It was inevitable, really, that we’d all eventually start leading all stories about smartphones and mobile App markets by discussing China. China is a curious country in a lot of ways: backwards and underdeveloped in vast stretches; super-advanced and cosmopolitan in others. A communist country that has one of the most dynamic capitalist markets in the world. And now, quickly becoming the most important market in the world for smartphones and the App Stores that make them useful – including the Apple App Store. So it’s really no surprise that as the Chinese smartphone market grows, so does the Android market and, as a result, the Google Play market.
Apple App Store: No Reason to Panic
To keep things in perspective, the Apple App Store grew by about one-third in November through December of 2012, which is record growth for them – fueled no doubt by all the new devices given as presents during the holiday season.
That’s good! And the Apple App Store also still outsells the Google Play Store by three-and-a-half to one. That’s good, too! Apple remains perhaps the most powerful corporation in the world, no matter what incidental sales or profit reports might indicate.
On the other hand, the Google Play Store grew even faster from November to December 2012, seeing its market share double during those months. While they still lag behind Apple by a wide margin in terms of discrete App sales and revenue, the fact is that the Google Play Store is growing faster than the Apple App Store, and in the long run this has got to have Apple worried. The main reason Apple should be worried: China.
Google Play Store and Communists, Perfect Together
There are two reasons Apple needs to worry about the Chinese market. Number one, as mentioned above, it’s the largest market in the world and that market has shown a distinct preference for Android phones, whether from foreign manufacturers or from the increasingly strong domestic offerings. Phone makers like Android because they can customize it at will, and because it doesn’t come with that faint whiff of capitalist oppression that Apple’s products carry.
The other reason is a little less defined, but let’s call it the Reverse Rule of Cool. Apple has maintained a remarkable run of being the Cool Kids. Their smaller market share combined with their superior sense of style has long outweighed the outrageous pricing structures and usability limitations that Apple’s design aesthetic have imposed upon users – Apple’s market tends to be affluent professionals who are not particularly computer-savvy. But in China, affluent professionals who aren’t computer savvy are in short supply, and Apple has a distinctly American flavor, which works against them. Plus, we’re pretty sure that all the people committing suicide rather than work in Apple’s super double good fun factories might have something to do with it.
All this wraps up into a tasty opportunity for the Google Play Store. Google, while also being a Beast of Capitalist, Western Oppression, has a more international feel, and the fact that their offerings come with more freedom to customize makes Android and the Google Play Store more appealing to the Chinese. If Apple’s not worried about these new numbers, they should be.