Android is a platform that keeps users in the Google universe – but Android does not necessarily make money on its own for Google. In fact, whether you own a Nexus device or something different, Google is probably less concerned with individual device sales and more focused on how each device operates in connection with Google Play and its other services across a wide market share – because that’s where the money is. This is why Google should focus Google Play and its apps (Play Music, Books, Magazines, and Movies & TV) in iOS’s direction.
Despite Android’s 70 percent smartphone market share, many still rely on iTunes for media purchasing and consumption – regardless of what device you use. Even though, for many reasons, Google Play can offer a better purchasing/user experience.
Google’s first priority should be music on iOS. Currently, Google Music offers the ability to store 20,000 songs in the cloud for free ($24.99 a year for iTunes Match), matches all of your songs to their official music catalogue without a “sin tax,” offers music content at a higher bit rate (320 kbps for Google Music, 256 kbps for iTunes), and usually sells at or below the iTunes listed price for the same content. All of this rolled up, creates an obvious use case for the store and its music app on iOS.
The problem for Google Play – especially music sales – is awareness. So the easiest way to create it is by making the service ubiquitous across all types of devices. Many people have no idea Google Music’s cloud player exists (including Android users) until I tell them – never mind the fact it’s free. All other services: Google Maps, Search, Gmail, YouTube and others are all successful because they’re cross-platform – the same should be true of Google Play. Making a dent in iTunes’ huge market share would be significantly easier this way and eliminate the obvious sacrifice iOS users make because of the apps unavailability.
Amazon realizes this, by launching its own MP3 store for iOS today, in attempt to carve out market share from iTunes. It’s important to note that Amazon’s new service is not entirely seamless either. It still requires you to go through Safari’s mobile browser to make purchases instead of having a native app to accomplish the same feat. Still, having an official app to playback your Amazon music (on iOS and Android) has been an option for some time now. But Amazon’s cloud service still costs you money ($24.99 a year) and only gives you 256 kbps playback on your device. Leverage this with Google Music’s freemium service, offering 320 kpbs playback, and you can see the obvious incentive to use the service – that is if the app can get onto iOS in a meaningful way (currently third-party solutions do exist: gMusic).
It’s very possible that Apple may be stalling such a release in the App Store for competitive reasons (like Google Maps) or Google may have its own reasons. Either way, Google should make the push to expand Google Play’s reach if it truly wants to challenge the digital leader (iTunes) in media distribution and sales.