As China’s tech powers rapidly consolidate competing products, one area of the market continues to be conspicuously fragmented, Android app stores. So what does China’s Android app scene look like in 2015?
Tencent’s Android app store MyApp has reached 180 million daily downloads as of the past October, up 80% year-over-year, the company announced at its 2015 Global Partner Conference. The total downloads have surpassed 50 billion.
The platform has collected more than 4 million apps, a 66% year-over-year increase, and the number of developers has reached 3 million, up 55% from a year ago.
MyApp’s revenues are mainly side-cuts from third-party games and advertising. MyApp takes 30% of revenue generated from the average third-party game and different ratios from exclusively licensed games on a case-by-case basis.
Even though Tencent itself is pouring money into in-house development and third-party partner apps, no other developer in the market can afford to ignore the sharing capabilities of Tencent’s platform. Disadvantage aside, developers have to upload their products onto MyApp if they want to take advantage of the social plugins.
Major Android Stores Are Now Controlled by Chinese Tech Giants
Because Google Play hasn’t been available on mainland China for almost five years, hundreds of Chinese Android app stores have emerged to fill the gap.
After early rounds of consolidation, the top channels now are controlled by Chinese tech giants, including Tencent’s MyApp, Qihoo 360’s Mobile Assistant, Xiaomi’s store, Baidu’s Mobile Assistant and 91 Wireless (acquired by Baidu for US$1.9 billion in 2013).
Wandoujia is the only independent one that has a considerable market share. The afore-mentioned five hold over 80% of the market.
It is estimated that Tencent’s MyApp is catching up with Qihoo 360 to become the largest distributor. It is expected there’s still room in WeChat considering only game and sticker downloads are available on it so far.
The majority of mobile game offerings on WeChat are either in-house developed or licensed from third-party developers by Tencent. Tencent management seems to have not yet decided whether to open WeChat’s game center to everyone.
A New Game
Reports that Google will be introducing a China-friendly App Store have been circulating over the past two months.
The search giant is said to be in talks with Android phone makers, offering them cash for pre-installs of this version of Google Play in their phones.
But Google will be facing a complex market, where app stores have become a major revenue source for smartphone makers that they may not be willing to include a competing app store in their products. On another level, local Android app stores are moving faster than Google Play in terms of in-app content search.
Xiaomi’s Android app store has been making good money from paid offerings and advertising. It gains users mainly through MIUI, the in-house custom Android system that is pre-loaded in all Xiaomi mobile devices.
Xiaomi’s MIUI has inspired local smartphone makers, like Meizu, who previously let a third party operate its app store before taking it back in-house earlier this year (source in Chinese). It has also been found that search services on phones from Vivo, Gionee, and Huawei don’t return results of app stores other than their own.
App stores like Qihoo 360 and Baidu would lose about 20% of their market share by the end of 2015 due to the new smartphone app ecosystems, Yu Yongfu, president of Alibaba’s mobile service division, said so earlier this year at an Alibaba event (source in Chinese).
Top Chinese players have also been working on expanding into other content besides apps within their stores. Some of them have enabled users to watch video, read books, play a games or buy event tickets without leaving their platform after landing on an app’s pages. For Google it will take some time to build up local content and service providers.
Wandoujia launched an application programming interface in early 2014 to let developers make their in-app content searchable.
Baidu’s Light App program launched in 2013 urged app developers to make web app or hybrid app versions of their products so that their in-app content could be indexable.
MyApp 6.0, which was officially launched at the aforementioned conference, works in a similar way. After a test, Tencent’s QQ Read (our translation) app found the conversion rate increased 260% after they made it possible for users to read e-books without having to downloading the app.
So What Next?
This is a question many companies, including Google, will be asking themselves right now. App ecosystems, like the ones created by Xiaomi and Tencent, are very much integrated into the products of their parent companies, whether that’s a smartphone or a messaging service.
This means that the consolidation of China’s major Android app stores could still be a way off. As Chinese companies, like Xiaomi and now Huawei, continue to gain ground on the Android market leader Samsung, we could be heading toward a market of Android app stores driven by Chinese smartphone ecosystems.