Alphabet's Google moves
to upgrade app store
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[November 03, 2016]
By Julia Love
FRANCISCO (Reuters) - Alphabet Inc's Google is redoubling efforts to
help developers of Android mobile apps build their businesses as
concerns mount that the app economy has reached saturation.
Under the leadership of Sameer Samat, who rejoined Google earlier this
year after a spell as president of wearable tech firm Jawbone, the
company is sharpening Google Play store recommendations with artificial
intelligence and expanding support for various payment platforms, among
Google's efforts in some way mirror those of arch-rival Apple Inc, which
revamped its App Store this year with quicker review times for new apps
and an increase in the cut of revenue that goes to developers.
Both companies face a chorus of complaints from developers who say they
are struggling to stand out in a jam-packed field.
Many smartphone users, meanwhile, appear to have tired of downloading
apps altogether, especially as messaging services like Snapchat perform
more of the functions that once required a separate app.
Games remain a focus of the Google Play store, and Nintendo Co Ltd is
building a version of its popular Super Mario Run game for Android, said
Samat, who leads product management for the Google Play store.
The store is also expanding to new platforms, including wearable
devices, virtual reality headsets and Google's Chromebook laptops.
“What we are excited about is giving developers that single entry point
for more and more of the computing ecosystem,” said Samat.
ANDROID WILD WEST
Google has eased the once-complicated process of developing apps for the
Play store, said James Knight, a former Google employee who launched
Pembroke, a consultancy that helps developers convert Apple-compatible
iOS apps to the Android operating system.
“The App Store has historically been a little more straightforward, and
Android has been a bit more like the Wild West,” he said.
Mirroring the larger smartphone market, the Google Play store sees far
more activity by virtue of its placement on the wide range of devices
running the Android operating system - but Apple claims more of the
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The Google Pixel phone is displayed during the presentation of new
Google hardware in San Francisco, California, U.S. October 4, 2016.
REUTERS/Beck Diefenbach/File Photo
The Google Play store accounted for 70 percent of app downloads in the
third quarter of this year, but Apple’s App Store logged 65 percent of
the revenue, according to App Annie, a mobile analytics firm.
A big part of Google's new effort involves emerging markets, where
Android is stronger relative to the iPhone. The company has steadily
expanded its support of direct carrier billing, a popular payment method
in emerging markets where consumers often do not have credit cards.
Google now offers the payment method in 47 markets.
To improve app recommendations for users, the Play store has also made
extensive use of machine learning, a branch of artificial intelligence
that gleans insights from vast troves of data. Google’s Play store and
machine learning teams began collaborating three years ago, and a
partnership was struck last year with Google Brain, a cutting-edge
The jolt of artificial intelligence is welcome as developers hunt for an
audience for their apps, said Greg Cohn, chief executive of Burner,
which makes an app that provides temporary phone numbers.
“The harsh reality is that there are a few apps that get the vast
majority of people’s time and attention,” he said.
(Reporting by Julia Love; Editing by Jonathan Weber and Bill Rigby)
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