Google Play Store Hits 25 Billion Downloads

Since its launch in March, Google's Play store has served up more than 25 billion downloads to app- and game-hungry Android users.

The Google Play store may have come on the scene much later than Apple's App Store, but it's apparently wasting no time capturing the hearts and wallets of rabid Android fans—the store has reached 25 billion downloads after a little more than six months, according to Google.

"We’ve now crossed 25 billion downloads from Google Play, and to celebrate we’re offering some great discounts for the next five days," Jamie Rosenberg, director of digital content for Google Play, wrote in a post Sept. 26 on the Android Official Blog.

"Every day you’ll be able to choose from a collection of apps from some of the world’s top developers including Gameloft, Electronic Arts, Rovio, Runtastic, Full Fat and more," each for only 25 cents, wrote Rosenberg. "We’ll also be offering some special collections like 25 movies you must own, 25 banned books, 25 albums that changed the world and our 25 top selling magazines, all at special prices."

The 25 billion download milestone is special for Google Play, he wrote, because "twenty-five billion is more than twice the distance, in miles, that the Voyager 1 spacecraft has travelled since its launch 35 years ago,” as well as "the amount of time, in minutes, that have passed since some of our earliest ancestors began to set foot in Europe."

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

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 about 675,000 apps and games today, up from about 450,000 in March, according to Google.

The move to create a one-stop Google Play store is part of a Google company-wide effort to consolidate its services.

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.

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.

According to a July report from data analysis firm Chitika, the race between the two mobile operating systems is evening up as Android development is now catching up to iOS development in terms of the interest of app developers from around the world. Previously, most app developers were focusing their work on iOS, but the recent Android device sales boom around the world has been encouraging developers to build their apps for Android as well.

Google and Apple have been at odds much more frequently in 2012 as they drift from being partners in the mobile marketplace to taking on more direct roles as key competitors. When Apple introduced its iPhone in 2007, it partnered with Google for much-needed content services, but that relationship has been strained in recent months. Apple recently removed Google Maps from its new iOS 6 device software and replaced it with Apple's own app, which has faced a rough launch due to accuracy problems and missing mass transit information. Then in August, Apple announced it would dump Google's YouTube app from iOS 6, too.

Google escalated its battle with Apple in August when its Motorola unit sued Apple for patent infringement, claiming that Apple has violated patents related to email notifications, video players and location reminders as well as patents related to Apple's Siri voice-recognition program. The patent claims, which are in Motorola's second lawsuit against Apple recently, involve designs in Apple iPads, iPhones and various Mac computers, including the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro.