progression for several reasons, which I will get into in this blog post!
For one, many app developers have become frustrated, especially with Apple. However, both stores take a large cut of what developers make from their apps.
In the case of both the Apple App Store and Google Play Store, there is just too much app saturation. Competition is high, and it’s easy for apps to get lost in the mix.
Due to this, it could potentially benefit app developers greatly to instead get situated in a more segmented app store that’s targeting a specific niche.
If other stores took less of a cut, many developers would be likely be motivated to move their apps as well.
What could this potentially look like? This could include stores dedicated solely to entertainment apps, or education apps, or that serve users in certain geographic areas.
Issues With Apple
Apple, on the other hand, has become practically infamous for having problems with app makers.
Many claim that it offers certain large developers preferential treatment and waves their fees, while charging others 30% of their earnings.
Having so much of their earnings taken can be potentially crushing for smaller businesses. While the big app stores claim they support smaller creators, many disagree.
There have also been a number of high-profile legal battles around the world. Even governments are going in on the big app stores.
A legal battle between Apple and Epic Games over the immensely popular Fortnite resulted in the game being pulled from the Apple Store.
Last year, two separate antitrust cases were filed against Apple in the EU. Spotify has also accused them of trying to create a monopoly. Many developers have called their rules vague and unevenly applied.
Over a year ago, 36 states sued the Google Play Store for allegedly operating as a monopoly. This is illegal in the United States. According to the suit:
“Google has taken steps to close the ecosystem from competition and insert itself as the middleman between app developers and consumers.”
Innovation usually occurs out of necessity. If many companies are unhappy with how the major app stores conduct themselves, it makes sense that creators would get to work on something new.
Other App Stores Already Exist
While it’s likely you’ve only ever heard about Apple and Google’s app stores, there are a number of other highly popular app distributors in Asia.
There’s also a small handful in the West. As far as alternative Android App Stores, there are many more than you might think already.
This includes the Amazon AppStore, GetJar, F-Droid, AC Market, Aptoide, and Opera Mobile Store. Each has hundreds of thousands of apps.
In order to compete, these alternate app stores offer things that might appeal to different types of developers. For example, the app store CodeNgo offers bulk Android App submission. This means that by filing in a single form, your app is submitted to over two dozen stores, including Google Play, Opera, and Samsung.
The Seattle-based alternative App Store SlideMe has a growing audience and a more segmented approach as well.
They say their philosophy is defined on the basis that “one Application Store can’t reach everyone, everywhere with the applications they want.”
They already have a massive global reach and are probably one of the biggest app stores you’ve never heard of.
However, the fact that most people still have not heard of alternative app stores is a big problem. In the coming years, this may change. Or it might not.
Zoom and Zapps
It’s no secret that Zoom spiked in popularity and become an indispensable tool at the beginning of the pandemic.
Covid forced many into social distancing and remote work and school. As a result, Zoom’s revenue boomed.
Zoom was looking to continue this success by launching third-party applications they call Zapps.
Zapps are essentially third-party applications that integrate into Zoom’s existing workflow. This enables users to more easily access information and collaborate during video calls. At the same time, Zoom is also launching OnZoom. OnZoom is an integrated online events platform.
Zoom actually already has an existing app marketplace, which allowed developers to bring its functionality into their own apps. However, the new Zapps marketplace brings third-party app functionality into Zoom.
The company planned to launch with over 30 Zapps partners too. This includes Slack, Dropbox, HubSpot, Atlassian, and Salesforce.
Zoom launched this to increase collaboration with education partners.
What Comes Next?
It is highly unlikely that the Apple App Store and Google Play Store will suddenly become obsolete and vanish any time soon.
However, it is more likely that their total grip on all things app-related will start to slip eventually.
Developers and companies want more flexible options when it comes to distributing their apps.
Big players like Epic Games and Zoom are also entering the app marketplace in big ways. This is not coming out of nowhere.
If other major players follow suit and create their own app stores, even if catering solely to their own product offering, this could cut into the App Store downloads in a meaningful way.
Keep in mind that globally, countless other app marketplaces already exist and many are gaining traction. While no one can say if any of them will ever supplant the big two, we are likely headed into a world of more app marketplaces regardless.
It is likely that segmented app marketplaces can also benefit users and developers in other ways.
While for marketers, the overwhelming number of apps makes it easy for their offerings to get lost, this is also a negative for app users.
Choice fatigue is a big problem. It can feel daunting to find what you need in a sea of millions of things. It is even harder considering the large problem of scam apps masquerading as real apps.
As more tech companies work on creating their own marketplaces, this will likely open up even casual users of apps to the idea of using alternative app stores.
While many people probably have never spared a moment’s thought to alternative app stores before, this is likely to change fast.
Final Thoughts on the Future of App Stores
Do you think that more app stores will benefit consumers, developers, and businesses? Some say yes, but some think that this will never happen on a wide scale.
When it comes to consumers, do you think they would find it easier to get the apps they want in specialized app stores? Or, do you think they have become used to only the big two, and might be annoyed by having to go to many different app stores?
Especially when it comes to everyday non-tech savvy app users who don’t care much about the details and just want things to be simple, do you think they will always stick with the big two?
Maybe we are on the cusp of an app store boom. However, maybe Apple and Google Play will always be at the top.
What do you think? Comment below.
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