Android Ecosystem: From Free-to-Play to Free-to-Distribute

Last Thursday Fortumo was honoured to receive a Meffys award for an innovative business model - our Android app distribution program. Meffys are part of the MEF Global Forum which is a two-day event connecting global mobile leaders in Silicon Valley. We are very happy for this recognition and want to share some thoughts on what we have learned about the Android ecosystem over the past year.

While most developers focus on Google Play, there is actually substantial alternative distribution and revenue potential for Android apps beyond Google Play. This is especially true in emerging markets where users have no way of paying for content on Google Play due to a lack of credit cards and tens of different independent, carrier & OEM app stores fill this void.

The One Platform Foundation lists 18 global alternative Android app stores and there are dozens of others with regional reach. Our distribution program provides developers access to the most important alternative channels as well as device preload opportunities and promotions by mobile operators which are much more difficult to reach.

As the landscape is fragmented, there are several challenges which make it difficult for developers to publish in these channels on their own:

  • Payment solutions. Google Play billing does not work in any of the 3rd party app stores for obvious reasons. This means that if you actually want to make revenue, you have to integrate different payment solutions which work best in each marketplace.

  • Limited reporting. Data on downloads and revenue are available on most of the 3rd party app stores but aggregating this information is difficult and takes time  - you can imagine how much hours can be spent on adding up numbers from 18 different spreadsheets.

  • Submission requirements. Each store has its own requirements for apps, whether it’s on the marketing side (size of promotional graphics, possibility of getting featured spots or banners on the marketplace) or the technical side (some stores limit the size of apps that can be published). Figuring out what these requirements are takes time away from other valuable activities.

  • Finding the right stores. There is little information available about alternative app stores for Android and this means evaluating which stores are more successful than others is difficult as well. While the One Platform Foundation’s list gives an overview of how big each store is, it does not say much about the revenue potential of these stores.

Fortumo’s distribution program takes away the effort from the developer to publish apps in these stores. Our in-app purchasing SDK needs to be integrated just once to enable billing in any Android store and purchases within the app can be tracked automatically to each store, removing the need to spend time on data consolidation for analysis.

We also have a pretty good understanding of which apps perform better in which stores and know what the submission and additional promotion requirements for each store are - this means that the time to get an app published in most stores is usually less than a week. Furthermore, advertising networks charge between 0.5 USD to 1 USD per app install, our service is completely free.

The Android ecosystem is becoming increasingly fragmented and this is one of the reasons why iOS outperforms Android in terms of revenue. Fortumo’s experience with distribution has shown that apps can get up to 30-50% extra downloads outside of Google Play so additional distribution is something which no developer should overlook.

One Platform Foundation’s list of app stores is a good place if you want to get started with distribution on your own. If you want help from Fortumo, get in touch with us via distribution@fortumo.com.