Mobile Ecosystem

The Insider: Google Play vs iTunes

Becky Doles

Welcome to the Insider by MobileDevHQ, a monthly newsletter focused on app store optimization. The Insider will consist of a Deep Dive, where we take a closer look at an innovative app and the strategy behind it, and Trendsetters, which will hone in on a specific aspect of ASO. In our Deep Dive this month, we take a closer look at what the The Weather Channel app has done to rank h highly in both iTunes and Google Play. In the Trendsetters section, we will look at the major differences between iTunes and Google Play, and what types of apps rank well in each respective store. Enjoy!

We often get asked questions about the differences between the Apple app store and the Google Play store. These questions mostly come from people who are curious about the differences in the ranking algorithms and want to know what factors impact their ranking in each respective app store. Thanks to the combination of our reverse engineering and anecdotes from Google Play itself, we have a good idea of what the major differences are.

This month, we wanted to take a look at how the differences in ranking algorithms actually impact which apps rank highly and occupy the top charts for each respective store. We looked at the apps ranked in the top ten free apps for iPhone and Android over the course of a week (shown below), and found three important differences.

title=”Android Top 10″>

1) Apple is Friendly to Indie Developers

One of the first things you might notice is that you probably haven’t heard of most of the apps found in the iPhone Top Charts. That’s because the majority of them are made by indie developers. For most of the week, seven out of the top ten apps were indie games, compared to only one out of ten in the Google Play store. You can also see that over the seven days, 65% of the apps for iPhone were indies, compared to only 10% in Google Play. Although we can’t look under the hood and point to one exact algorithm difference that helps more indie developers break into the top ten of Apple’s app store, it appears that getting your 15 minutes of fame is easier when developing an app for iOS.

2) Google Play is Better for Mobile Focused Enterprises

Contrary to favoring indie developers, the top charts seem to show us that Google Play is favorable to mobile focused enterprises. If you look at the top ten for any day, you can see that four of the apps are owned or made by public companies, one was recently valued at $3 billion dollars, and two are made by a company set for an upcoming IPO. If we look at the entire week, we see that a staggering 90% of the apps are mobile focused enterprises. Looking at the data, it’s clear that mobile first enterprises dominate the top ten for Google Play, especially when compared to iOS.

3) iOS is More Sensitive to Trends and Volatility

Another interesting thing to note is that in the Apple app store, no app stayed in the same spot all seven days. That type of volatility might not seem too abnormal, until you compare it to Google Play, where five of the apps stayed in the same spot all seven days. Furthermore, there were only ten different apps found in the Google Play top ten the entire week. That means that although some of the rankings might have changed, no new apps broke into the the top ten. In the Apple app store, there were 20 different apps present over the seven days.

You might also notice that a number of the apps in the top ten for Apple are Flappy Bird spinoffs, and if you look at the top ten apps today, you will see some March Madness apps. Apple appears to be much more volatile in their top charts rankings and more susceptible to app developers trying to take advantage of a current trend.

Which Store is Better?

I’m not here to tell you if the differences between the stores are good or bad for you; it will depend on who you are, where you are working, and what app you are developing. However, it is clear that there are some major differences in each store’s ecosystem.

We’d love to hear which one you prefer in the comments section below. Does one win out overall, or are they both good for certain use cases?

The Trendsetters section above brought to light some of the differences between which apps rank well in the Google Play store compared to the Apple app store. It appears that Google Play is good for mobile first enterprises, and Apple is better for indie developers or people trying to cash in on hot trends. In this Deep Dive, we are going to focus on an app that has done well in both stores but that isn’t a mobile focused enterprise or an indie developer.

The one we’ve decided to focus on is The Weather Channel app. The app for The Weather Channel has done surprisingly well across both the Android and iOS platforms, especially when compared to other large non-mobile focused enterprises. With 52% and 53% five star reviews in the Apple and Google Play stores respectively, it’s clear that this is a high quality app. It is also ranked in the top 50 for both stores Top Charts, coming in at 41 for Apple and 35 for Google Play (on March 17th, 2014).

It’s not uncommon for a big company like The Weather Channel to have an app in the top 50 for one of the app stores, but breaking that threshold for both is rare. The only other non-mobile focused enterprises we saw in the top 50 of both stores were eBay and Skype. So how do they do it? We think a big part of their success can be attributed to the fact that they actually pay attention to the different ASO factors and optimize their apps for each store rather than applying the same strategy to both stores. Let’s take a look at the three key differences we noticed.

Getting +1’s for Google Play

One of the more obvious distinctions between the Apple app store and the Google Play store is the ability to +1 an app’s page (similar to ‘liking’ a company on Facebook). We know this is one of the factors that influences an app’s ranking in the app store, and The Weather Channel has done a good job getting them. They have 243K +1’s. But is that a lot? If you compare it to apps in the top ten, no. Apps like Pandora have over 500K. But if you compare it to other non-mobile enterprises, it’s impressive. Expedia has 87K, Starbucks has 29K, and even a giant like Amazon only has 283K. Becoming more active on your company’s Google+ account and putting links to +1 your page along with your Twitter and Facebook prompts is a good place to start for boosting your +1’s. You can also add them within your app so that users can +1 while using your app. If you have any other suggestions, let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear them!

Adding a Video

Another one of the obvious differences between the two stores is the ability to add a video in the Google Play store. The video appears before the screenshots, and is a great way to hook and convert users.

It gives the viewer a sense of what it’s actually like to use your app, allows for narration to further expand expand on features, and can give the user a better sense of what to expect after downloading your app. This last part is important, because it can impact your uninstall/install ratio, which is another key factor influencing your rank in the Google Play store. Neither Starbucks, Amazon, nor Expedia have videos on their Google Play page. If you are looking for a company to help you make an awesome app trailer, we recommend Apptamin.

Tailoring Your Description

The last place The Weather Channel sets itself apart is in its description. As you may know, your Google Play description is one of the main places Google looks for the keywords your app is targeting. In the Apple app store, although we believe your description might play a small role, the most important places for your keywords are your title and keyword field.

Although both of The Weather Channel’s descriptions relay the essentially the same information, the wording is slightly different, and the Google Play description is more comprehensive, including things like customer and media reviews. Many large companies like Expedia simply just copy and paste their description from one platform to the other (with the exception of a slightly different intro).

The Subtle Differences

The main thing to take away from this is that the Google Play and Apple app stores put value on different elements of ASO, and it’s important to pay attention to these differences. Are there other factors at play that influence The Weather Channel’s success in both app stores? Sure. But their attention to detail and implementation of platform specific ASO tactics definitely plays a role.

If you have any questions feel free to reach out via email at [email protected] or via Twitter @MobileDevHQ. And if you’d like to start your ASO journey, sign up for a free account today.

Becky Doles

Becky is the Senior Content Marketing Manager at TUNE. Before TUNE, she led a variety of marketing and communications projects at San Francisco startups. Becky received her bachelor's degree in English from Wake Forest University. After living nearly a decade in San Francisco and Seattle, she has returned to her home of Charleston, SC, where you can find her enjoying the sun and salt water with her family.

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