Commentary: Apple’s App Store and Google Play Monopoly May End Soon

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GLASGOW, Scotland: New rules on mobile app stores could spark a wave of creative, cheaper apps with more privacy options for users.

Every budding developer dreams of creating an app that goes viral and makes lots of money overnight. The Angry Birds game became a global phenomenon within weeks when it launched in 2009 and grossed US$10 million in its first year.

But, overall, the numbers clearly show that mobile apps don’t guarantee wealth. A 2021 study showed that only 0.5% of consumer apps are commercially successful. Developers have to scramble for attention among the nearly 3 million apps and games on Google Play and the 4.5 million apps and games on the Apple Store.

On Apple’s iPhone and iPad platforms, the App Store is the only way to distribute apps. Until recently, Apple and Google stores charged a 30% commission. But both have cut it in half for most independent app developers and small businesses after lawsuits, such as in 2020 when video game company Epic Games claimed Apple had an illegal market monopoly.

Epic Games lost but Apple was subject to App Store changes that are pending. Both Epic Games and Apple are attractive. Epic Games has filed a similar lawsuit against Google, which is expected to go to trial in 2023. App stores set rules around privacy, security, and even the types of apps that can be created.

Third-party stores could set different rules that could be more flexible and allow developers to keep more of the money from the apps they sell.

INDEPENDENT DEVELOPERS HAVE NO CHANCE

Indie developers say they are sometimes “Sherlocked” by Google and Apple. They develop an app, and soon after, the platforms integrate the functionality of the app into the operating system itself, killing the developer’s product.

FlickType was developed as a third-party keyboard for iPhones and Apple Watches in 2019. Shortly after Apple apparently told the developer that keyboards for the Apple Watch were not allowed, they announced the feature themselves.

Developing an app can take between three and nine months and cost between $40,000 and $300,000 to create a minimally viable product. Some apps take much longer than that to develop.

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