Android News

App Genome projects Android Market will have more apps than Apple by mid-2012, no word on parity in quality

February 17, 2011 | by Michael Heller

Android News

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The App Genome project from Lookout Mobile Security is quite an interesting service with some good stats on the app ecosystem with Android and iOS. The latest report shines a light not only on the explosive growth of the Android Market, but also the shift in paid vs free apps, all of which may point to an overall shift in the Android ecosystem.

As of Valentine’s Day this year, the App Genome project has the Android Market at about 90k apps (although Eric Schmidt put the number at 150k), far short of the almost 350k in the Apple App Store, but the Android Market is growing much faster. The stats say that the Market has added 50k apps in the last 6 months, growing at a rate of 127%, while the App Store only grew at a rate of 44%, despite adding an additional 100k apps in that same time span. According to the analysis, the Market will grow and overtake the App Store in total number of apps by mid-2012. The analysis doesn’t explain that conclusion though. I don’t think we can assume that the Market will continue to grow at 127% every six months, which would put the total number of apps by August 2012 at about just over 1 million apps (using App Genome’s figures). But, even if the Market does somehow continue growing at break-neck speed, where is the growth coming from? If you check the “Just In” section of the Market, it sure seems like the bulk of that growth comes from pretty useless stuff. The trouble with that analysis is that it ignores the overall quality of apps.

Granted, at the top, I’d say Android apps are just as well made, if not better because of added functionality allowed, than iOS apps. The trouble is at the low end and Apple’s approval process kicks in, whereas the Market is filled with spam, blatant copyright infringement, and clone apps. That low end is a driving force in the numbers war, but ultimately not a very helpful force. Of course, at the low end of the App Store there are hundreds or thousands of fart apps and the like, but those still represent a smaller portion than the low-end apps in the Market. The growth of the Android platform will continue to attract developers, but the lawlessness of the Market will also steer developers to other arenas. The stats show that over the past 6 months, iOS has attracted 24k new developers, whereas Android has brought in just over 4k. Gameloft still operates outside of the Market, and with the Tegra Zone, and Amazon Market on the way, developers may decide not to deal with the mess that the Android Market can be.

The report also notes a shift in both the proportion of paid apps in the Market and the average price. As you can see above, the proportion free apps in the Market shifted from 77.6% free to just 65.9%, while the proportion of free apps rose in the App Store. The average cost of apps in the Market is also on the rise. This was a pretty big jump actually. In August, 61% of paid apps in the Market cost 99 cents or less, but as of February of this year, only 37% of paid apps were a dollar or less. The proportion of higher cost apps increased across the board in the Market as you can see below.

There are no indications given as to why there has been this shift in paid apps, but I would think that the increase in quality games in the Market has at least something to do with it. The state of gaming on the Android platform has been steadily been gaining steam over the last year, and although a couple big developers like Gameloft are still operating outside the Market, the number and quality of games in the Market is on the rise.

The increase in cost of apps could also be seen as proof that users are buying more apps, and developers are becoming more confident that they will be able to sell to Android users. The idea that Android users seek out free is slowly fading as Android becomes more mainstream.

The numbers are definitely looking up for the Android Market. It is growing and is giving up some of its dependence on ad-supported free apps. They may not be coming in huge numbers, but bigger and better developers are continuing to come into the Market and invest more in developing for Android. We may not be able to stop the influx of spam, but maybe various tools like the Market Web Store, AppBrain, and even the coming Tegra Zone and Amazon markets will make it easier to find the quality apps on the Android platform.

[App Genome project]