The App Store Landscape: Major Players and the Discovery Challenge

Apps are a major part of everyday life for a large portion of the population. There are billions available across multiple app stores. How do you get yours to stand out? First, let’s start with an understanding of the current App Store landscape.

Discovery Challenge


The biggest challenge to any app developer is visibility in the incredibly competitive space. There were 70 billion app downloads between 2008 and 2013, but over 50% of those downloads went to 0.1 percent of the available apps. The problem makes sense (show of hands: how many readers have Facebook, Yelp, and Twitter installed on their iPhones?), but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to overcome.


App marketers have five main options for discovery:

1. Paid campaigns that enable e-commerce and push their products via organic and paid social media, AdWords, etc.

2. Distribution platforms that push apps with certain themes or mega portals (Android) to bypass app stores

3. Recommendation algorithms that tie app marketing to the information that consumers and their friends reveal online

4. Search engines (e.g. Google, Bing, YouTube) that scour the app store by topic and keywords

5. Search within App Stores

In this post, and in a follow-up post on App Store Optimization, we’ll focus on App Store search since 53 percent of app shoppers find apps by searching directly in the App Store for their device. You can increase the likelihood of yours being seen (and downloaded) using a process that’s very similar to SEO.

Note: it’s important to make the distinction between app store search and search engines; while you can absolutely benefit from organic discovery in search engines like Google and YouTube (pro tip: YouTube is hugely important, so make sure to create a video that enhances awareness and discovery), it’s a relatively small piece of the discovery pie.



Just like other search engines, search functionality is different for each of the stores, and we’ve scored the different app stores based on how comprehensive their search is.

Google is the best at search (surprised?), and search is vitally important. The Google Play Store rankings are based on downloads and search criteria, implying that you can’t just rely on download volume to attain and keep top status.

Yet the search functionality in all app stores, including Google, leaves much to be desired. Furthermore, making changes to any of the ASO parameters (keywords, conversion optimization) is fairly difficult in the app stores, particularly with Apple’s. It’s best to try to nail it as well as you can the first time.


In a nutshell: the landscape of the different App Stores is… not great. You can definitely get by with effective App Store Optimization, but none of the stores are really built for you to have success right out of the box. Look for our next post, which will cover the basics of App Store Optimization!