App Store and Play Store Face Antitrust Inquiries

April 12th, 2019

App Store and Play Store Face Antitrust Inquiries
David Quinn

by David Quinn

VP of Strategy & Partnerships at Gummicube, Inc.

While the Apple App Store and Google Play Store host apps from developers all over the world, the companies behind the stores may be giving their own apps extra attention. The stores are under investigation for allegedly favoring their own apps in their stores. Whether or not that is the case, app developers can utilize App Store Optimization to help even the playing field.

Antitrust on the App Store

Apple has been the subject of scrutiny for allegedly favoring its own apps in the App Store for some time. Spotify accused the company of anti-competitive behavior with its “Time to Play Fair” campaign, which Apple responded to with its own accusations about Spotify.

More recently, with the release of News+, developers have noted that Apple is not following its own guidelines regarding subscription information on its App Store page.

This has cumulated in the EU’s competition watchdog launching a probe into the allegations. Dutch regulators have opened an investigation into Apple, but is also calling on app providers to report any similar behavior from Google and the Play Store.

The report from the Netherlands’ Authority for Consumers & Markets (ACM) states:

“Apple and Google determine and control what apps are available in their respective app stores. They are able to do so by setting the terms and conditions for their app stores, by determining what functionalities are available to app providers to utilize and to decide how apps are ranked and featured in the app stores. In that way, Apple and Google also have the opportunity to influence the availability and functioning of apps since they control the mobile operating system. App stores are thus the entities guarding the selection for and presentation of apps to consumers.”

It also notes that, on Android, users can download apps from stores outside of the Google Play Store, “but these app stores cannot offer the same options as the Play Store” and “only for app providers that already have achieved a certain amount of brand awareness.” On the other hand, Apple allows “no realistic alternatives for apps or the App Store, so the App Store forms a bottleneck within the iOS-ecosystem.”

As of now, the investigation is underway. If either company is found guilty of anti-competitive behavior, it could have a major impact on the stores and the visibility of apps such as News+ and the upcoming Arcade and TV+.

Since the allegations have escalated from developers raising complaints to complete investigations, this may impact the App Store for everyone. Apple could potentially change how it handles in-app purchases, which several developers have been requesting it do, depending on the results of the investigation.

Compete Using ASO

An app’s visibility within the stores, especially in searches, can make or break its success. With 70% of installs coming from searches, every increase in keyword ranking can make a big difference. If Apple and Google are giving themselves an edge in their stores, that could very well edge out competitors within their own stores.

Fortunately, developers can still compete and increase their rankings through App Store Optimization. Even if Apple or Google showcase their apps on the front page of their stores, ASO can help an app organically improve its rankings for search terms and keywords.

While the results of the investigation could be far-reaching, app developers need to focus first and foremost on improving their own apps and their rankings. By utilizing ASO best practices, an app can gain organic visibility within the store and improves its conversion rate. Paid campaigns such as Search Ads can place an app at the top of search results while improving its organic indexation.


While the results of this investigation could potentially impact the App Store, and even the Google Play Store, developers should make their top priority improving their own app’s visibility through ASO. The investigation could make it easier for developers to compete within the stores, so it’s important to stay up to date on its advancements and verdict, while maintaining a competitive positioning and high keyword rankings.

No matter how the investigation turns out, ASO will still be essential for an app’s in-store success.

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