India is a land of diverse languages, ethnicities and religious preferences. However, we all are united by the increasing usage of smartphones. In fact, the number of smartphone users is expected to reach over 760 million by the end of 2021. Though India claims to be the second-largest English-speaking country in the world, there are still millions of people, especially first-time smartphone or internet users, who’d prefer the mode of communication, even via a digital medium, to be in their regional language. In 2016, the number of Indian language internet users was about 234 million, and it is expected to reach over 536 million by the end of 2021. In contrast, the number of English internet users was 175 million in 2016 and is estimated to reach 199 million by 2021. Evidently, the next phase of growth in internet usage will be championed by regional users.
Imagine buying a new smartphone and having the full facility to use it in your preferred language. This ubiquity of regional languages will directly lead to an exponential increase in independent users. They will be able to install apps, scroll through social media, discover new updates and features, go through content or e-papers, listen to music, play games, watch TV shows and movies and most importantly, be able to give commands to your smartphone, and all this in their preferred language. However, these offerings can only be developed by those innovative companies that understand the local market and are connected to the day-to-day hurdles faced by new smartphone users, mainly in countries like India.
The monopoly and new-age solutions: Google Play Store and App store have established their global presence and provided an ultimate user-friendly experience over the years. We all live under the safe umbrella of these already tried and tested app stores, and they also come pre-installed on most smartphones, making them far more easy to use. Having said that, the new-age smartphone clientele, especially in countries like India, where a large portion of the overall population is still comfortable with their regional and non-English content, it is all the more crucial to look beyond just these limited app stores. This is where the third-party app stores may turn the table in providing an enhanced experience.
In the past few years, with more in-house developers understanding tidbits about India’s growing app store industry, more and more domestic third-party app stores have entered the Indian tech market.
As of January 2021, India had over 624 million internet users and counting. Between 2020 and 2021, over 47 million people will be connected to the World Wide Web (WWW) in India. The aforementioned stats clearly indicate that Indian internet users are exponentially growing year after year. At such a juncture, where new-age internet users, including first-timers, are constantly looking for a more convenient option, free from the aggressive regulations, third-party alternatives are pivotal to build an open and enhanced app store ecosystem.
Google’s take on third-party app stores: In contrast with Apple’s firm stance to allow only the App Store to download iOS apps, Google has expanded its horizon beyond Google Play and enabled Android users to download apps from third-party app stores as well. Last year, Google announced its plans to add new features in the Android 12 to make it easier for users to access third-party app stores without compromising the core safety measures. In addition, this year, it was clear that Android 12 will enable third-app stores to update apps automatically without constant user input. The new feature has definitely allowed third-party app stores to behave like Google Play Store, however, after the release of Android 12, it was discovered that Google had denied third-party apps to set themselves as default share-sheets. While this step by Google might not be a direct hit against third-party app stores, it is indeed a subtle setback.
How are new-age third-party app stores changing the paradigm of the Android app industry? Picture this, you bought a phone for your mother or grandmother, and she doesn’t have an email address. Wouldn’t it be difficult for her to access the smallest of things on the smartphone without help? This is where third-party apps are coming up with all-inclusive solutions. With young and enthusiastic developers entering the entrepreneurial market, the third-party Android app store has grown exponentially. These modernistic apps are ditching the conventional one-global language system and are enabling users to install applications and avail of other features in their preferred regional language. In fact, the EASE (Enhanced App Store Ecosystem) is building a revolutionary system that encourages developers to come up with solutions that can effectively deal with consumer problems. The primary motto of these third-party apps stores is to break the monopoly and democratize the accessibility to smartphone applications.
Need for third-party app stores: An average user might feel that there aren’t any pitfalls in using popular app stores instead of the alternative ones. However, this might not be entirely true. It is important to note here that some third-party app stores pay for downloads and often offer far more commercially beneficial deals than Google Play and App Store. Since third-party app stores are more in sync with consumer problems, they sometimes provide discounted versions of apps or other penny-pinching deals. They take relatively low or no uploading fee and even promote new apps by providing them advertising deals. In addition, third-party app stores are often focused on a smaller or specific section of apps. If you are opting for a more localised approach, using third-party apps will be far more beneficial than Google Play or App Store.
Evidently, the Indian business ecosystem stands to gain massively from the ongoing push towards localization. As more companies embrace homegrown app stores, the internet will become a much more accessible space for the next billion users.
About The Author: Rakesh Deshmukh is the Co-Founder and CEO of Indus OS, an Indian app and content discovery platform that also runs the Indus App Bazaar for smartphones.