Global Apple App Store sales revenue in October totaled four times the revenue brought in by Google's Android Play Store for the same period, but the Play Store scored a huge 311 percent growth rate since January, setting the stage for interesting competition between the two vendors.
Those results come from a new research study from analyst firm App Annie, which has been following the app store marketplace for the past 18 months and sees Apple and Google ultimately reaching equilibrium at some point in the future.
In its 16-page App Annie Index Report for November, the firm stated that the Play Store catch-up to the Apple App Store is under way. While Google Play paid revenue grew by 311 percent since January, Apple's paid revenue only grew by 12.9 percent, according to the study.
In free downloads, Apple's store led slightly, but Google Play grew by 48 percent for the year-to-date, compared with just 3.3 percent growth for iOS, according to the report.
"The gap between global revenue on iOS and Google Play is still there, but the gap is shrinking every month, creating more opportunities for publishers to generate significant revenue growth in several countries on Google Play," said Bertrand Schmitt, CEO of App Annie.
Part of the reason for the large disparity in paid app sales today between the two stores is that some major markets, such as China, are not yet open to sales on Google Play, Schmitt told eWEEK. "The Google App store is limited in China. The people there can do free downloads but they can't buy anything."
That means that Apple has a leg up on Google there, he said, which adds to its global sales revenue overall.
At the same time, Google Play was only officially created in March to combine what until then were separate sites where Android lovers could buy their favorite apps, music and ebooks. Before Google Play, users had to shop through the individual Android Market, Google Music and the Google e-Bookstore sites.
"Google Play has just really started, compared to Apple" and its app store, said Schmitt. "Before that, the quality of the software available there was not as good as in Apple's store."
Another reason for Apple's revenue lead in the stores race is that it is easier for consumers to make purchases through the Apple Store than through Google Play, said Schmitt. In addition, though there are more than 500 million Android devices activated around the world so far, many of those devices are cheap ones that don't allow users to download and use apps effectively, which reduces the potential sales for Google Play.
"The high number of Android devices hides a big disparity in device capabilities," said Schmitt.
Earlier in November, Google bolstered its Play Store by securing a licensing deal to add 5.5 million musical works from 35 countries around the world to its music download service. The accord with Armonia, the alliance of French, Italian and Spanish licensing groups, means that Google and Android can offer more content to its customers.
In September, Google's Play Store hit an impressive milestone when it reached the 25 billion download mark for content purchased through the store—after only six months of sales.