In 2020, Google began extending its billing system to app developers, not quite as discreetly. The Android maker charged an exorbitant 30% fee from all in-app purchases made on the Playstore as a service fee. Shortly after the announcement, Google briefly pulled Paytm out of business, citing violations of its platform. It also knocked out Swiggy and Zomato with noncompliance. The tech giant’s stringent move angered founders of online companies, who were demanding alternatives to the app store.
Last week, the EU took Google to court after the Sundar Pichai-led company said it would remove apps that didn’t use its billing system from June. After the EU began investigating, South Korea and India’s Competition Commission of India (CCI) followed suit. Google had only done what monopoly companies predictably end up doing. The only way to break that monopoly was to have localized app stores with a UI as robust as Google’s — and that wasn’t an easy task.
Samsung Galaxy Store by Indus App Bazaar
Founded in 2013, Indus OS developed Indus App Bazaar, the largest homegrown app store in the country, offering more than 4,000 apps such as Amazon, Truecaller, Sharechat, Ola, Junglee Games and Times Group. While the platform’s launch was modest, it has expanded to cater to Indian sensibilities, offering versions in 12 Indian languages including Hindi, Punjabi, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu and Bengali.
The Samsung Galaxy Store is preinstalled on all Samsung devices running the brand’s Linux-based Tizen operating system in more than 125 countries around the world. The Playstore was also launched in partnership with other OEM brands such as Karbonn and Micromax. The Playstore gained popularity in 2020 as its traction increased among both users and the developer base.
The Playstore’s USP was that it was heavily focused on the Indian local market and had invested some of its resources to translate the app’s offerings into 12 local Indian languages. In addition to the entries, the interactive user interface of the Playstore also contains videos for a short preview of the application.
Towards the end of July this year, news reports confirmed that digital payments company PhonePe had bought Indus OS after a months-long legal battle. Affle Global Private Limited, or AGPL, the largest shareholder of Indus OS, initially contested PhonePe’s bid to acquire 92% stake in the company, valued at about $60 million. The case has since been settled out of court.
Xiaomi’s GetApps Store
The best-selling smartphone brand in India, Xiaomi’s GetApps Store is a pre-installed Playstore app available for Xiaomi devices as well as its spin-off brands Redmi and POCO. In addition to India, the Playstore supports developers in China, Indonesia, Russia and Spain. According to the brand’s blog, global sales for the GetApps playstore surpassed 220 billion in 2019 and has more than 12 million daily active users.
Unlike Google Play, which recommends apps to users based on their past downloads and browsing history, Xiaomi GetApps’ recommendation system is based on the most popular applications from various categories such as entertainment, networking, and must-haves. GetApps also compiles a monthly and daily list of the most used apps from the store.
However, compared to Google Play, the recommendation system of GetApps may not be as robust as the quality of the apps suggested by GetApps is not as high as that of Google. The suggestions are displayed to users as notifications. Despite Xiaomi’s assurances of having solid security, there have been multiple instances of their apps getting banned. In 2019, Quick Apps was removed from the Google Play Store due to its game protection policy. A report released earlier this year showed that Quick Apps has the ability to override more than 55 system-level permissions on smartphones.
Additionally, GetApps runs contests that users can enter to earn credits that can eventually help them in app purchases and in-app credits in supported apps.
Vivo V Appstore
Vivo’s V-Appstore works similarly to Xiaomi’s Playstore GetApps. The top trending apps on Playstore are selected on a geographic basis instead of number of users. The Playstore gives Vivo users an added benefit of personalized recommendations optimized based on each user’s downloads and browsing history.
The criticism of the Vivo V app store is the same as that of Xiaomi’s GetApps – the apps are not as secure and moderated.
ColorOS App Market on Oppo and Realme
The ColorOS App Market has similar features to the Vivo App Store. App Market is a part of Oppo’s ColorOS and is also available on Realme devices running on Realme UI, which is a slightly different version than ColorOS.
The ColorOS App Market divides various applications on the Playstore into categories such as entertainment, music and social, making it easier for the user to navigate.
In February 2020, four of the most prominent Chinese smartphone makers: Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo and Vivo formed an association to create a unified app store to challenge Google’s dominance. Known as the Global Developer Service Alliance or GDSA, the idea for the platform emerged after the nasty row between Huawei and the US government.
One of the most popular third-party alternatives to Google Play, APKPure is a good collection of most of the applications that can be found on the Google platform, although it might not exactly be a proper app marketplace. APKPure ranks all apps in its store based on popularity among users and places them in separate categories.
The platform helps users update applications that are not downloaded using APKPure. The platform also has installation files that can manage app bundles. Usually, people who want to download geo-restricted apps choose APKPure.
The Aptoide App Store has carved a niche for itself by offering apps not often found on Google Play. Aptoide has a library of more than a million apps, including popular apps like Roblox, Facebook, and Supercell, among others.
The Aptoide App Store provides a platform for independent developers and telecom operators to create mini app stores within the Aptoide store in a way that these mini stores can be managed by the integrators themselves. Developers can upload the APKs directly to Aptoide, after which the Play Store will run its own security check.