Do you really know where your app users are coming from? The majority of users discover apps through the Google Play Store itself, since it’s preinstalled on most Android devices. Last year, Google Play had twice as many app downloads as the Apple Store; 200M downloads vs. Apple’s 100M. However, there is a secret channel to user growth that is riding Google’s coattails. You probably have not even considered it for growth hacking—it’s another app that’s contributing to app distribution in emerging markets in a big way.
Beyond app stores: SHAREit
Android users in India are not just sticking to Google Play for downloading apps; they’re doing it through another method—SHAREit. SHAREit is a file sharing app developed by Lenovo, the Chinese device manufacturer. Often the first app Indian smartphone users download on a new phone, SHAREit enables users to get other apps quickly. Despite Lenovo’s device market share hovering at only 6% in India, SHAREit is installed on 66% of devices in India, which is up from 42% in September 2015 and 34% from June 2015. SHAREit is one of Lenovo’s DOit series of apps, which also includes REACHit, a file storage app, and WRITEit, a handwriting recognition engine that interprets hand-written words into digital text.
Since it launched in 2012, SHAREit has amassed over 500M users worldwide and is available in over 30 languages including English, Hindi, Chinese, and Bahasa Indonesia. The app has 150M users in India, and even plans to open its own office in India by next year.
Why is SHAREit so popular?
While Lenovo has many other DOit apps, SHAREit is the only one that appears in App Annie’s top 100 apps in India. In fact, as of publication today, SHAREit is number five in the top 100 apps in App Annie’s rank of free Android apps. So what makes SHAREit more popular than heavy hitters like Amazon India, Uber, and Instagram?
For one, SHAREit is completely free and actually saves users data costs. The app allows users to digitally share files between each other, across platforms and operating systems, without the need for an Internet connection. It’s also incredibly fast, faster than Bluetooth. Both features are incredibly important for smartphone users in India. Many users’ devices are older models, running on older, slower operating systems. The high cost of mobile data in India limits many users’ access to the Internet and makes users more selective about which apps they will download. Users of older devices benefit from fast file sharing, and data-conscious users benefit from truly free file sharing.
Jana Product Manager Jessica Lee experienced the viral nature of SHAREit first hand in India. “SHAREit was everywhere, even random people on the streets had it. At our focus group of younger college-aged students, everyone had SHAREit and used it for transferring a variety of larger files like videos, photos, APK’s, and class notes.”
Why does SHAREit matter for app developers?
So why should an app developer care about SHAREit? Aside from sharing video files or photos, SHAREit users are using it to transfer APK files from their friends’ phones. Like the third-party app stores in China, SHAREit is a new kind of third-party app “store.” The challenge for app developers is that they won’t see SHAREit downloads in the Google Play Developer Console or the Play Store page listing install count, since their app is not downloaded through Google. If your app is getting a large number of installs that are not tied to a known source, it’s likely these installs are coming from file sharing apps like SHAREit. App developers are reporting that more than 20% of their installs are coming from an unknown source like SHAREit.
Another challenge for developers is version control. Users who download an app through SHAREit may not have the most up to date version of the app. Users could be experiencing old bugs that have been addressed in new versions, and in turn, become turned off by the app and uninstall it all together. A good way to identify this problem is to measure how many new users you are getting from older versions of your app. Segmenting analysis this way can reveal if a retention dip is due to an old bug in an old version of your app that you've already fixed.
App developers should embrace these alternative app distribution channels. We know that referrals from friends are the most popular reason users download an app, so SHAREit is probably already helping your app spread organically, even if you don’t know it.
Want to trigger viral file sharing growth and be a part of India’s future app download growth? Jana connects app developers with new users in emerging markets, like India.