The Rules of Mobile Attraction: Why Apple and Google Are Drawn to Become More Similar

By Thomas Sommer | August 29th, 2013

Two households, both alike in dignity...

In the current raging game of phones, it has until now been rather easy for everyone to pick a side between Apple and Google, depending on design, philosophical affinities, love of customizability or simply need for monetization.

Two households, both alike in dignity...

In the current raging game of phones, it has until now been rather easy for everyone to pick a side between Apple and Google, depending on design, philosophical affinities, love of customizability or simply need for monetization.

Two households, both alike in dignity...

In the current raging game of phones, it has until now been rather easy for everyone to pick a side between Apple and Google, depending on design, philosophical affinities, love of customizability or simply need for monetization.

Two households, both alike in dignity...

In the current raging game of phones, it has until now been rather easy for everyone to pick a side between Apple and Google, depending on design, philosophical affinities, love of customizability or simply need for monetization. The distinction is particularly striking when it comes to app store regulations, where the permissive Google Play faces a stringent Apple AppStore. This split has a large part of its roots in the way both companies and their respective stores handle their mobile ecosystem: Apple keeps an iron grasp on its App Store developer policy, while Google applies more lenient rules in order to foster the Play Store's diversity and reach.This state of things between the two California giants has at least one merit: when picking a platform, you know what you are in for.However, recent news on both sides brings a rather striking shade of grey over this great divide.

On Apple's side:

Recent reports show that the Cupertino firm has altered the App Store Top Chart ranking algorithm, putting more emphasis on user ratings and engagement (such as time spent, day 2 opens, ongoing opens etc.). This moves the App Store closer to the Google Play ranking model, where the uninstall rate is allegedly as important as the number and velocity of downloads. Other observers report that Apple is experimenting with changing the interval with which the ranks are updated from every 15 minutes to every 3 hours.These changes make it trickier to execute burst campaigns on iOS, and therefore more advantageous to acquire engaged and loyal users.

On Google's side:

The Mountain View firm recently changed its developer policy, becoming much more stringent on several points:
  • Developers must now use Google Play's in-app billing system for the purchase of virtual goods or currencies instead of third-party payment solutions. This will in particular impact third-party enablers (e.g. for carrier billing).
  • Google extended its restriction in the abusive use of keywords from description only to title and metadata as well (we suppose it was the case before, but they now added it explicitly).
  • The biggest blow, however, goes to developers making changes to the user's device outside of their own app, such as placing new icons, shortcuts, bookmarks or sending system-level push notifications redirecting to other apps. These tactics are often used to drive downloads for third-party apps and thereby add an extra layer of monetization for developers.
Summing up: tightening control over the payment system, app store marketing assets, or what can be done or shown at the operating system level ... rings a bell?

Rules of attraction

Like in any relationship (love or hate - take your pick), you end up improving yourself by learning from the other and eventually becoming more similar.Apple, by switching its top rank mechanism onto engagement indicators, shows it's addressing the App Store's discoverability issue and embracing the trend for a more qualitative and regulated user acquisition market where quality matters as much - if not more - as quantity.Google, by tightening the grip on its developer and publisher ecosystem, shows it intends to regain control over its own turf, especially in the battle for monetization, where it has recently been catching up on its nemesis. And, as it has learnt from the latter, levying taxes and rooting out local chieftains still remains the best way to go.It's unlikely that Apple will loosen their developer guidelines any time soon, or that Google will start implementing stringent ex-ante control over submitted apps. We can however see that both firms are trying to foster healthy mobile app ecosystems while maintaining a balance between quality and user experience on one side, and their need to tap more deeply into the growing pie of mobile revenue on the other.Fascinating times!101390_111030142453_gooapple11-1The distinction is particularly striking when it comes to app store regulations, where the permissive Google Play faces a stringent Apple AppStore. This split has a large part of its roots in the way both companies and their respective stores handle their mobile ecosystem: Apple keeps an iron grasp on its App Store developer policy, while Google applies more lenient rules in order to foster the Play Store's diversity and reach.This state of things between the two California giants has at least one merit: when picking a platform, you know what you are in for.However, recent news on both sides brings a rather striking shade of grey over this great divide.

On Apple's side:

Recent reports show that the Cupertino firm has altered the App Store Top Chart ranking algorithm, putting more emphasis on user ratings and engagement (such as time spent, day 2 opens, ongoing opens etc.). This moves the App Store closer to the Google Play ranking model, where the uninstall rate is allegedly as important as the number and velocity of downloads. Other observers report that Apple is experimenting with changing the interval with which the ranks are updated from every 15 minutes to every 3 hours.These changes make it trickier to execute burst campaigns on iOS, and therefore more advantageous to acquire engaged and loyal users.

On Google's side:

The Mountain View firm recently changed its developer policy, becoming much more stringent on several points:
  • Developers must now use Google Play's in-app billing system for the purchase of virtual goods or currencies instead of third-party payment solutions. This will in particular impact third-party enablers (e.g. for carrier billing).
  • Google extended its restriction in the abusive use of keywords from description only to title and metadata as well (we suppose it was the case before, but they now added it explicitly).
  • The biggest blow, however, goes to developers making changes to the user's device outside of their own app, such as placing new icons, shortcuts, bookmarks or sending system-level push notifications redirecting to other apps. These tactics are often used to drive downloads for third-party apps and thereby add an extra layer of monetization for developers.
Summing up: tightening control over the payment system, app store marketing assets, or what can be done or shown at the operating system level ... rings a bell?

Rules of attraction

Like in any relationship (love or hate - take your pick), you end up improving yourself by learning from the other and eventually becoming more similar.Apple, by switching its top rank mechanism onto engagement indicators, shows it's addressing the App Store's discoverability issue and embracing the trend for a more qualitative and regulated user acquisition market where quality matters as much - if not more - as quantity.Google, by tightening the grip on its developer and publisher ecosystem, shows it intends to regain control over its own turf, especially in the battle for monetization, where it has recently been catching up on its nemesis. And, as it has learnt from the latter, levying taxes and rooting out local chieftains still remains the best way to go.It's unlikely that Apple will loosen their developer guidelines any time soon, or that Google will start implementing stringent ex-ante control over submitted apps. We can however see that both firms are trying to foster healthy mobile app ecosystems while maintaining a balance between quality and user experience on one side, and their need to tap more deeply into the growing pie of mobile revenue on the other.Fascinating times!101390_111030142453_gooapple11-1The distinction is particularly striking when it comes to app store regulations, where the permissive Google Play faces a stringent Apple AppStore. This split has a large part of its roots in the way both companies and their respective stores handle their mobile ecosystem: Apple keeps an iron grasp on its App Store developer policy, while Google applies more lenient rules in order to foster the Play Store's diversity and reach.This state of things between the two California giants has at least one merit: when picking a platform, you know what you are in for.However, recent news on both sides brings a rather striking shade of grey over this great divide.

On Apple's side:

Recent reports show that the Cupertino firm has altered the App Store Top Chart ranking algorithm, putting more emphasis on user ratings and engagement (such as time spent, day 2 opens, ongoing opens etc.). This moves the App Store closer to the Google Play ranking model, where the uninstall rate is allegedly as important as the number and velocity of downloads. Other observers report that Apple is experimenting with changing the interval with which the ranks are updated from every 15 minutes to every 3 hours.These changes make it trickier to execute burst campaigns on iOS, and therefore more advantageous to acquire engaged and loyal users.

On Google's side:

The Mountain View firm recently changed its developer policy, becoming much more stringent on several points:
  • Developers must now use Google Play's in-app billing system for the purchase of virtual goods or currencies instead of third-party payment solutions. This will in particular impact third-party enablers (e.g. for carrier billing).
  • Google extended its restriction in the abusive use of keywords from description only to title and metadata as well (we suppose it was the case before, but they now added it explicitly).
  • The biggest blow, however, goes to developers making changes to the user's device outside of their own app, such as placing new icons, shortcuts, bookmarks or sending system-level push notifications redirecting to other apps. These tactics are often used to drive downloads for third-party apps and thereby add an extra layer of monetization for developers.
Summing up: tightening control over the payment system, app store marketing assets, or what can be done or shown at the operating system level ... rings a bell?

Rules of attraction

Like in any relationship (love or hate - take your pick), you end up improving yourself by learning from the other and eventually becoming more similar.Apple, by switching its top rank mechanism onto engagement indicators, shows it's addressing the App Store's discoverability issue and embracing the trend for a more qualitative and regulated user acquisition market where quality matters as much - if not more - as quantity.Google, by tightening the grip on its developer and publisher ecosystem, shows it intends to regain control over its own turf, especially in the battle for monetization, where it has recently been catching up on its nemesis. And, as it has learnt from the latter, levying taxes and rooting out local chieftains still remains the best way to go.It's unlikely that Apple will loosen their developer guidelines any time soon, or that Google will start implementing stringent ex-ante control over submitted apps. We can however see that both firms are trying to foster healthy mobile app ecosystems while maintaining a balance between quality and user experience on one side, and their need to tap more deeply into the growing pie of mobile revenue on the other.Fascinating times!101390_111030142453_gooapple11-1The distinction is particularly striking when it comes to app store regulations, where the permissive Google Play faces a stringent Apple AppStore. This split has a large part of its roots in the way both companies and their respective stores handle their mobile ecosystem: Apple keeps an iron grasp on its App Store developer policy, while Google applies more lenient rules in order to foster the Play Store's diversity and reach.This state of things between the two California giants has at least one merit: when picking a platform, you know what you are in for.However, recent news on both sides brings a rather striking shade of grey over this great divide.

On Apple's side:

Recent reports show that the Cupertino firm has altered the App Store Top Chart ranking algorithm, putting more emphasis on user ratings and engagement (such as time spent, day 2 opens, ongoing opens etc.). This moves the App Store closer to the Google Play ranking model, where the uninstall rate is allegedly as important as the number and velocity of downloads. Other observers report that Apple is experimenting with changing the interval with which the ranks are updated from every 15 minutes to every 3 hours.These changes make it trickier to execute burst campaigns on iOS, and therefore more advantageous to acquire engaged and loyal users.

On Google's side:

The Mountain View firm recently changed its developer policy, becoming much more stringent on several points:
  • Developers must now use Google Play's in-app billing system for the purchase of virtual goods or currencies instead of third-party payment solutions. This will in particular impact third-party enablers (e.g. for carrier billing).
  • Google extended its restriction in the abusive use of keywords from description only to title and metadata as well (we suppose it was the case before, but they now added it explicitly).
  • The biggest blow, however, goes to developers making changes to the user's device outside of their own app, such as placing new icons, shortcuts, bookmarks or sending system-level push notifications redirecting to other apps. These tactics are often used to drive downloads for third-party apps and thereby add an extra layer of monetization for developers.
Summing up: tightening control over the payment system, app store marketing assets, or what can be done or shown at the operating system level ... rings a bell?

Rules of attraction

Like in any relationship (love or hate - take your pick), you end up improving yourself by learning from the other and eventually becoming more similar.Apple, by switching its top rank mechanism onto engagement indicators, shows it's addressing the App Store's discoverability issue and embracing the trend for a more qualitative and regulated user acquisition market where quality matters as much - if not more - as quantity.Google, by tightening the grip on its developer and publisher ecosystem, shows it intends to regain control over its own turf, especially in the battle for monetization, where it has recently been catching up on its nemesis. And, as it has learnt from the latter, levying taxes and rooting out local chieftains still remains the best way to go.It's unlikely that Apple will loosen their developer guidelines any time soon, or that Google will start implementing stringent ex-ante control over submitted apps. We can however see that both firms are trying to foster healthy mobile app ecosystems while maintaining a balance between quality and user experience on one side, and their need to tap more deeply into the growing pie of mobile revenue on the other.Fascinating times!101390_111030142453_gooapple11-1

Thomas Sommer
Thomas heads up content marketing at AppLift. As such he’s in charge of sourcing, curating, creating and distributing insightful content to increase visibility and thought leadership for the company. Thomas loves to scrutinize the relentless and trilling developments of the mobile industry. You can follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Thomas