A Comparison Between the Most Popular App Stores

Updated on 22. October 2021 by Jan Bunk


Image with text: The Best App Stores for Your App

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In this article we will compare the various app stores we have published apps in before. The main criteria we will focus on will be:

  • Popularity of the app store (number of users that download apps)
  • Cost of publishing an app
  • Difficulty of filling out the app information
  • Time until the app can be downloaded (app stores first review the app, which takes different amounts of time)
  • Difficulty of the app review

In a rush? Skip to the summary

Apple App Store

App Store Popularity

As of the 1st quarter of 2021, there are 2.226.823 apps in the Apple App Store. It is also the only allowed app store for Apple's iOS devices. I'm not a fan of Apple's full control over what users can do with the devices they already paid a lot of money for, but currently that's the situation we're dealing with - user's can't install the apps they want to install unless Apple approves them first. Therefore, even though it's not really fair, the Apple App Store gets 5 stars for popularity, as there's no alternative.

Very Popular

Cost of Publishing

At 99€ per year, the Apple Developer account is by far the most expensive one on this list. There's no way around it though, you can't publish your iOS app in the Apple App Store without the Apple Developer account.

Very Expensive

Difficulty of Publishing

Apple differentiates between individual and organizational developer accounts. To register an organizational account, you need a limited liability company and request a DUNS number, which can take around 2 weeks. The organizational account has a benefit though - we can handle more of the publishing for you. Uploading your app to App Store Connect requires lots of certificates to be configured just right. With the individual developer account, you need to follow an extra guide to configure them, while we do that for you if you registered an organizational account.

In both cases we handle the most complex part for you though: compiling and uploading the app. This requires a MacOS computer with a correctly configured development environment. This is extremely difficult and expensive to set up for a layman, yet our competitors expect the customer to handle this themselves. Often times they don't even provide any guides that explain the general process.

Once the app is uploaded, filling in the app information is relatively straight-forward, but it's still not as easy as with some of the other app stores. Overall, publishing your app in the Apple App Store is more complex than in the other app stores, but we take care of most of the complexity for you. You will only have to follow our guides, but without them and our help it would be very difficult, which is why we only give one star here.

Very Difficult

Publishing Speed

Apple's official statistics are that 50% of apps get reviewed and published in 24 hours, and 90% in 48 hours. This is accurate from our experience and quite fast, however not the fastest out of all app stores in this list.

Quite Fast

App Review Difficulty

The Apple app review is notoriously difficult. The customers of competing website to app converters struggle to publish their apps in the Apple App Store, but we have always managed to help our customers fulfill Apple's guidelines. That way we have achieved a 100% publishing success rate.

This also impacts the publishing time, as you will often receive requests from Apple with something they want changed about the app or it's metadata (app description, screenshots and related information that is shown in the app store listing). Every time that happens, you need to wait up to 2 days until your app gets reviewed again. We can't complain about the quality of the app reviewer's communication though. They actually read your messages and provide clear descriptions of problems as well as steps to resolve them.

Overall the app store review process is very strict and, if you're unlucky, lengthy. This is inconvenient from an app publisher's standpoint.

Very Difficult

Total

Overall, we give Apple's app store 3 stars. It's a bit of a struggle, but you must use it if you want to make your app available to iPhones and iPads. Don't get discouraged by the difficulties we mentioned here, as our guides should lead you through the process nicely. We also handle the complex stuff for you and help you with any problems that might come up.

Alright

Create an Apple Developer account and invite us to it (we will contact you with the next steps afterwards)

Google Play Store

App Store Popularity

With 3.482.452 published apps as of the first quarter of 2021, the Google Play Store is the biggest mobile app store on this list. It comes preinstalled on most Android devices worldwide - a notable exception being China, as it has been forbidden by the chinese government. The Google Play Store is also not available on Huawei devices sold globally, because the US government has prohibited Google from working with Huawei. If you'd like to make your app available in China and on Huawei devices, read the section about the Huawei App Gallery below.

Quite Popular

Cost of Publishing

Creating a Google Developer account, which is needed to publish an app in the Google Play Store, costs a one-time fee of $25.

Fair Price

Difficulty of Publishing

There are some difficulties while entering the app metadata like your app's description. The Google Play Console, the dashboard where you manage your app, is quite loaded with features and can be difficult to navigate. With our guides we have clearly explained all the steps you need to complete to publish your app. Without the guides, it's easy to miss some steps, which then leads to problems later on. Google is still working on the Play Console layout occasionally, which has helped, as it used to be worse a few years ago. There's also a few very specific requirements, like having screenshots of your app with very specific screen sizes, but luckily we take care of that for you.

Alright

Publishing Speed

In the Play Store, the main factor for publishing speed are the app review times. These have drastically increased since the start of 2020. Currently the time to publish a new app is a few days to a week. Publishing an update for an existing app takes a few hours to days. Usually, the app review finds no problems though, so you only need to go through it once per new app version.

Alright

App Review Difficulty

The Google Play App Review is very fair to app publishers when you follow the guidelines (which our apps do). Although rare, sometimes the app review complains about the app description. For example, you may not call your app "the best app for..." as that is considered deceptive. This is a common pitfall, but it's fair, as it's stated in the guidelines. However, there's also less understandable problems. If you mention Covid-19 in your app description, your app will immediately be rejected and you need to submit a governmental document that allows you to publish the app. This is an attempt to combat misinformation on the topic, but the false-positive rate is very high. It blocks lots of apps that just mention Covid-19 off-handedly, without it being a topic of the app.

This ties in with the next issue: it's impossible to talk to an app reviewer. They usually just tell you which section of the guidelines your app infringes on. After that, you're left to guessing what the exact problem is. If you don't understand it, or the app reviewer made a mistake, you're out of luck. But that's where we come in - with our many years of app review experience we can usually help with such problems.

To sum it up: the app review process is usually no big deal, but if the app reviewers find a problem, it can be a pain.

Inconsistent

Total

All in all, the Play Store is a great place to publish your Android app, but if you get unlucky, the publishing process can be very annoying.

Alright

How To: Publish Your App in the Google Play Store

Amazon App Store

App Store Popularity

As of the first quarter of 2021, there are 460 619 Android apps in the Amazon App Store. Compared to the other app stores, this is not a lot. However, with Windows 11, users will be able to download apps from the Amazon app store and use them on their PCs. This could bring a quick increase in Amazon App Store users, which leads to more app downloads. Combined with the high trust Amazon gets from customers, the Amazon App Store could soon gain popularity.

Not Very Popular Yet

Cost of Publishing

Creating an Amazon Developer Account is free at the moment. It doesn't get better than that!

Very Cheap

Difficulty of Publishing

Creating an Amazon Developer account and entering information about your app is very straight-forward. Unlike with the Google Play Store, you don't have to look around a overcrowded dashboard, you are guided through it perfectly. However, there are some advanced options that could confuse users.

Easy

Publishing Speed

The Amazon app store gives you an exact date by which your app will be published. In my case this date was around a day after I submitted the app. I was positively surprised by that, but then it turned out the app review took a lot longer anyways. That was quite disappointing. After all, it took around 2 months for our app to be reviewed.

Extremely Slow

App Review Difficulty

Amazon is very strict with enforcing its policies that are not very publisher-friendly. Your app can get rejected for unexpected reasons without any detailed explanation or the option to talk to an app reviewer. A very frustrating experience.

Very Strict

Total

It's a frustrating experience to try to get your app published in the Amazon App Store. In the end we did not pursue it further as we could not figure out what the problem in the app review was. As so few people use the store, we decided it's not worth it.

Bad

If you'd like to publish your app in the Amazon App Store anyways, here's our guide: How To: Publish Your Android App in the Amazon App Store

Huawei App Gallery

App Store Popularity

It's not clear how many apps are published in the Huawei App Gallery. Huawei themselves claim there's "millions of apps", while many other sites mention numbers between 50000 and 100000. Still, it is quite popular in certain markets. Especially newer Huawei smartphones and tablets use the App Gallery because they no longer have access to the Google Play Store. Additionally, the Huawei app gallery is the biggest app store in China (by market share).

Popular In Some Markets

Cost of Publishing

Publishing an app in the Huawei App Gallery is free. Nothing's cheaper than that!

Very Cheap

Difficulty of Publishing

The publishing process in the Huawei App Gallery is the easiest we have seen so far. It takes just a few simple steps to fill out all the necessary information. However, you are required to verify your or your company's identity. Personally, I'm not a fan of this, as I take privacy very seriously. Huawei promises to immediately delete your proof of identity after the verification, which is hopefully true. During the verification process I was also in contact with their support, which was very helpful and immediately helped me resolve the issue.

Easy

Publishing Speed

Our app got published in just a few hours, because both the app review and filling out the app metadata were really quick.

Very Fast

App Review Difficulty

We haven't heard any complaints about the app review process so far. Based on our support experience during the identity verification, we assume the support during the app review is most likely good too.

Very Easy

Total

Overall the Huawei App Gallery was very pleasant to use as an app publisher. If it was more popular and didn't require an identity verification, it would be close to the perfect app store.

Good

How To: Publish Your Android App in the Huawei App Gallery

Summary

To put it all in a nutshell, you should most likely publish your app in the Google Play Store and the Apple App Store as they have the most users. However, we were positively surprised that the alternative app stores are a lot more friendly to developers and app publishers. It doesn't cost you much (financially and time-wise) to publish your app there too. You thereby help users that don't have access to the most popular app stores and you help improve the app store ecosystem by creating stronger competition between the app stores. More competition is great for us app publishers, as monopolies are always dangerous.

Here are the links to our guides for publishing your app in each app store:

Name App Store Popularity Cost of Publishing Difficulty of Publishing Publishing Speed App Review Difficulty Total
Apple App Store
Google Play Store
Amazon App Store
Huawei App Gallery

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Author Jan Bunk
Written by
Jan Bunk

This website is operated by me, Jan, and my team. I have previously developed a bunch of apps for clients and my own projects. Back in 2019 I noticed that none of the existing website to app converters provide the kind of service I'd expect as a customer. That inspired me to develop a better solution - webtoapp.design. By now, the apps I've created with my team have already been downloaded hundreds of thousands of times from the app stores.