The Art of Mobile App War: Know Thy Enemy and Thyself

“If you know the enemy and know yourself, you need not fear the result of a hundred battles. If you know yourself but not the enemy, for every victory gained you will also suffer a defeat. If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” ― Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Military strategies aren’t just applicable on the battlefield; it can also help you formulate a formidable business and marketing strategy to outperform the competition. The quote above is very relevant to mobile app development because creating a killer app requires a sound strategy to give it initial success, momentum, and potential longevity.

In order to succeed, you must assess your competition by knowing the density of the similar apps in the market, which platform is best to develop for, and more importantly, where your app should sit in the multitude of categories available for either platform.

By the Numbers

Ever since Google Play and the App Store’s (iOS) inception, both of them have been consistently publishing applications left and right and both have 3,800,000 and 2,000,000 available apps respectively as of Q1 2018.  (Source: Statista)

What’s notable here is the huge margin of difference in the number of published apps between Google Play and the App Store. To the untrained eye, it might seem that Google Play is doing well and is also better for developers since there are more published apps there, but that’s not exactly the case as both publishers handle approvals differently.

Even if Google Play has more available apps, it doesn’t rake in as many profits compared to the App Store, but they make up for it in the number of downloads by releasing free apps.

Going back to the statistics above, that’s a huge amount of apps, and more are being published daily. In order to let your app make a difference in the market, you’ll need to know exactly what your app is capable of and what you’re up against.

Knowing the Enemy and Yourself

With the massive amount of apps in the market, it’s no surprise why proper app categorization is needed. Knowing which categories are most popular in terms of availability, and activeness may give you an idea on what mobile app to develop, where and when to release it to attain maximum revenue and number of downloads.

Following the idea that the App Store is more profitable and Google Play has more app downloads; these charts will help you figure out which category should you make an app for.

App Store

Based on availability, the games category is the most popular which is unsurprising, but the business category has the most active apps. Remember, in the app store, you’re aiming for more revenue. Avoiding an oversaturated category is recommended unless you have something unique or innovative to bring to the table. As for the less saturated categories, you can make an app that has better features than other apps of the same type or build an entirely new kind of app to take advantage of its uniqueness thus making your app popular.

Google Play

These are just the partial figures, and there are 45 categories all in all if you check out the full detail via Statista. Google Play separates applications between two major categories which are Apps, and Games then each main category has sub-categories.

The figures above are all listed under Apps, and these categories have the most active apps with Education having the highest amount so far due to the open source development approach.

Compared to iOS’ App Store, Google Play has more free apps than paid apps. It might seem like a counter intuitive business decision to release apps for free but there’s more to it than that. The open source approach has one major downside and that is the ease of pirating an app, that’s why it’s a smart move to release an app for free to deter piracy.

When developing apps for the Android platform, it’s not the quick return of investments you should be concerned about. It’s about having more downloads and active users that matters, and the chart above shows you exactly which categories get more active users.

Lastly, to earn revenue, you should make a free app that meets the needs of the consumer you’re targeting. Make the basic features good on its own, restrict the better features, partner it with a reasonable business model, and they’ll find a great reason to buy In-App Purchases, Subscriptions, or Premium Features.


Now that the difference between the two app stores is clear, all you need to do now is to choose which objective takes priority. The tips mentioned above will come in handy when deciding on which platform you’ll develop a mobile app for.

Lastly, remember these additional tips to ensure your app’s success in the market.

  • Invest in design and native mobile app development
  • Embrace new tech (Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality)
  • Sell great content, not coins
  • Develop a flexible monetization strategy
  • Allocate a solid marketing budget
  • Consider multiple user acquisition models (SMM, Content Marketing, and Adss)