Apple's Leagues Ahead In App Downloads: 18 Billion To Android's 10 Billion

A timely news announcement from Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) one week after Google’s own Android apps milestone: Apple says that 500,000 apps have now been published in the App Store, and it has had downloads of 18 billion across the store since it launched three years ago. Google (NSDQ: GOOG) last week noted that the Android Market had reached 10 billion downloads.

Apps for iOS devices, which include the iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad tablet, are now being downloaded in the App Store at a rate of over one billion every month, according to the company.

Today it also gave an update on its newer App Store for Mac computers, and it’s a significantly smaller number and download rate: 100 million “apps” and software downloaded in less than a year, with no specific figure given for the total number of apps, except mention of “thousands” of free and paid apps.

The Mac App store was launched in January last year, so dividing 100 million by eleven months gives an average download rate of just over 9 million downloads per month. That points to how Mac apps might just be a slightly harder sell for the company, which solved a big problem for mobile content when it first launched its app store in 2008.

Given that HP (NYSE: HPQ) is bracing itself for Apple to overtake it in 2012 as the world’s biggest PC maker, that number may well tip going forward, if Apple chooses to make its Mac App Store into the most immediate forum for distributing software for its computers.

At the moment, all App Stores follow the same business model, in which Apple gets a 30 percent stake of all downloads and in-app purchases, while the developer/publisher of the app gets 70 percent. That includes hosting and credit card fees, as well as “marketing” for the app, says Apple.

Last week, Google reported that Android had reached 10 billion app downloads in its first 18 months of operation, with gaming apps accounting for the largest share of those downloads. Android had around 320,000 active applications in the Market as of October 2011.

By one estimate, from analytics firm Mobilewalla (via NY Times), the total number of apps across major app stores (that would also include, for example, the App World from BlackBerry) is now passing one million.

Given how prevalent third-party app stores are on the Android platform, particularly in countries like China but also elsewhere, that’s a remarkable achievement and will probably only grow as Android continues growth as the world’s largest smartphone platform.