For a long time, Apple has kept the upper hand on Android as far as app revenue is concerned. However, this tradition looks likely to change this year, as Android's app sales are expected to surpass Apple's.
CNBC broke the news, citing a report by App Annie, a company covering business intelligence and market reports. It appears Apple is expected to earn $40 billion in 2017, while Android looks to report $41 billion. This is a drastic change from last year's earnings; Apple reported $34 billion while Android only brought in $27 billion. So what happened?
App Annie points to China as a main reason for the shift, as the market there is very large, and coupled with the various third-party Android app stores in China, the combined revenues are very high. Third-party Android stores in all regions, but especially in China, are expected to increase in sales over the following years. In 2016, all Android stores combined earned $10 billion, but by 2021, these stores are expected to earn $36 billion.
Third-party Android app stores are particularly common in China, as conflicts related to censorship caused Google to remove all access to its services in the country in 2010, which included Android's official app store. However, it's recently been reported that Google is working on a deal that would bring a curated version of the Google Play Store to Chinese residents in the near future. If this comes to fruition, the revenue gap could grow in Android's favor even more than App Annie has projected.
How Apple will respond to falling behind Android is anyone's guess. But as a company that at one point had half the app downloads but almost twice the revenue of its competition, this news has to sting a little.