Android Market Gains on Apple's App Store

Apple's App Store for the iPhone and iPad continues to lead the way in total applications available, according to a new report from Dutch mobile app research firm Distimo, but Google's Android Market increased its inventory of apps six-fold in 2010.

Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL), which recently relaxed some of the restrictions it placed on mobile app developers, saw the total number of mobile apps available through its App Store double to more than 300,000 applications last year.

However, according to Distimo, Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) Android Market now offers more than 130,000 mobile apps, up just over 20,000 in 2009. Research In Motion's BlackBerry App World and Nokia's Ovi Store both enjoyed triple-digit growth in 2010 and now offer more than 18,000 and 25,000 mobile apps, respectively.

The avalanche of new mobile devices in the past two years is forcing developers to make some hard choices about which platforms they want to write apps for and whether it's more important to offer free versions to grow their audience quickly or sell them for a couple bucks per download to bolster their bank accounts.

Android Market's impressive growth reflects the momentum Android-based devices have enjoyed in the past year while taking share away from Apple, RIM (NASDAQ: RIMM) and Nokia.

In September, a survey conducted by Appcelerator and IDC found that 58.6 percent of mobile application developers preferred the Android platform to Apple's iOS and believe it has a better long-term outlook than Apple's flagship mobile platform.

According to Distimo's report, the top 300 free applications averaged more than 3 million downloads a day in the U.S. compared to 350,000 paid downloads. However, paid downloads outpaced free downloads by roughly 30 percent between June and December of 2010.

The most-downloaded free mobile apps for at App Store were Facebook, Skype, Talking Tom Cat, a gaming app for kids, and iBooks. Angry Birds, the addictive puzzle game that was demoed by just about every smartphone vendor at last week's CES confab, was the most downloaded for-pay app followed by WhatsApp Messenger and DoodleJump.

While the games and social networking apps remain the lifeblood of the mobile app community right now, there's evidence that more serious apps are taking hold on mobile devices and throughout the enterprise.

"There seems to be a trend in the Apple App Store for iPhone towards more business oriented applications, reflecting the switch and indicating that increasingly more consumers see the iPhone as a productivity tool," the report said.

Surprisingly, Distimo found that RIM's BlackBerry App World attracts more entertainment-oriented apps while Android Market and Nokia's Ovi offer a fairly equal split between business and entertainment offerings.

The most popular free apps at Android Market last year were Google Maps, Facebook and The Weather Channel. Among for-pay apps, Beautiful Widgets, MyBackup Pro and WeatherBug Elite led the way.

Larry Barrett is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.


Google, Android, Apple, mobile apps, mobile applications