Google Gets Android App Store Competition From Russia's Yandex

Russia's Yandex search engine is aiming to take business from the booming Google Play app store.

Google's Play Store is getting some competition from the owners of Russia's Yandex Internet search engine in the race to sell apps to mobile phone carriers and device makers.

The new Yandex Store is being populated with apps to specifically challenge Google Play as a source for device makers and carriers to find apps to place on their phones before they are purchased by consumers, according to a Feb. 25 report by Bloomberg News.

"We have great search and maps with traffic jams, and by adding Yandex.Store we can offer the entire ecosystem to a phone maker," Alexander Zverev, head of Yandex.Store, told Bloomberg. "We also offer operators using our store under their own brand name, which is impossible with Google Play."

The apps in the Yandex.Store are already being used by Russian mobile operator OAO MegaFon and by device maker Oppo Electronics, according to Bloomberg. The app store, which will be accessible on Android devices in Russia and other nations chosen by Yandex, will be officially debuted at the Mobile World Congress (Feb. 25 to 28) in Barcelona, Spain.

Google Play, which was created in March 2012 to combine what until then were separate sites where Android lovers could buy their favorite apps, music and e-books, has been a huge hit. Before Google Play, users had to shop through the individual Android Market, Google Music and the Google e-Bookstore sites.

By September 2012, Google Play had served up more than 25 billion downloads to app- and game-hungry Android users, reaching a significant milestone in only six months.

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.

Google Play hosts more than 675,000 apps and games, up from about 450,000 in March 2012, according to Google.

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 is planning to issue tablets running Windows 8 in late 2012.

So why is Yandex making a move into the Android app space? That's easy—Android has captured the largest part of the global mobile phone market and it's continuing to grow.

In the global smartphone market for the third quarter of 2012, Google's Android was the mobile OS of choice on 75 percent of the 181.1 million smartphones that shipped around the world, which was five times the 14.9 percent market share of Apple's iOS for the same period, according to IDC analysts.

Those figures show remarkable progress for the four-year-old Android OS against competition that includes the still-strong popularity of Apple iOS, a drastically smaller BlackBerry market, Microsoft's multiple Windows Phone efforts and the rest of a straggling field.