Blog Post

As It Nears 50K Apps, How the Android Market Can Take a Bite Out of Apple’s App Store

Google’s (s goog) Android Market is on pace to cross the 50,000 application titles threshold this week, based on data from AndroLib, up from 20,000 just four months ago. But the Android Market needs a vast overhaul if it’s ever going to catch up to — much less surpass — Apple’s App Store, which offers nearly four times that number. Consumers need an easier way to both find Android software and to update existing titles, while developers need a hand marketing their software.

Apple took its store to the web earlier this year. Aside from offering consumers another place to search for software — and earn Apple 30 percent of every purchase — the online store provides software developers with search engine optimization advantages. By using proper keywords and Apple’s online web store preview, they can better market their wares.

Even after consumers find and install applications, the relationship doesn’t end there; software titles are routinely upgraded. Unfortunately, no currently available version of Android offers an “update all” function like Apple’s iPhone. My own Google Nexus One running Android 2.1, for example, finds updates for my apps on an almost-daily basis. But it requires a several-click process to actually install the latest upgrade to an application — a process that I have to repeat for every individual software title when an update is found in the Market on my phone.

With the Google I/O conference scheduled for May 19, look not only for Froyo, or Android 2.2, but also for enhancements to the Android Market and simpler application update features. In order to have a truly successful mobile platform, the quantity of useful software titles is only half of the equation — Google needs to address the other half by enhancing the user experience.

Related research on GigaOM Pro (sub req’d):

Chart courtesy of AndroidLib

43 Responses to “As It Nears 50K Apps, How the Android Market Can Take a Bite Out of Apple’s App Store”

  1. lc2575

    I just picked up the HTC Evo (my first Android phone). I must say that I find the Android apps of very poor quality. I understand that Android Marketplace is very young compared to the Apple store, and I hope Android can catch up on quality. I am not very tech savvy, and I was wondering why Android apps lack in quality/functionality compared to the apps for iphone. Is it the youth of the Android marketplace or some other factor? I’m on the verge to switching to iphone 4 only because of the quality of apps. I really like Android OS, but the marketplace is some what of a deal breaker.

  2. jonathan

    The market place is full of rubbish, u cant compare 50k android apps with 50k iphone appps. Sorry android…but ur apps are of really poor quality.

  3. Do you have an stats on how long it took Apple to reash 50,000 pass on its iphone an dhow long it has taken Google to reach 50,000
    Agree that Apple’s 200,000 plus apps may not necessarily include all quality apps but at least it giveS a user a very wide platform to choose from.

  4. Cron Job

    Not only does the iPhone Quantity of Apps totally punk the Android but the Quality of the Apple Apps is much better across the board especially with games. I also would look for Apple to have much much more exclusive content available on the iPad/iPhone than you will ever see on Android. BTW, all Android devices do NOT even have access to the Android Market so beware of dubious claims from lame Android fanboys. Android Apps tend to be non-uniform and have no consistency among their UI which leads to some of the most horrendous mobile apps you will see this side of WinMo. :-)

  5. jahan khan rashid

    I think the app storage thing is a thing of the past with a few present and future phones, take the xperia x10 for example, it has masses of internal memory for apps, so much that I don’t even have to look at how much memory is taken up. Also the bigger games on Android like raging thunder 2 installs the app to the main memory then downloads about 57meg to the memory card when you first run Tue game, same with asphalt 5.
    Is like to know the stats on how many people browse and purchase apps for the iPhone via a computer, I can’t say its something I would use, Android just needs a real good search function on the phone imo.
    I still think and always have thought that games ate the key apps to the success of a portable. Android is in desperate need of some big hitters from big name developers like sega, rockstar, konami etc.
    The other problem is a lot of apps are designed primarily for Android phones that have hardware keyboards or a trackball/optical pad whereas I thinly they need to concentrate on solely touch screen controls.
    I welcome and hope to god the autoupdate comes soon to all Android phones.
    Do 2.0+ only apps show up on 1.5/1.6 firmware phones, just wondering as I’m on 1.6 and am not aware of any apps that are or state 2.0+ only.
    Also what does the Facebook app on The iPhone have that the Android one does not?

  6. Clark Kent

    The Android Market is clearly a total ripoff of the Apple App Store. They should be paying Apple a cut of everything on their store or face a court injunction to shut it down.

    Apple should pounce on Google with its army of lawyers ASAP.

    The one thing Google will never have that Apple is building is multimedia content. Watch what happens with Apple’s new $1 Billion Data Center that will soon open. Boom.

    • vkelman

      Let’s face reality: in most areas leading Android phones already outperform iPhone; Apple now plays catch-up game. 99.9% of new iPhone 4.0 features are already implemented in Nexus One, Droid Incredible and similar phones. In a few areas where Android haven’t surpass iPhone yet (like media), it progresses really fast.

      • PXLated

        At any one moment one phone MAY have a feature or two that another doesn’t but that’s all somewhat meaningless because it’s very temporary. Apple is so far ahead on the overall ecosystem that no matter how fast Android tries it will be a long time before it gets even close. And Apple isn’t exactly standing still – Did you see their patent application for an event ticketing system.

        So, it’s media, games, etc now in software. iPhone, iPad & iPod in hardware. But even more importantly many new additions to the ecosystem in the future.

        Android has many parents/nannies but none totally focused on, or necessarily capable of creating, that ecosystem.

      • Richard


        Let’s face reality: Android is nothing more than a haphazard, wannabe iPhone ripoff that in virtually every way is an inferior experience. If people regarded Windows 1.0 as a shafting of Apple over the Mac, the Android platform is infinitely worse. And bound to be the New Windows, just with a smaller user base and selection of apps.

        Your statement needs to be clarified. Some Android models that just recently came out have higher specifications in particular areas than a 1 year old iPhone. But even this is largely irrelevant considering the lagtime of update cycles due to the length of phone contracts. By updating annually the iPhone is positioned to be competitive at the end of anyone’s 2 year contract.

        Your 99.9% claim is a bit of an exaggeration, but it also misses a relevant point, one that is also obscured by obsessing over irrelevant specifications. iPhone OS is better designed, runs smoother, has far more (and more sophisticated) APIs, and so much more. Virtually every major feature is implemented better on the iPhone.

        That leaves Android for what it is: a cheap knock off that really does very little better, with the possibility of a few super specifications that really are of little importance. The best being the Incredible’s 8 megapixel camera, which amazingly some people regard as a plus. It’s not. With an aperture as small as you find on a smart phone and the necessary ISO to operate with that aperture, the only benefit of 8 megapixels over 5 is consuming more diskspace with noise.

      • Some nasty little comments here. I will state some observations from the market that I am starting to see. Young people are moving towards Android devices not as a result of developer opinions but from personal choice on the availability of apps. Does it perform to x level?

        The iPhone is the best place to develop, but it is only a matter of time before Android gains enough traction to make the appeal increase exponentially. Today’s numbers on ad usage may represent such a change.

        Android needs media applications, and the openness will encourage new products, not possible on the iPhone. I know, I created some that Apple dismissed. This stuff will be moved to Android, and an open market will perhaps not meet the high standards of those willing to pay. But, it will meet the Ford level. These are simply different markets. Dismiss each at your peril…

  7. kathi17

    My opinion is that the two biggest problems with the Android Market are the way to search for apps and the lack of on phone storage for them.

    The market search problem is really terrible. Try searching for an app if you only remember one word in it’s title. Come on Google, you are supposed to be experts in search. I agree with everyone who says they need an online site with a good search function, including keywords, as well as more categories and subcategories.

    I have apps2SD, but rooting and flashing custom ROMs isn’t for everyone, and when my SD card dies, my phone is unusable. (With some ROMs the phone is still mostly usable when the card dies, it depends on which ROM you are using). I used to think that Apps2SD was the answer, but now I feel that all Android phones should come with a large area of onboard memory geared to only apps and data that makes them work. You should also be able to back up your paid apps, in the same way as you can programs on your computer.

    I don’t think quantity of apps has anything do do with it. When you get to 50,000, it is quality that matters, and if you can’t find the quality programs because market searching and browsing stink, then 50,000 apps means nothing.

    • vkelman

      I also shifted an the opinion that apps2SD is the way to go to thinking that large enough onboard memory is a better thing. Agree with your reasoning.
      Several applications allow to back up installed applications (BackupPro is one of them). At the same time I found that Android market remembers applications I installed. Even when I switched from ADP1 to Nexus One, Android Market knew what I had. And unfortunately restoring an app using BackupPro does not signal to Android Market that it is installed, so currently it’s better to install application from market again… it also give you a chance to think if you really need that app. Some paid app required order id to activate them, but it is always available on Google Checkout.

      I don’t play games and probably because of that 512 MB of Nexus One storage is enough for me to install all the apps I want.

    • With regard to apps2SD: obviously the best route will be if Google mandates a higher base spec for new devices, so that we get a meaningful amount of internal storage. This should have happened for the Droid and Nexus, but sadly didn’t.

      But doing only this, leaves all the users of current devices out in the cold… and I want to see a solution that fixes the problems I have, on the device I have now.

      I’m happy for those folks that say they’re happy with the amount of storage space in their Nexus One. I do think their aspirations are being inhibited by the limitations of the device, though. With an exponential jump in storage capacity, mindsets would change drastically. All of the old excuses about “but apps are smaller on Android” (not true anymore as apps become more feature-complete), and “apps store their data on SD” (some can store part, but we still run out of internal space) — they will be forgotten.

  8. It should be easy to do better than the Apple app store. Apple ranks apps by downloads, rather than by a combination of downloads and user rating, which would be much more meaningful. Furthermore, a well run store could use the Bayesian “sunrise problem” to correct ratings for small numbers.

  9. goldfinger80

    One area that Android is lacking is great gaming apps. At the recent Freemium Summit conference, three major mobile gaming app companies (ngmoco, Tapulous, Smule) all indicated that they are not working on Android at this time and don’t have immediate plans to develop games for Android.

  10. As far as quality goes, I think it’s fair to say that historically, the iPhone has managed to build up a raft of quality professional developers, while Android has started out more recently and built up an army of mostly enthusiast developers.

    The situation’s changing somewhat, and most of the apps you would really want on the iPhone are now available on Android too, though in many cases they aren’t yet as feature-complete (just look at the Facebook app as an example).

    On the other hand, the quality of some apps on Android is now exceeding that of their equivalent on iPhone (the TripIt app for example, or Spotify). This is a recent phenomenon, but if you’re an Android user there’s some things about a proper native app that makes it ‘nicer’ when done right.

    Here’s hoping that more of the quality professional devs from the iPhone platform choose to develop for Android too, over the next while. Competition FTW…

    • There are two issues there. One, some apps written for Android 2.x won’t run on 1.x, but I’d estimate that the majority do. And two, some apps are tied to carriers (at least here in the U.S.) – I’m thinking of Skype Mobile which is only available here through Verizon. If you’re running an Android handset on another carrier, there’s no Skype for you, even though your phone may be technically capable.

      • Depends on the app of course. By and large my own opinion is that Android apps tend to be a half-step behind their iPhone counterparts, although there are some exceptions. If you polled 100 people that have used apps on both platforms, I think the majority would lean towards iPhone for quality. And in a way, that makes sense since the iPhone app platform arrived in summer of 2008… we didn’t even have an Android phone until a few months after that.

  11. Kevin,
    Does the no of apps really matter? why everyone writes about iPhone having 180K apps and Android having 50K apps? How many of them are really getting sold and making real money for the developer? The notion that a platform is mature based on the no of apps available is flawed. Windows mobile has thousands of apps before the iPhone and Android existed !!!!.
    I would look in to the sales of the apps and profit margins. Based on the sales , I would say iPhone is Numero Uno and it will remain there for another 5 years or so.

    • Great question and the answer is: it depends. ;)

      Although many talk about the overall quantity of apps, I’ve been talking about the quantity of quality apps, if that makes sense. The overall number is simply just a starting point. Bear in mind the top reason I dumped my Palm Pre – a lack of quality applications. That’s not to say there weren’t good apps, but not enough for what I need to do on my device.

      I agree with your statement “The notion that a platform is mature based on the no of apps available is flawed.” It’s not just the available apps that’s important — it’s also the hardware and software of the platform itself, the developer tools, etc….

      • And this is the reason I dumped my DROID and went back to the iPhone3GS. There may be 50,000 applications, but when 10,000 of those are “favorite sports team” keyboard skin, or they don’t work correctly because there is 15 different screen sizes for the different Android phones in the market and none of them are compatible with each other, it just gets frustrating trying to find something that will actually be useful.

        Give me my nice, “closed and locked down” app store any time. I actually appreciate the manufacturer of the phone trying to make sure they apps that are out there actually have (some kind) of quality control and won’t crash my phone every 5 minutes.

    • I don’t agree with the purely commercial point of view. We all should have learned this lesson after so many years of Open Source… specially when we talk about a platform that is based on Linux.

      Android is younger than the iPhone and if the grow continues at this rate we may see a huge increase in both apps and sales of hardware driven by the possibility of having tons of free apps. And don’t forget that the SDK is platform independent.

  12. All good points on the way Android app storage is limited. The HTC Incredible, due out in 3 days, does include 8 GB of integrated storage, but for the moment appears to be usable for media and not apps. Perhaps this issue gets addressed at Google I/O too.

  13. vkelman works on any Android phone, but I think it would be better if Google provides some standard default Web store like that, so that other Web stores compete with a default one.
    Custom ROMs like Cyanogen provide an ability to install apps to microSD card, but it’s a mixed blessing: apps on SD card make it hard to change card to another one, etc. Maybe it would be better to have something about 4 to 8 GB of internal memory on Android phones with possibility to install apps on it.
    In fact, when I used ADP1 (HTC Dream / G1), lack of flash memory was the main reason I installed Cyanogen. With Nexus One I use a stock OS and so far don’t need more space for apps. 512 MB is pretty much enough for now.

  14. They also badly need to deliver some form of apps2sd functionality. Every single Android handset released to date has been crippled with inadequate internal storage, and this is limiting the quality of apps, and also the potential market (if your phone is full you’re not gonna buy more apps).

    The quality won’t increase until it’s possible for devs to make money on Android.

    • Strongly agree.
      I have an 8 GB SD card that’s practically empty and I’m struggling to keep the main RAM free. I use dozens of apps and my need will increase now that I am starting to develop my own.

      • bjtheone

        I don’t agree with the internal memory being a big deal. I have 89 “apps” on my HTC Magic, consuming approx 77 MB, with 142 MB free. This is mostly apps along with 6 or 7 widgets. At this rate I could have roughly 250-280 apps on the phone and I really can’t see loading that many. Apps use the SD card for data (Nav maps, game data, etc) and 8 GB SD cards are cheap… heck, I have seen 16 GB cards for under $50

        I have an 8 GB SD card, which is about half full (2 GB worth of Nav maps for NDrive, almost a 1 GB of ebooks, and roughly a GB of apps data and cache stuff). While more on-board memory would be nice, it really does not seem to be the show stopper some folks make it out to be.

    • Barkleyfan

      The beauty of open source is that it’s not entirely profit-driven. Apps2sd is available for several models. The problem with apps2sd is that frequent writes can corrupt the card. More native memory is a better solution. But if you want it, there are several custom roms out there for most Android devices that include apps2sd.