Russia’s Yandex To Challenge Google’s Play Store

Freelance Technology Reporter for TechWeekEurope and eWeek

Russia’s biggest search engine is following in Google’s footsteps, and opening its own Android app store

The new Yandex Store is being populated with apps to specifically challenge Google Play as a source for device makers and carriers to find apps to place on their phones before they are purchased by consumers, according to a Feb. 25 report by Bloomberg News.

“We have great search and maps with traffic jams, and by adding Yandex.Store we can offer the entire ecosystem to a phone maker,” Alexander Zverev, head of Yandex.Store, told Bloomberg. “We also offer operators using our store under their own brand name, which is impossible with Google Play.”

Anything you can do, I can do better?

The apps in the Yandex.Store are already being used by Russian mobile operator MegaFon and by device maker Oppo Electronics, according to Bloomberg. The app store, which will be accessible on Android devices in Russia and other nations chosen by Yandex, has been officially launched at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

yandex-001Google Play, which was created in March 2012 to combine what until then were separate sites where Android lovers could buy their favorite apps, music and e-books, has been a huge hit. Before Google Play, users had to shop through the individual Android Market, Google Music and the Google e-Bookstore sites.

By September 2012, Google Play had served up more than 25 billion downloads to app- and game-hungry Android users, reaching a significant milestone in only six months.

According to Google, the 1 billion Android app download mark was reached in mid-2010, while the 2 billion app download mark was hit in mid-2011. That number soared to 10 billion by the end of 2011, then to 15 billion in early 2012, before soaring again to 25 million in September.

Google Play currently hosts more than 675,000 apps and games, up from about 450,000 in March 2012, according to Google.

Apple’s App Store just celebrated its fourth birthday in July, and now includes more than 567,000 applications for the iPhone and 236,000 for the iPad, as of June. The App Store started with 500 apps in July 2008 when it was launched.

Google Play has been Google’s answer to the App Store as both companies are locked in a fierce battle for the lion’s share of the mobile-device market. Google also faces a rising threat from Microsoft, which is planning to issue tablets running Windows 8 in late 2012.

So why is Yandex making a move into the Android app space? That’s easy—Android has captured the largest part of the global mobile phone market, and it continues to grow.

In the third quarter of 2012, Google’s Android was the mobile OS of choice on 75 percent of the 181.1 million smartphones that shipped around the world, which was five times the 14.9 percent market share of Apple’s iOS for the same period, according to IDC analysts.

Those figures show remarkable progress for the four-year-old Android OS against competition that includes the still-strong popularity of Apple iOS, a drastically smaller BlackBerry market, Microsoft’s multiple Windows Phone efforts and the rest of the straggling field.

Market in flux

Meanwhile, Apple’s iOS continues to lead the United States in overall market share, according to figures from consumer market research firm Kantar Worldpanel. The iOS operating system held 53.3 percent of the US market for the 12-week period ending with Nov. 25, 2012, marking the first time the platform has surpassed a 50 percent sales share of the American smartphone market.

Yandex offices. Note the room 404.That contrasted with a decline in Android’s US market share, which dropped 10.9 percent in the period, to end up at a 41.9 percent. Microsoft’s Windows mobile operating system came in third place, with a 2.7 percent share for the period.

Android use has been going through the roof worldwide. In fact, Android hit 500 million device activations overall in mid-September 2012, just as Apple’s latest iPhone 5 was about to launch.

The US market for feature-rich smartphones is still expanding at a rapid pace, with two-thirds of new mobile phone buyers opting for devices that can do far more than their old feature phones, according to a study from Nielsen released last summer.

Yandex has been making news in other areas lately. The company’s search engine pulled ahead of Microsoft’s Bing by the end of December 2012, according to a recent report by ComScore. The global ComScore rankings for December 2012 showed Google leading all search companies with 114.7 billion searches, or a 65.2 percent share, compared with the distant second-place finisher, Chinese search engine, which was used in 14.5 billion searches, for an 8.2 percent share. ranks third with 4.8 billion searches, for a 2.8 percent share of the search market.

In fourth place, Yandex was used for 4.8 billion searches, for a 2.8 percent share, compared with Bing, which was used in 4.5 billion searches, for a 2.5 percent share, and came in fifth place. All other search engines, combined, were used in 28.7 billion searches for a 16.3 percent share, according to the figures.

The Yandex numbers are particularly interesting because they showed the Russian search engine leading Bing for the second month in a row. The first time that happened was in November 2012, when Yandex jumped into fourth place on the search rankings over, which is now in fifth place on the list.

Yandex is the leading search engine in Russia, employed by more than 60 percent of users, according to the latest figures from the Website

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Originally published on eWeek.