Both Vodafone and Sony Ericsson already have their own app stores for Android. Vodafone has the 360 Shop and Sony Ericsson has the PlayNow Arena. So why offer content on two places? Potentially because their stores are lacking volume compared to the Android Market.

Consumers might choose the Android Market as primary content discovery on their phone, regardless of the fact that another store from their carrier or device manufacturer is also present on the device. It will be very interesting to follow if this is a first step to abandon their own app stores for Android, or if these will co-exist with the specific Vodafone and Sony Ericsson channels in Android Market.

Carriers and handset vendors will be able to offer and promote exclusive content with these custom channels in Android Market, which might not necessarily be available in the regular store. It makes a lot of sense to focus on exclusive content here, where the carrier or handset vendor channels can be used as a differentiator compared to other content sources.

There is currently no support for a developer to get their app featured in one of these channels from within the regular Android Market Developer Console. Developers with good content that want to get their app featured in the Vodafone or Sony Ericsson channel will have to get in touch with their global or local content teams. Sounds familiar? That’s because this feels somewhat like going back to the carrier deck.

Google is not the first one to support app stores within app stores. Microsoft has done something very similar with the manufacturers’ zone within Windows Phone 7 Marketplace where handset manufacturers can offer and promote specific apps. LG for example already utilises this. Is it possible that we are starting to see the early beginnings of a trend here where carriers and handset manufacturers are going for partnerships with the leading app stores owned by OS developers to get their own content section within these existing app stores, rather than relying purely on own launched stores?

Actually, for consumers this might not be a bad thing. If you buy a phone with an app store built in the OS, where potentially both your carrier and device brand are pushing alternative stores for content discovery, this can be pretty confusing. Having one central channel where content from the stores of OS owners, carriers and handset manufacturers are combined would benefit the consumer and would deliver a clear message and centralised experience. Additionally, a big hurdle is always the billing of content, which can be greatly improved if the major players in the market start increasingly working together on this instead of each pushing their own solutions.

A trend like this means more fragmentation than they already deal with for developers. We believe it will be unlikely that carriers and handset manufacturers will stop with their own app stores and completely focus on partnerships like the channels in Android Market and Windows Phone 7 Marketplace. To get their content in these channels, it now seems that developers will have to go through deals with the content teams, instead of just submitting an app for approval. So, in the case that you are a developer with an application in the Vodafone 360 Shop or Sony Ericsson PlayNow Arena, and you also have an application in their Android Market channels, there is no centralised app submission and reporting solution yet. Still, every piece of top listings in the stores is expensive real estate where a developer is highly unlikely to say no when he gets the chance to have his app promoted clearly in such a channel.

So, will the new content trend of 2011 be App Stores within App Stores? This will depend largely on how well carriers and handset manufacturers will support developers to benefit from this, and create a solid experience for them without going back to the old carrier deck model. From a consumer perspective, it sure has potential.

Vincent Hoogsteder


Vincent Hoogsteder is CEO and co-founder of Distimo, a globally recognised app store analytics company built to solve the challenges created by a widely fragmented app store marketplace filled with equally fragmented information and statistics.

The editorial views expressed in this article are solely those of the author(s) and will not necessarily reflect the views of the GSMA, its Members or Associate Members.