Is this the beginning of the end for the app store duopoly?

by | Feb 3, 2020 | Expert Blog, News & Opinion | 0 comments

As the technology landscape continues to evolve and diversify, it is essential that brands are keeping pace to ensure that they have a presence on the various digital platforms their customers are using.  While we’ve seen new channels emerge in recent years, such as the rapid growth of voice enabled devices, these are arguably supplementary experiences – for now at least.

For many brands mobile apps are, and will continue to be, a core digital product for their customers. In the past this meant having an app for iOS devices and an app for Android devices. Being present on the Apple store and equivalent Google Play store meant that you had access to pretty much the entire smartphone user market.

Well, if you were hellbent on full omni-channel domination you might have gone as far as also releasing a Windows app (remember those!?) or published your Android app to smaller niche stores such as Amazon’s app store or Samsung’s Galaxy Store, but for the majority of companies the additional investment in deploying and maintaining apps on these other stores didn’t make commercial sense.

 

However, the latest news from Huawei might well present a more credible competitor to the Apple and Google app stores.

 

Regardless of your views on the latest news, Huawei is a major player in the smartphone market. They have their own operating system (Harmony OS) which is due to replace the Google Services that currently ships on their devices.  Alongside this, they also have an accompanying app store known as the “App Gallery”. The App Gallery boasts more than 400 million monthly active users across the world, therefore its popularity and viability as a route to consumers should not be be downplayed.

Due to US trade restrictions, from March 2020, new Huawei devices will only be able to use Huawei’s proprietary services and will no longer be loaded with Google services or the Play Store. Therefore consumers with new Huawei devices will not be able to download existing Android apps unless there is a Huawei optimised version listed in their App Gallery.

In 2019 Huawei commanded a significant 19% market share1 (up from 8% in 2017 and 12% in 20182) and this is expected to continue to grow over the next few years.

Popular mobile phone review site GSMArena.com issued a poll in mid-2019 asking nearly 16,000 users whether they would stick with Huawei, even if that meant having to adopt their proprietary services: 71% said they would remain loyal to Huawei.3

Given the previous growth trajectory of Huawei devices and this level of brand loyalty, brands without a presence in the App Gallery could stand to lose a significant segment of their Android users base. The test will come when users upgrade to newer Huawei handsets but many are already excited about the launch of the companies next flagship, the P40.

Mubaloo’s own research (using in-app analytics) broadly aligns with market share user-base figures. Of the apps we manage, 13% of the Android user base are using Huawei devices, but proportion ranges from 8 – 20% across different clients. Compared to Samsung and Amazon stores with very little combined market share, you can see why many brands are now paying attention.

So what does this mean if you have an app? 

By proactively making your app available in Huawei’s marketplace you can sustain the reach of your products and services. 

Being an early adopter also presents opportunities for growth with greater exposure and better ranking in app listings. There is a means of capturing market share from competitors who’s apps aren’t yet available in the App Gallery as well as reaching new and diverse audiences. 

Unsurprisingly, the stats shared by Huawei at their UK Developer Event in January are impressive with examples of brands seeing millions of downloads in just a few months and achieving comparable revenues that they see from the Google Play store in the same timeframe. This rapid growth and a favourable commercial model (Huawei take less from in-app purchases) makes this opportunity worth exploring. 

 

Gemma Coles (Head of Mubaloo), Sam Nunnerley (Strategic Account Manager) and Dom Baker (CX Principle) attending the Huawei Developer Day held on January 15th 2020.

 

There are already a number of heavyweight brands with successful apps on the Gallery already, including Amazon, Booking.com and Trainline. To join them does not require much initial effort and your current Android app can be uploaded (you just need the .apk file). For more information and to register for a developer account, visit the Huawei website here.

In time, it may be necessary to migrate away from any embedded Google Services in your app, but there are equivalent developer kits available to facilitate this.

Our suggestion to clients is to move quickly to avoid missing out: look at your analytics, understand your customers and, if the opportunity is right, then take the leap to the App Gallery. Once the app is uploaded, you can monitor the uptake. If you see positive growth – in revenue, engagement, whatever your KPIs may be – then making the decision for investment into further develop your app specifically for this new OS becomes more straightforward.

 

References

1. https://venturebeat.com/2019/04/30/idc-smartphone-shipments-q1-2019/

2. https://www.strategyanalytics.com/strategy-analytics/blogs/devices/handset-country-share/handset-country-share/2019/02/13/huawei-leaps-to-3rd-in-uk-smartphone-market

3. https://www.gsmarena.com/weekly_poll_results_huawei_retains_customers_trust_despite_turmoil-news-37326.php

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