Reviewing the App Store Ecosystem

The UK’s Department for Digital, Media, Culture & Sport (DCMS) commissioned Copper Horse to research the current situation in the app store ecosystem, reviewing app stores for various devices. We’re pleased to be able to publish the resulting information as open data for anyone to use, on a website we’ve setup to also visually map where these stores are based:

Initially in the research phase while looking at a number of sites and app store lists, we repeatedly found data that was outdated or inaccurate. There was no comprehensive source of truth in this area, so this is an effort to establish the kernel of that.

Image of the website

In this research we found that while Apple’s App Store and Google’s Play Store are the two most popular distribution platforms, with large numbers of users, developers, and available apps, the ecosystem is much more diverse than at first glance. In total, the research looks at 111 stores, and more specifically:

  • 66 mobile
  • 14 gaming,
  • 9 smart TV
  • 14 desktop
  • 7 wearable
  • 1 smart speaker

We further classified these stores by the store type, identifying 4 main categories all the stores fit into. These being:

  • 22 Operating System(OS)-provided stores, platforms provided by an OS manufacturer, specifically for use on the OS. Examples of this are the Google Play Store or smart TV stores like the Hisense store for its Vidaa U OS.
  • 2 State-sanctioned pre-installed, this category includes the Russian stores that were approved and sanctioned by the Russian government following the invasion of Ukraine in 2022.
  • 11 Native stores, that are app marketplaces provided by a device manufacturer, delivered preinstalled on the devices they sell.
  • 76 Third Party, these are stores not provided by device manufacturers or major platform operators, and is the most diverse and varied category.

There are many situations that enable organisations to create and run successful alternate stores. One Store was created by three of South Korea’s telecom companies and has been successful fostering partnerships with other large organisations within the country. Some users of Third Party stores are frustrated at geo-restrictions or content restrictions in place on OS-preinstalled stores and use Third Party platforms as a means to bypass these limitations. Third Party stores also see success when targeting specific demographics. We observed successful stores that appeal to specific language speakers, or to those in the market for niche games. Additionally, unrestricted access to content is a big draw for some of these Third Party stores, who advertise “tweaked” apps that are available on their platforms. These tweaked apps are modified versions of already existing apps that provide more features such as a tweaked Facebook app that allow users to disable read receipts and an integrated messenger feature, removing the need for a separate app. This further extends to outright piracy, where paid-apps are released for free on some Third Party app stores.

We’ll keep maintaining the information so get in contact if you want to submit any stores to us. You can find all of the information along with the open data at: