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Summary:

With Android gobbling up market share, it was just a matter of time before it took the lead in app downloads from Apple’s iOS. That’s what happened in Q2 with Android commanding 44 percent of overall app downloads compared to 31 percent for iOS.

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With Android gobbling up market share, it was just a matter of time before it took the lead in app downloads from Apple’s iOS. That’s what happened in the second quarter of this year, according to ABI Research, which found that Android commanded 44 percent of overall mobile app downloads compared to 31 percent for iOS.

According to ABI, Android has much bigger install base compared to iOS, with 2.4 users for every iOS user worldwide. By 2016, that gap is expected to grow to 3:1. But even with the bigger  footprint, iOS users still download more apps individually than average Android users by a 2 to 1 ratio. The ascendence of Android in app downloads isn’t completely unexpected considering Ovum already predicted that Android would take the title for the first time later this year. But it’s another sign that Android momentum is still going strong.

ABI also predicts that overall global app downloads this year will hit 29 billion, compared to nine billion in 2010. That figure is fueled in part by smartphone penetration, which is expected to grow to 46 percent in 2011.

Apple is still the No. 1 focus for most developers because of the fact that it’s a better place to monetize apps; Ovum predicts iOS will still generate more in paid download revenue in 2016 with iOS making $2.86 billion compared to $1.5 billion for Android. As I wrote about before, Apple customers are also more interested in downloading a wider variety of apps, which is helpful for developers.

But over time, the sheer numbers game along with some inherent differences in the Android platform compared to iOS, is helping turn more developer attention to Android. There are still more apps on iOS and the disparity is even more pronounced when you look at tablet apps. But more developers are starting to build for Android primarily taking advantage of its more open nature and some are seeing similar if not occasionally better results on Android.

Android still has some growing up to do to ensure that a wide number of developers can prosper on the platform. But it continues to gain momentum by virtue of its hardware sales growth and now we’re seeing that, in at least one metric, the scales have tipped in Android’s favor. The more important measure will be to see when Android generates more revenue than iOS.

That, as Ovum predicts, is still a ways off considering Android promotes more free apps. But with the growth of freemium apps that are powered by in-app purchase and advertising, we should see that gap close as well over time as long as Android continues to be a marketshare leader. But if Apple can claw back marketshare with the iPhone 4S and maintain its edge in tablets, it could take longer for Android to really overtake iOS in the app game.

  1. “There are still more apps on iOS and the disparity is even more pronounced when you look at tablet apps.”

    isn’t that because Android doesn’t require 2 different versions of an app for phone v. tablet?

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  2. “The more important measure will be to see when Android generates more revenue than iOS.”

    Who cares about revenue? Profit powers a business into the future and the only way for Android to beat Apple is to generate more profit than Apple. That day will never arrive. Every comparison, every study, every scrap of anecdotal evidence points to one simple fact : iOS users are far more willing to spend money than Android users. Couple this with the fact two or three handset manufacturers will go out of business in the next five years for want of profit and it necessarily means the Android universe will implode and die for lack of profits.

    One has only to look at the financial section to see the truth of the matter. Neither Apple nor I care one whit about who has the largest market share, because Apple has the largest *profit share*. They are presently earning more than 60% of the profit for the total cell phone industry. Apple does this simply because iOS users will spend money, while Android users expect most everything beyond purchase price to be free.

    Well, there is that plus the fact Android handset manufacturers and carriers can’t see that Apple isn’t their enemy : Google is. Google is the only company making a sustained profit from Android. Every search puts money in Google’s pocket, not Verizon or Sprint or HTC. The sad part is watching all the allegedly smart MBA’s driving their respective companies into the ground like a railroad spike. They truly are battling it out for the largest market share in a market nearly bereft of profit.

    It’s almost like profit has become an anathema in business, with the substitute being market share. Thank God Apple understands the difference and rejects the conventional wisdom like the rebels they are.

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    1. When i was referring to revenue, I meant for developers. I think that’s a better measure for understanding which platform is better for devs rather than download numbers.

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  3. Android’s performance is just amazing! My relatives went from various types of smartphones to virtually all Android smartphones in just the past year. The Android ecosystem is huge and the options are wide…it’s truly consumer friendly.

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  4. Thank you Pat for bring a touch of reality to the picture!

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  5. Will be interesting to see where android sits after all the lawsuits are settled. So far, it’s not looking all that rosy from what I can determine.
    The chickens WILL be coming home to roost.
    ———-
    Agree with Pat that it’s profit numbers that matter, not market share. Market share can easily be had by giving stuff away but that does not represent a sustainable business.

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    1. I agree, the patent situation is like a cloud hanging over Android. I’ll be interested to see where Android stands after all these lawsuits work themselves out.

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    2. Not much will change. apple had 9 out of 10 patent infringements tossed in the Netherlands. The final one that was upheld was easily changed via a software update–rubber-band effect in a gallery. This will most likely be true for most all of apple’s patents and I’m sure they know this. They know they won’t win much and it really isn’t about that. It’s about slowing down the competition entering into the market. Samsung has over taken the smartphone market in one year. apple is trying to keep them from doing that with tablets. . . . they may slow them down for a while but not forever.

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  6. Something seems wrong with these numbers. Apple just announced 250 million iOS devices.
    If Android had 2.4X the users of iOS, that would mean that they have 625 million users.

    According to Google, they have 190 million devices in the market as of Oct 13 2011. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Android_(operating_system)#Usage_share

    If they can’t even get the most basic numbers right, why would we believe the rest of the report?

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    1. Tyler Brainerd Monday, October 24, 2011

      Apples numbers include multiple activations for the same person over time, not current seperate users. So if I break 15 iphones, and keep getting new ones, I count for every one of those devices.

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      1. And Google doesn’t do the same?

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      2. If Apple replaces your phone, they don’t count it as a sale.
        Without a doubt, some of the 1st gen iPhones are probably out of use, but of the 250 million phones, iPods and iPads they have sold, my guess is that over 90% are still in use.

        Certainly more than 80 million this article would suggest.

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    2. Apple has sold a TOTAL of 250M iOS devices–that’s since 2007. Not all those are still in use. That seems rather obvious.

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  7. Thank goodness there’s always a silver lining when Android beats iPhone. Thats, if you believe Android ever actually beats iPhone.

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