January 2, 2013

Is Google Play Catching Up?

Google Play may finally be catching up to its rival.

New data released by app analytics firm Distimo indicates a 43 percent revenue increase during the previous four months for Google’s application marketplace. The rise was calculated from the 20 countries in which Google Play is available. This increase beat the revenue rise in this period for Apple, which saw its App Store earnings increase by 21 percent.

Of course, this does not mean Google made more money during that period. Without offering specific numbers, the Distimo report reminds readers that Apple is at a substantially higher place than Google when it comes to app revenue. Nonetheless it is an important benchmark for Google in its effort to make its app storefront attractive for developers.

Another sign of positive momentum is the shrinking gap in app quality between iOS and Android versions of an application. When I first began using an Android phone regularly in summer of 2012, it was still frustrating to see apps debut for iOS and then wait many weeks or months for them to arrive on Android. And often when they did, the quality and performance was vastly below its Apple counterpart.

This is rapidly changing. A recent example is ESPN’s revamp of ScoreCenter; the new versions came out on both platforms exactly the same day. ScoreCenter 3.0 works just as well on my Nexus 4 as my iPhone 4S. Other apps like Pinterest or the excellent game Contre Jour work just as well and look great on Android devices.

Yet some of the same problems remain. For example, ESPN pushed out ScoreCenter Feed, a new sports news app, for iOS only. Hopefully it will be coming over to Android soon, as more apps are launching simultaneously now on both platforms.

Developers are also putting more time into creating great home screen widgets, an Android-only feature that allows for more customization. With sports, news, and weather widgets I can swipe from one home screen to another without needing to open and close apps for information.

Further improvements to Android developer tools and reducing the fragmentation that has plagued Android from the beginning are likely to be priorities for Google in 2013. How these impact app revenue will be worth watching as the app ecosystem prepares for more battle this year.

Image Credit: Distimo

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