Why the Apple and Google app store monopoly could soon be over

New rules on mobile app stores could trigger a wave of creative, cheaper apps with more privacy options for users. Every budding developer dreams of creating an app that goes viral and makes lots of money overnight. The Angry Birds game became a worldwide phenomenon within weeks when it launched in 2009 and made US$10 million (£8 million) in its first year.

But, overall, the numbers make it clear that mobile apps don’t guarantee wealth. A 2021 study showed just 0.5% of consumer apps succeed commercially . Developers have to jostle for attention among the almost 3 million apps and games on Google Play and 4.5 million apps and games on the Apple store.

On Apple’s iPhone and iPad platforms, the App Store is the only way to distribute apps. Until recently, Apple and Google’s stores charged a 30% commission fee. But both halved it for most independent app developers and small businesses after lawsuits such as in 2020 when video games company Epic Games claimed Apple has an illegal monopoly of the market.

Epic Games lost but Apple was subject to App stores changes that are on hold. Both Epic Games and Apple are appealing. Epic Games has filed a similar case against Google, which is set to go to trial in 2023. App stores set the rules on privacy, security and even what types of apps can be made.

Third-party stores could set different rules which might be more relaxed and allow developers to keep more of the money from apps they sell.

You have been Sherlocked

Independent developers say they are sometimes being “Sherlocked” by Google and Apple. They develop an app, and not long afterwards the platforms embeds the app’s features in the operating system itself, killing the developer’s product.

A man and women work on developing a mobile app together looking at a computer monitor
Making money from developing a mobile app is not as easy you may think.

FlickType was developed as a third-party keyboard for iPhones and Apple Watches in 2019. Shortly afterwards Apple apparently told the developer that keyboards for the Apple Watch were not allowed, they announced the feature themselves.

It can take between three and nine months to develop one app and can cost between US$40,000 and US$300,000 to…