For those who followed my old development blog at bastecklein.com, you might recall that for several years, I made a large percentage of my income through "prank" type apps on Google Play. Apps like Age Scanner, Lie Detector, and Fingerprint Lock Screen brought me literally thousands of dollars per month, and even though the apps didn't do anything real "functionality"-wise, there was obviously large consumer demand for these kinds of apps, as evidenced by the large revenues they were bringing in on a monthly basis.
That all changed in the spring of 2015, when Google suddenly took down virtually all of my prank-type apps from the Play Store all at once. The months that followed saw a steady decrease in revenues week after week, as my app library slowly faded from peoples devices (and from existence). During this time my business was largely held afloat by my PDF Document Scanner app on Android, and by my various offerings on the Windows Store (at that time, Windows Phone was also still a thing). In 2016 I got lucky when My Colony ended up taking off across all platforms, giving me much needed time to reorganize my business and rebuild.
If not for My Colony taking off when it did, I would probably be out of business right now. Looking back though, it was almost a blessing in disguise that Google decided to savage my app business without warning, as it forced me to start focusing efforts on other platforms and app strategies. I largely moved away from prank apps (other than maintaining currently available titles on other platforms), and started investing more heavily into the iOS App Store and the Windows 10 Store. It didn't take long before I realized something that I wish I would have more fully embraced from the very beginning: iOS is Where the Profits Are.
Consider the following graph, which illustrates the usage of all of my apps and games based on the app market they were downloaded from.
A couple of things to note here. Android currently makes up just over half of all of my overall user-base (it was about 90% just a couple of years ago), Windows is a bit under a quarter, and iOS is somewhere under 10%. Now compare those percentages with the following chart, detailing my percentage of revenues derived from the same sources.
Despite having only a fraction of the users as I do on Android, my iOS App Store revenues are actually higher than my revenues from Google Play. Amazon and Facebook perform about evenly with their marketshare, and Windows underperforms a bit. Ape Market sales, which count people who buy .amk license files from my own website, actually do pretty good when compared to the amount of people who use either Ape Web Apps or the Ape Apps Launcher, although I expect that as most of those players started out on mobile platforms first, and moved on to the native Desktop versions because they actually liked the games to begin with.
The over-performance on the iOS platform is impossible for me, as a developer, to ignore. And this is seen in both in-app purchase sales as well as in-app advertising revenues. But it actually goes even further than that, as there is another trend I have noticed over the last year that is also working against Google Play, and that is in the area of new user acquisition.
It used to be extraordinarily easy to launch a new app or game on the Google Play store and get at least some downloads and revenue. Over the last couple of years though, this has changed, at least for me, in a fairly dramatic way. I have found it nearly impossible to gain any sort of traction for a new app on the Play Store without having to shell out advertising money to Google. Now, you could just attribute this to the fact that the Play Store is mature now and the level of competition is much higher than it was before. The thing is though, the iOS App Store is even more mature than the Play Store, with theoretically less users, yet it does not seem to suffer from the same problems.
In a way, I miss the days when over 90% of my revenues and profits came from Android, as it made things a heck of a lot easier. Ultimately though, it is a risky business model to have to rely so heavily on one company for your income, and my past experiences with the Play Store have demonstrated this with exacting clarity. It is sort of sad to think that, just a few years ago, I had such a profitable and rewarding business model based on working with the Play Store. Today, my Play Store presence continues to slowly shrink, as my iTunes, Windows Store, Amazon Store, and even my own website continue to grow.
I often wonder, is it just me having this problem? Am I black-balled from Google in some way? Or is usage and/or discoverability in the Play Store in some sort of decline across the board? Perhaps they saw the "light" from games like Clash of Clans and have decided to adopt a "pay-to-win" strategy for the Play Store.
I suppose whatever the reasons are, they really aren't as important as the reality. As my iOS and even Windows businesses continue to rise in both usage and profits while my Google Play business continues to fall, I have switched from an "Android-first" development mentality to a "Port-to-Android" mentality. My passion and primary development focus has been Android since I got my first Android device (the Nexus One) back in 2010, but seeing everything that has happened over the last couple of years has dampened my enthusiasm considerably. I have even switched over to the iPhone for my own personal use, after having been a loyal Android user since I unboxed that amazing aforementioned Nexus One.
Will my Android business ever return to its former glory? Who knows. I would obviously be thrilled if it did, as I have loved Android for so many years. In business though, you have to balance what you love with the realities of the world, and as long as iPhone continues to grow at Android's expense, I will have to put my development focus and energies where the profits are!