Apple's App Store Ranked Best of Mobile App Stores by ABI Research

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2013-01-02

Apple's App Store Ranked Best of Mobile App Stores by ABI Research

Apple's App Store won the top rankings for the best and easiest app store for consumers to use in a new study announced by ABI Research.

Google's Android Play Store came in second, while Microsoft's Windows Phone Store ranked third, according to ABI's report, which looked at how app stores implement their offerings to consumers and at their innovation in presentation and approach.

"In terms of implementation, Apple came first, ahead of Google and RIM," the report said. Apple's "superior performance in this dimension is mainly down to its effective approach to monetization, large market share over the app industry, and the ability to achieve a large inventory of titles while maintaining a reasonably strict quality control."

But when it comes to innovation, Microsoft narrowly beat Apple, and Google claimed the third spot, according to the report.

"ABI Research is particularly impressed by Microsoft's fresh approach to app discovery, as well as Windows Phone store's overall solid usability," the report stated. "Discovery is an area that has been given significant importance, because when a customer arrives at an app storefront much of the following download activity is based on how the vendor presents and highlights its inventory, especially through various charts."

That's an area where Apple needs to make changes, Aapo Markkanen, an ABI analyst, said in a statement.

"Although Apple has done a great job capitalizing on App Store's head start as an app distributor, it should really start rethinking the way it charts the top apps," said Markkanen. "Microsoft should be lauded for its initiative to extend its ranking algorithm beyond raw download figures by including factors that can actually measure the customer satisfaction and retention."

Because retention-based charts are less subject to manipulation, Microsoft can be more transparent in its approach, which is an additional plus, said Markkanen.

"Moves like this can help break the developers free from the 'tyranny of downloads,' decrease their reliance on costly marketing campaigns and thus lower the barriers to entry," said Markkanen.

Apple has been leading the mobile app store wars for some time. In November 2012, research firm App Annie reported that Apple's App Store revenues for October totaled four times the revenue brought in by Google's Android Play Store for the same period.

At the same time, Google's Play Store was making great progress, according to App Annie, with a huge 311 percent growth rate since January, setting the stage for interesting competition between the two vendors.

App Annie, which has been following the app store marketplace for the past 18 months, reported that it sees Apple and Google ultimately reaching equilibrium at some point in the future.

In its 16-page App Annie Index Report for November, the firm stated that the Play Store catch-up to the Apple App Store is under way. While Google Play paid revenue grew by 311 percent since January, Apple's paid revenue grew by only 12.9 percent, according to the study.

Apple's App Store Ranked Best of Mobile App Stores by ABI Research

In free downloads, Apple's store led slightly, but Google Play grew by 48 percent for the year to date, compared with just 3.3 percent growth for iOS, according to the report.

The Google Play Store was only officially created in March to combine what until then were separate sites where Android lovers could buy their favorite apps, music and ebooks. Before Google Play, users had to shop through the individual Android Market, Google Music and the Google e-Bookstore sites.

One reason for Apple's revenue lead in the stores race is that it is easier for consumers to make purchases through the Apple Store than through Google Play, according to App Annie. Also, although more than 500 million Android devices have been activated around the world so far, many of those devices are cheap ones that don't allow users to download and use apps effectively, which reduces the potential sales for Google Play.

Earlier in November 2012, Google bolstered its Play Store by securing a licensing deal to add 5.5 million musical works from 35 countries around the world to its music download service. The accord with Armonia, the alliance of French, Italian and Spanish licensing groups, means that Google and Android can offer more content to its customers.

In September 2012, Google's Play Store attained an impressive milestone when it reached the 25 billion download mark for content purchased through the store—after only six months of sales.

According to Google, it reached the 1 billion Android app download mark in mid-2010, while it hit the 2 billion app download mark in mid-2011. That number soared to 10 billion by the end of 2011, then to 15 billion in early 2012, before soaring again to 25 million in September.

Apple's App Store just celebrated its fourth birthday in July and now includes more than 567,000 applications for the iPhone and 236,000 for the iPad, as of June. The App Store started with 500 apps in July 2008 when it was launched.

Google Play has been Google's answer to the App Store, as both companies are locked in a fierce battle for the lion's share of the mobile-device market. Google also faces a rising threat from Microsoft, which launched its Surface tablets in October.

Rocket Fuel