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.
Apple App Store Revenue Dwarfs Android App Store Sales: Report
According to Google, the 1 billion Android app download mark was reached in mid-2010, while the 2 billion app download mark was hit in mid-2011. That number soared to 10 billion by the end of 2011, then to 15 billion in early 2012, before soaring again to 25 million in September.
Apple’s App Store just celebrated its fourth birthday in July and now includes more than 567,000 applications for the iPhone and 236,000 for the iPad, as of June. The App Store started with 500 apps in July 2008 when it was launched.
Google Play has been Google’s answer to the App Store as both companies are locked in a fierce battle for the lion’s share of the mobile-device market. Google also faces a rising threat from Microsoft, which launched its Surface tablets in October.
The latest worldwide mobile market share numbers from IT research firm IDC show Android with 68.1 percent and Apple with 16.9 percent. Research In Motion’s BlackBerry has a 4.8 percent share, down from 11.5 percent a year earlier, while Symbian (mostly used by Nokia) holds a 4.4 percent share, down from 16.9 percent a year earlier. Windows Phone holds a 3.5 percent share, up from 2.3 percent a year earlier.
Android use has been going through the roof worldwide in 2012. Android hit 500 million device activations overall in mid-September, just as Apple’s latest iPhone 5 was about to launch.
The U.S. market for feature-rich smartphones is still expanding at a rapid clip, with two-thirds of new mobile phone buyers opting for devices that can do far more than their old-style flip phones, according to a study from Nielsen released in July. Google’s Android operating system is the beneficiary of this surge, although the iPhone still holds sway.
A recent IDC research study on Nov. 1 showed that Android was the operating system of choice on 75 percent of the 181.1 million smartphones that shipped around the world in the third quarter. That number is five times the 14.9 percent market share of Apple’s iOS for the same period.
The IDC report shows remarkable progress for the four-year-old Android OS against competition that includes the widely popular Apple iOS, a drastically smaller BlackBerry market, Microsoft’s multiple Windows Phone efforts and the rest of a straggling field.
Android was on 136 million smartphones shipped in the quarter, compared with 26.9 million smartphones shipped by Apple, according to the report. For Android, that was a 91.5 percent year-over-year jump from the 71 million Android smartphones shipped in the same quarter one year ago. Apple’s iOS was the only other mobile operating system to have a double-digit market share for the quarter. Research In Motion’s BlackBerry OS shipped on 7.7 million smartphones in the quarter, while Symbian shipped on 4.1 million units, according to IDC. Windows Phone 7 or Windows Mobile shipped on 3.6 million devices, while Linux shipped on 2.8 million units.