Apps, apps, and more apps! It takes more than just a fancy device sporting an incredible HD display, a great camera, and amazing processing capabilities to make a phone truly “smart”. Honestly, it’s all about the apps. An “app market” is a one-stop shop for getting games and other Internet applications such as Google+, Angry Birds, and more. It’s easy to say that without app markets, your smartphone might as well just be called a dumbphone. Here’s the rub: The Android Market (Google Play) entered the game after Apple did, and the Windows App Market was not even released until one year after Google broke ground. We compare both markets to see how they stack up to one another.
It turns out that although Android owns more than 50% of the total market share, developers still favor creating apps for Apple’s iOS platform. But in this case, we have cropped iOS out of the picture. So which market do developers favor now?
Before you can even build an application for either market, both Google and Microsoft require that developers cough up some cash. For Windows Phone developers, Microsoft asks for $99 per year. And, if said developer wants to submit more than 100 free apps, Microsoft asks for $19.99 for each submission after that. Google, on the other hand, is asking for a $25 membership fee to keep “spammy” developers out of their market. However, $25 is not too much to ask for as a one-time investment.
The Windows Phone SDK is comprised of multiple parts including Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone, XNA Game Studio, and others. In addition to having the SDK, Microsoft suggests that you be familiar with Microsoft .NET Framework and C++ or Visual Basic. The Android SDK is available for Windows, Mac and even Linux, unlike the Windows Phone SDK being Windows only. Furthermore, most all Android apps are written in Java. But C/C++ apps are not forbidden from the market either.
The main source of developers not liking the Android platform is it’s seemingly inherent fragmentation. The Android platform is very staggered between builds and that makes it difficult for developers to make an app that works on all versions of Android. But that anger didn’t stop Windows Phone from going down the exact same path. With Windows Phone 8 on the way, rumor has it that Microsoft will only be releasing WP8 to the latest devices that are released in 2012. Therefore, this will leave developers stuck in between two different versions of Windows Phone. This could create a sticky situation and a possible opportunity for market share, should Android solve its ongoing fragmentation.
According to the Android.com developer website, “Users downloaded more than 2.4 billion apps in Q3 2011 alone”. Furthermore, Google recently beefed up the Android Market into “Google Play”, a books, music, movies, and apps hub that reaches hundreds of millions of users in over 130 countries.
AppBrain, a website for finding the best Android apps, tabulates the number of apps currently in the Google Play Store. At the time of the writing this article, the website claims that there were just over 430,000 apps in total. Furthermore, over 311,000 of those apps were free. That’s just about 72% of all of Google Play apps that are free.
On the other hand, Windows Phone Applist reports that there are currently 80,000 apps in the Windows App Market. Although this is a low number compared to that of Google Play’s 430,000 apps, this is a huge increase in apps for a market that was launched just over 2 years ago.
If you own multiple devices, syncing all of your apps, music, and books would become a very tedious job. That is why both Google and Microsoft offer “cloud services”. SkyDrive (Microsoft’s cloud) has a robust initial offering of 7GB for your important files on all of your devices with apps for Windows, Mac, Windows Phone and even iPhone or iPad. If you were to purchase an app on your iPhone, it would show up on your iPad as well. However, SkyDrive is lacking one feature that I find very useful.
Instead of just storing your data online for you, Google took it one step further. When you visit Google Play, you can see all of your music, books, apps, and movies on any Internet connected device. Furthermore, you can even install apps to any of your devices directly from the desktop store. For example, after you find an app that you want, simply hit the install button and choose your device. Then, as long as your device is connected to the Internet, the download will begin automatically. Furthermore, Google Docs was recently re-named as Google Drive. Google Drive, similar to that of SkyDrive, comes with apps for Windows, Mac, iPhone, iPad, and Android. In addition, Google Drive offers you 5GB of total storage space between files, email, and Picasa photos.
The current design of Google Play has come a long way. With a few updates and the most recent name change to Google Play, I feel that Google has really done a nice job with the current design. With big and bold pictures, a feature of Ice Cream Sandwich, it is easy to find the best apps without having too much in your face. In addition, the new design takes advantage of the ‘sideways swiping’ feature found in most other Google apps. Swipe the whole screen left and right to find different categories and the top app lists (Top Free, Popular Apps, etc.)
The Windows Phone App Marketplace has followed Windows Phone’s widely hailed “Metro” style user interface in the recent 7.5 Mango update. In addition, Windows and Google use similar categories to sort their apps. The only main difference between the two markets is that Google has chosen to use big and vibrant pictures to represent new and featured apps, books, movies, and music.
Although many people could argue that “ads” are just annoying, the makers behind the health app RunKeeper would disagree. After becoming featured in the Android Market, the app saw a significant increase in downloads. Finally, Lightbox was a featured app during the holiday season of 2011 and received the lions share of an estimated 1 billion plus downloads during that time period.
It is no secret that Microsoft has been in the program and application business ever since it started. Furthermore, Microsoft had already been working on the Zune platform long before Windows Phone came into the picture. Therefore, the Zune Software is in use for Windows Phone users. The program can be used on your Windows PC and comes pre-loaded with access to a horde of music and videos. It also has the ability to move around media between your phone and computer. Finally, it can also install new software updates to your device.
On the other hand, Google created an online marketplace similar to the Chrome Web Store. Along with Google Play, previously known as Android Market, they have re-introduced their cloud management client. First used as an online music player, Google Play now allows you to manage all of your music, apps, books, and even movies. Furthermore, by visiting Google Play on any Internet connected device, you can play all of your music just like on iTunes. You can also read all of your books, and manage your movies and apps between your Android devices directly from the Google Play website. Finally, as mentioned before…
As you can see, both markets are similar in a lot of ways. Due to the fact that Google’s market has been around longer, they have a substantially larger selection of apps. Microsoft on the other hand, has an advantage with the desktop client; they had the Zune series around to develop and implement at the right time. In the category of developers, Android has more users on their platform which would easily attract more developers. Microsoft has taken the route of paying developers to develop apps on their platform.
Which app store is your favorite? Is it about having more apps, or fewer apps of a higher quality? Let us know in the comments and poll below!