In what seems like just a few months, Android has rose from mythical mobile software to the top operating system in the world. For just over two years, we have watched Android grow and adapt in several different ways. Recently, Google has been pushing for more application support and vowed to make Android Market a better place for everyone. Market has come a long way over the past six months, and it makes me wonder what that means for Apple's App Store. Will Android Market surpass the App Store, too?
App Store has been a thorn in Android's side since the very beginning. The little green robot sat in the shadow of the iOS and its application store for a long time. Recently though, things have changed. Android has become home to more and more high quality games and applications, many of them from popular developers for iOS.
Back in October of last year, App Store breached the 300,000 mark in applications available. At the same time, Android sat at 100,000 applications. By the end of December, it hit yet another milestone, 200,000 applications. It's been a while since we've heard any official numbers on either, but I think it's safe to say that Apple's store is sitting well over 300,000 (400,000+ according to Wikipedia, though the sources don't exactly check out) apps now. Unofficially, AndroLib is reporting 237,226 apps for Android.
I do know one thing, in sheer terms of numbers, Android is gaining on the App Store, and fairly quick. I have no doubt that the number of applications on Android will eventually surpass that of App Store. That said, there are some things worth noting:
- Android Market is home to more than just “applications” – Market is full of widgets, launcher replacement themes, live wallpapers, and several other downloadables that the App Store has no use for.
- Paid versus free – Android Market is filled to the brim with free, ad-supported applications. People on Android seem less prone to buying applications. App Store has far less free applications available. Typically, you can expect higher quality out of paid applications, which leads to my next point.
- Quality over quantity – Android may have a few hundred thousand applications, but many of them are of low quality. There are some diamonds in the rough; but more often than not, you will download an application with dull graphics or other issues. App Store has a plethora of useless and low quality apps, too, though far less common. Also, both stores fall victim to a number of duplicate apps, which just boost numbers rather than adding any significance.
- Games – App Store is notorious for the thousands of brilliant and addictive games available. Android, not so much. As of late, there have been some changes. I've noticed an influx of several decent games in Market. It has taken some time, but Market is shaping up to be quite the gaming platform. Add PlayStation Suite to the mix, and Apple has some serious competition.
- Tablets – App Store is home to many tablet-specific versions of applications and separate applications for phones. There are also many that are designed to run on both. From Andy Rubin's explanation at D: Dive Into Mobile and the current way Android Market is set up, applications will likely be designed to run on both tablets and phones. However, if Android tablets and phone OS versions split, we may see tablet-only applications, too.
So yes, I believe Android Market, in due time, will surpass App Store in the number of applications. There are limitless widgets, live wallpapers, and other tinkertoys for Android developers to come up with where iOS devs dare not venture. However, there is room for growth within the current apps that Android will have to experience before Market can truly surpass the App Store. With application sales revenue predicted to hit $27 billion by 2013, you can bet your bottom dollar that ol' Goog and Apple are suiting up for the fight of the century. The question is, who will get to take home the title?