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While Android Market (s GOOG) is on pace to overtake Apple’s App Store (s AAPL) in overall apps later this year, it’s trailing far behind as a money-making platform for developers. New analysis from app research firm Distimo found the Android Market is still dominated by free app downloads, and that paid downloads do much better on the iOS platform.
The latest Distimo report found that just two paid Android apps have ever eclipsed the half-million milestone, while six iPhone apps did that in two months in April and May. In a comparison of paid game downloads, Distimo found there are five games in Google’s Android Market with over 250,000 downloads worldwide, while the Apple App Store for iPhone had 10 games that hit 250,000 downloads in the United States alone in two months. This isn’t that surprising because Apple’s App Store has about three times as many paid apps as Android.
Overall, 79.3 percent of all paid Android apps have been downloaded less than 100 times, and only 4.6 percent of paid apps were downloaded more than 1,000 times. Among free apps on Android, only 19.6 percent of apps have been downloaded less than 100 times, and 48.2 percent were downloaded more than 1,000 times. Android users appear more likely to download free apps, something we’ve noted previously.
Historically, only 69 Android free apps have been downloaded between 5 and 10 million times, and 27 apps have been downloaded more than 10 million times. Only one, Google Maps, has eclipsed the 50 million mark. This suggests than even among free apps, there are few outright successes.
One of the issues appears to be that there is less turnover in the top rankings for the Android market. In April, in the App Store for iPhone, there were 843 distinct applications in the top 300 free rankings, and 584 unique apps in the top 300 paid applications. For the Android Market, there were only 388 distinct applications in the top 300 free apps, and 363 apps that appeared in the top paid 300 paid apps in April. Among top-10 applications, there have been only 26 free and paid apps in the top 10 rankings for April in the Android Market, while 94 iPhone applications were in the top 10 free and paid in the App Store in April. That lack of change in the rankings can be hard on developers, who look to the charts as a way to get attention and free marketing.
Free apps can still be monetized through advertising, but that works best when you have a lot of downloads, as does Rovio’s Angry Birds, a level of success many developers don’t achieve. Or there’s the potential for in-app purchase revenue, something Google has addressed by recently turning on its in-app purchase payment system. Google has been taking steps to improve the overall Android Market experience with more charts and better curation. It has also been tinkering with its ranking algorithm to reward more engagement. As I recently reported, Android is still a popular place for developers, especially those looking to push boundaries, and it’s growing as the primary platform for some devs. And with Android device sales soaring, it makes sense for developers to target the platform. But it will take some more time before the platform becomes a real money-maker like Apple’s App Store.