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Summary:

Since Apple’s iPhone store launched about nine months ago, it has become a runaway success, racking up nearly 1 billion downloads and plenty…

imageSince Apple’s iPhone store launched about nine months ago, it has become a runaway success, racking up nearly 1 billion downloads and plenty of copycats. Eager to replicate the company’s successes are Google (NSDQ: GOOG), which released the Android Market, and Research In Motion, which launched the BlackBerry App World. Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT) and Nokia (NYSE: NOK) are also quickly on their way. But now that there’s at least three, we figured a proper review was in order.

We found a number of differences among the stores, from pricing to billing to presentation. Apple, for example, has the most apps at 25,000, while BlackBerry only has around 700 (and some of those might be duplicates), and Google falls somewhere in between. There’s also no consensus on price. For example, Glu (NSDQ: GLUU) Mobile’s Build-A-Lot game costs $9.99 on BlackBerry, but $4.99 on Android and $1.99 on Apple (NSDQ: AAPL). What’s also interesting is that while an app can get rave reviews on one phone, it can tank on another.

Each of the stores has a real-life retail counterpart: Apple is like a big-box retailer, with one-stop shopping and very competitive prices; BlackBerry is like a high-end boutique, with a brand-name selection but higher prices; and Android’s kitschiness is like a thrift store, where you never know what you are going to find, but it will likely be a bargain.

After the jump, the pros and cons of each store.

Apple’s App Store:

Number of apps: 25,000 apps

– Pros: By far the greatest selection of apps, ranging from noise makers that make fart noises to toilet-finders and apps that can view hospital-grade x-rays. Apple also stands alone by offering a robust PC version of the store (iTunes). Google has no PC component, and BlackBerry only highlights the featured apps. Plus, billing can be a breeze if you already have an iTunes account.

– Cons: Apps can be difficult to find if you’re not looking for something new or popular options. It’s nice that they break each category into three parts For instance, in music, I can see that Smule’s Ocarina is the top paid app; Pandora is the top free app; and something called “Black” is the most recently released. But finding everything else can be hard. There’s no way, for example, to see what your friends are downloading or what’s relevant to me based on geography. (Neither of the other app stores have these features, either, but it’s a bigger problem for Apple because of the size of its app store.)

Google’s Android Market:

Number of apps: Low thousands

– Pros: Google does a decent job with “discoverability” by listing the most popular and most recent apps for each category, much like Apple.

– Cons: Poor selection — even BlackBerry, which has fewer apps overall has a higher-quality selection, including more brand-name apps. (You get a lot of this kind of thing: David Medina wrote as his description of the Power Manager App. “Sorry, I was laid off recently, this is now a three day trial [version], after that $0.99 one time fee.”) Also, there isn’t enough turnover in the most popular apps. I’m guessing that unlike Apple, which bases popularity on a short time frame, Google is keeping a running tally, so applications like ShopSavvy and The Weather Channel have been there since the very beginning.

BlackBerry App World:

Number of apps: About 700 (but some of those may be duplicates)

– Pros: Store is only two weeks old, but clearly from the start, it worked hard to have a decent selection of brand-name apps, including Ticketmaster and Bloomberg, neither of which Google has. It does a nice job of promoting apps, like those on the home screen. For instance, right now Guitar Hero is $11.99, Bloomberg is free and MySpace is free.

– Cons: Consumers have to download the store to their phone to use it, unlike with Apple and Google, both of which embed the store in the device. Also, users must sign up for a PayPal account — from a PC, not the phone. RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) is trying to focus more on the consumer market, but its enterprise background is evident in the app store. There are 39 entertainment apps and 170 games, but there’s 190 focused on business customers, including applications for tracking expenses, remote terminal servers and file managers. Prices are also noticeably higher. The AP news app is free on Apple, for example, but costs $2.99 on BlackBerry, which is the minimum starting price.

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  1. Matthew Stevens Monday, April 20, 2009

    I disagree the Android store is a thrift store. The are a number of quality apps, but like Apple's App Store there is a LOT of crap. Apple may have a large catalog but how many of those apps can you honestly say are terribly useful. Furthermore, Apple's apps are often times fancy bookmarks to the iphone enable website.

    There are several other very important points you are over looking. Android Market allows you to buy and then return any paid app within 24hr for a full refund. All Android apps are fully portable; all the apps are tied to your Google Checkout account not the device.

    Lastly, just because Blackberry charges more doesn't make the apps better. iPhone apps are prices are often artificially low to attract buyers. Apple has set it up so that only the best selling apps receive the most attention. The best selling doesn't necessarily translate into the best application. Android Market at least let's you see paid and free application independently, both for tops downloads and newest releases which includes apps with updates not just the newest apps.

    One thing all the app stores appear to have in common is there poor sorting and difficultly in displaying apps that makes sense to the users.

  2. "Android Market at least let’s you see paid and free application independently, both for tops downloads and newest releases which includes apps with updates not just the newest apps."

    Actually the Iphone App store has the same functionality, and it has this by category, and even subcategories. It also has Top Paid, Top Free and Release date in the category section. The user reviews are also very helpful.

    All in all I'd have to say from seeing and hearing about the Blackberry store and using the Apple App Store since inception is that the Apple App Store is leaps ahead.

  3. Pierre Roberge Monday, April 20, 2009

    I agree Apple needs to do something, there is a lot of apps and around 200 a released each day. They need to find a way for people to find the few gems that are out there.

    That's a good problem to have though.

  4. wierd. i just posted a piece over the weekend handicapping the Blackberry App World…

    http://mobilestance.com/2009/04/18/handicapping-blackberrys-app-world/

    Your classifications are pretty dead on re: big box, boutique & thrift store :)

  5. Apple Development Info Tuesday, April 21, 2009

    I think that Apple definitely has an advantage of having the biggest base of applications, as well as the tools available for software developers. Also, the ease of use is a huge factor in getting people to use the App Store. I have yet to use the offerings from RIM or Google, but if they end up being hard to use for the end user, they will likely fail.

  6. all valid points but none of them address one fundamental question:

    how can you promote your app once it's live?

    Let's say you worked for six months, spent your life savings, built a superb app and now you've gotten it live – next to 100, 1000 or 5000 other apps. how do you cut through the noise? what tools are these platform holders giving you to help promote your app on their systems?

    In the traditional brick and mortar world of consumer goods you might buy end aisle space, or run a special promotion with a supermarket for more placement, or run some radio ads to create buzz around your product. Little of this is possible on these platforms. With the exception of main stream brands that boast large budgets how can you get cut-through. Who can I talk to at Apple to get a banner on the main page of "games"? Who does that at Rimm?

    These are all amazing advances in getting good content into the hands of consumers but developers / brand owners also need to be given the tools to make themselves heard…

    P.

  7. Free TV Shows Thursday, April 23, 2009

    I agree too Andrew, when I went there I was so disappointed in the apps and how it was presented. I found it hard to get what I needed and not to mention there were so many fewer apps than apple. I really think they did a half ass job, but I hope they get better since I have a g-phone.

  8. From a small-time developer's point of view, the Android platform has a *much* lower cost of entry than the iPhone. At least if you don't already own a sufficiently-powerful Mac, that is.

    Apart from some apps that irked their telco partners (like tethering), Google has so far been pretty "hands-off". It takes very little time to get an app placed in the Market (where it will be promptly savaged by the reviewers…). If you're an iPhone developer, you can never know beforehand if Apple will approve or deny your app, for any reason whatsoever. And if that happens, you have no recourse – start all over with a new idea and hope they like this one.

    Google *could* do a better job of helping developers promote their apps, which would increase the popularity of the platform. In the Marketing Wars, Google isn't even in the league as Apple…

  9. apple Apps are the best

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