Can Android Market Catch Up to the App Store?

Posted by: Olga Kharif on October 27, 2009

The number of applications such as games and calendars that developers have begun working on for cell-phone operating system Android has jumped 94% between September and October, according to Flurry, which provides in-app analytics software for mobile devices.

The increased developer hustle and bustle around Android comes as no surprise: In November, Verizon Wireless is expected to launch its first Android phone from Motorola, and the carrier has already started a major marketing blitz around the device. Android-based phones from other makers, like HTC, are selling well. About 20 Android-based devices are expected to come out this year, and 30 more in 2010, according to analysts. As more Android phones get into users’ hands, more people will start using these devices to download apps from the Android Market, which currently features more than 10,000 applications. Naturally, developers want to get in on the game.

In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Android Market catches up to the Apple App Store, which currently offers more than 85,000 apps, in the number of applications it carries in the next year or two. Consider: By 2012, Android should become the world’s second-largest mobile operating system, according to consultant Gartner. At that point, more people will be buying Android-based phones each year than the iPhones. And users of Android devices download as many applications — about 10 — each month as iPhone owners do. Since developers always want to make apps for the largest possible pool of users, Android Market’s applications count should skyrocket.

Reader Comments

PXLated

October 27, 2009 2:47 PM

It won't be the quantity but the quality that will probably distinguish the two and what apps work on which Android phones as the platform fragments.

Barry O

October 27, 2009 2:50 PM

Of the top 1000 apps on the Apple by download volume, what percent are on Android now?

Also, what percent of the Apple apps are really APPS rather than e-books, Wikipedia articles, etc.?

Justa Notherguy

October 27, 2009 3:13 PM

In the next year or two, its pretty much a certainty that Android and iPhone will have very similar app libraries, both in quantity and variety. Quality, however, is another matter entirely due to Apple's (a) ham-fisted micromanagement of the approval process, (b) curiously casual, last-century pace of OS updates and (c) reluctance to allow (developers) access to native apps/APIs. Already, we're seeing devs who choose to introduce their new apps on Android _first_ and then often with functionality not offered in the iPhone version.

Oh, and hey - Apple fans should not kid themselves. Despite a few, scattered examples of soap box posturing, no dev in his right mind would forgo the revenue possibilities in a burgeoning Android market for the sake of maintaining Mac cult-loyalty. Listen carefully and you will hear the sound of fingers tapping, because hundreds of iPhone apps are being ported to Android, right now. In fact, Google have gone out of their way to make this process easier, by offering both SDK and NDK...and in a timely manner, to boot.

Don't get me wrong; personally, I like the iPhone. But I'm not blind to its limitations - most of which can't be blamed on AT&T. And, from a purely empirical standpoint, there's a good chance that one or more examples from the upcoming Android cornucopia will find favor among buyers who might otherwise have purchased an iPhone. Just look at what HTC created from the lumpen, Bronze Age mess of Windows Mobile 6.5, in their HD2 handset (http://tinyurl.com/y9lu6qj). Every iPhone user who sees that thing is immediately envious of the screen and widgets.

Now, imagine what that phone would be like - or, I should say, *will* be like - in an Android version. Take notice, Apple.

Kevin Galligan

October 27, 2009 3:21 PM

Finally a little bit of common sense. The "they'll never catch up to Iphone's lead" argument was getting a little old.

I work on some android apps, and my brother is focusing primarily on IPhone. We're talking about collaborating on different apps, and the conclusion we had was the same. 97% of the effort is in the app design and functionality. Porting from one language and platform to another, assuming they're largely equivalent, isn't that big of a deal. As soon as there are sizable Android numbers, expect the best of the apple store to show up in the android mart.

developer

October 27, 2009 3:22 PM

I think the number of Android apps will skyrocket and surpass the number in apple's app store within a year. Android is a pretty compelling OS to write to, especially for an independent developer. It's open source, it'll not only run on multiple phones but multiple devices (Barnes&Noble's newly announced nook runs on Android), and there is no fear that google will reject an app from being in their store.

A developer can spend a substantial amount of effort on an app but still have it rejected by apple for any (or no) reason.

Also there is a much bigger pool of java/linux programmers than objective-c programmers so the learning curve for android isn't that steep.

So developing for an open platform, which multiple devices from multiple vendors will run on vs a platform that has one phone model from one company (that may reject your app) may be a no-brainer for alot of developers.

Timothy Price

October 27, 2009 3:27 PM

We're talking Google, here. I have no doubt that Android will be the ONE smartphone to give iPhone a run for its money. As an ardent supporter and extensive user of both Apple and Google products, I'm looking forward to the coming competition.

NormM

October 27, 2009 3:33 PM

Android is a generic OS that will wipe out Windows Mobile. But since it will support so many form factors and hardware types the market for Android software will be very fragmented. And each vendor will have their own customizations, to differentiate themselves. As long as all this is the case, Android can't compete effectively with the iPhone. And it's not really in Google's interest to change this, since their motivation is search revenue, which they get very nicely from the iPhone. Google's priority here is that the generic phone OS isn't owned by one of their search competitors.

Also, don't ignore Symbian which is the current mobile OS leader and is now more open than Android. Symbian is controlled by an independent foundation that represents its users, whereas Android is controlled by Google which has its own agenda.

Margho Sting

October 27, 2009 4:20 PM

Profitable markets. I am pretty sure most developers who sell in the Apple Store will port to android to max revenue.

graphthis

October 27, 2009 4:41 PM

I think platform fragmentation is an overstated concern.

Android helps you write your app to run on different screen sizes and resolutions (as any good OS should).

Device independence is hardly a new concept. For example, microsoft does a good job of it with their directx libraries.

Basically I think the number of android apps vs iphone apps will be similar to the number of apps that are available for windows vs the number that are available for the mac. PCs come in a tremendous amount of different configurations and yet that doesn't slow the amount of apps being written for windows. If anything, the diversity just spurs more development.

wowlfie

October 27, 2009 4:52 PM

Droid Does; Iphone don't. Android will rule by 2012. Android is open source and free and apps will be plentiful within 2 years. I can imagine google's new wave making a huge impact when installed on Android phones. Not that will be great!

rob

October 27, 2009 5:49 PM

I love the fact that every one of the Op Ed predictions I read is pitting the iphone against the world. Take a step back and look at that statement, the iphone isn’t just leading the class it designed, built, and operates it. Yes, android will be the best alternative outshining Web OS and the others but it is still the alternative. Apple doesn’t just offer the current best piece of hardware it offers the apple package, not just 85,000 apps but virtually unlimited content through the juggernaut that is itunes. It has made a place for itself in pop culture by being not just innovative and useful but user friendly and fun. iphone users love there iphones they are satisfied apple customers, maybe not satisfied AT&T customers, and have embraced all that is iphone. How many of us have an old Motorola or Nokia POS handset that we hated? You are going to see the first wave of android it will be big but it will have issues just like anything new is sure to have. Apple made the mistake of not building on its best traits once loosing the computer war to the PC but I doubt Steve and the Cupertino guys are going to let that happen again. Let’s see what we love about android and see what apple improves on its next iphone to take it and make it even more awesome. Now having said that Google is great I am sure they will come out guns blazing and fire off some great things and if apple cant keep up with the awesomeness of a completely open source and someone makes a better device to run it on then I’m not that loyal you could see my new iphone turn into an old iPod. But as for now the iphone is king and all others are just thirsting for a piece of the crown. It should be fun to watch

nom

October 27, 2009 6:07 PM

NormM: enough with the symbian is more open than android. here is an snippet from the symbian faqs, "Portions of the source code are already being moved to open source, under the Eclipse Public License. By mid-2010, this process will be complete. At this point, the complete source code will be available to all – members and non-members, enthusiasts, Web designers, professional developers, service providers and device manufacturers.
Until this time, members of the Symbian Foundation have access, under a royalty-free Symbian Foundation License, to the portions of the code that are not yet open source." so until 2010 or such that i can simply download the source without the hassle of registering for membership, i will NOT consider symbian as open-source at all.
by the way, have you looked at the membership sign-on page because i'm not sure how to apply as an independent developer. also, the eligibility requirements page lists a whooping "Receipt of payment of the annual membership fee of $1500 USD + 15% VAT (where applicable)" as requirement #7.
i'm just asking you to please check your facts and if you don't have the time at least check the faqs or if you're just lazy don't bother commenting at all.

junkcafe

October 27, 2009 6:29 PM

Android HAS and WILL attract the open developer. A low cost of entry is always attractive to those of us wanting to toss our hat into the ring. I'm guessing you'll see some migration from iPhone to Android or, perhaps, much like the gaming market where the same title is developed for multiple platforms. Bottom line: the consumer comes out the winner (or, at least, we hope)

siphandone

October 27, 2009 7:51 PM

It is good to have Android beside iPhone...

Smoke_Jaguar4

October 27, 2009 8:20 PM

We will start seeing some more powerful processors in Android phones very soon. I predict we'll see at least one iPhone emulator for Android by the end of next year.

Grumpus

October 27, 2009 9:48 PM

Bottom line... I have been writing for mobile devices for several years and decided to let Apple make the determination for me as to whether I devote most of my resources to the iPhone or to Android. I threw together a ridiculously simple, completely harmless app that did absolutely nothing (the main screen was completely black!) and submitted it to the App Store just to see what kind of response I would receive from Apple. After 6 weeks in review (YES, I said SIX WEEKS! ...and would probably still be waiting if I hadn't flooded them with email) it was rejected because it was not rated appropriately. Even though the app was completely free of any mature situations or sexual themes it was rejected due to its mature theme and sexual content. Good bye Apple, Hello Android.

Iphone is done

October 27, 2009 9:59 PM

You have to be truly deaf, dumb and blind to pretend that Android wont have any impact on Iphone and its current market.

Ipod gen can only last so long, and its pretty clear that Apple and At&t are watching

Considering the fact that many customers prefer to use an iphone on Verizon network, shows you that AT&T in itself is not a strong partner for Apple.

More so, once Verizon launches LTE and really show what it can do on its network, I would be hard pressed not hear that Apple wants to send the Iphone to VZ which ultimately means MORE choices for consumers on a the best network out there.

Chris

October 27, 2009 10:59 PM

Well, let's hope Android gets some better apps soon. I'm less than impressed with their app offerings to this point. Heck, they just added Pandora only about a month ago. If the iPhone were on T-Mobile I would have gone for it in a heartbeat over the mytouch3G (dumb name by the way). iPhone may not be the holy grail, but it smokes the G phones by far at this stage, in my opinion.

Noble

October 28, 2009 12:11 AM

Conceiving and designing a killer app is where most of the work is. If you have already done that for an iphone app, porting it to android is not going to be much of work, because android supports everything iphone does. But, if you have written the app for android it may be hard to port to iphone(read limited functionality) .

jack

October 28, 2009 12:40 AM

I dont know, i dont care all i know is that i am Android 100%

AdamC

October 28, 2009 2:58 AM

May the best platform win.

The main winners are the users who ended with the best products.

So whichever your favorite is good luck that you don't end up eating crow when you bash the other.

rocca

October 28, 2009 3:39 AM

Only time will tell ....
For now, iPhone is king. That is all that all of us know.
All of you google fanbois are easily impressed by goog. They have done nothing worthwhile and groundbreaking beside search. All other sucessful technologies have have been bought by them (youtube, picasa, doubleclick, Android).
Goog and droid is still trying to catch up with iphone gen 1 in terms of ecosystem (think itunes).
And ... Apple will definitely up the ante pretty soon again.

Also Android will soon become this huge mess of a bloatware what with supporting so many different handset makers, platforms, architectures... and will be bogged down by legacy code for backward compatibility and like windows of today will have a new OS version once or twice every decade.
While Apple with its lean OS tuned and optimized for a handful of handsets will lead the way in innovation.

So think about that for a while before you start writing iphone's epitaphs.

BTW ... apple just increased iphone production by 20% for the next qtr.

gerrrg

October 28, 2009 5:16 AM

There are some glaring flaws with the Android Market: a lack of cascading-style categories and sortable fields (cost/rating/date). Without them, it takes a long time to find appropriate apps, even with a keyword search.

If they do not fix this soon - at the rate the market is growing - it'll be a huge burden to browse and find apps.

pacman

October 28, 2009 6:29 AM

everybody here sems to be talking about that one system has to be the winner. Can;t they just coexist? I think in sher numbers many analysts have perdicted already that Android will ctahc up to the iPhone but that APPle will keep its "special type of customers".

Also, don't forget Apple's genius move to start marketing the iPod Touch as a gaming device. It is already predicted that they will close up fast to Nintendo and Sony, this is something that Android cannot just follow like this.

I think they will both be successful, sell in huge numbers but have different approachs and target markets ( I dont think many teenagers will even think about gettnig an Android device anytime soon, wit all the games on iPhone, plus itunes, etc. theer is only one choice for them). Then again, I am far away from benig a teenager but also got an iPod for th games.

Jill

October 28, 2009 6:37 AM

I don't know Jack and I don't care what Jack knows..

But I'm Apple 100%.

:P

mjw149

October 28, 2009 9:29 AM

DON'T GET CARRIED AWAY! The most popular apps in the app store are GAMES, and they work so well because there's only one or two iphone hardware variants to target. Android app/game quality could easily lag because of the diverse hardware. What works like a charm on one phone could be unusably slow on another.

Simon King

October 28, 2009 12:15 PM

The Gartner report goes on to predict that by 2012 Android will be #2 with 14.5 % of the market whilst Symbian will still be #1 with 39% of the market - 203,000,000 devices (http://bit.ly/4aM5iI). This suggests that the app developers with one eye on the market share will be sliding up close to Symbian - this is a Symbian vs Android story not an Android vs iPhone.

CrabbyVision

October 28, 2009 12:17 PM

Hey! Developers! Yes! I know how it feels to run naked, unconstrained on a sandy and sunny beach... Ah! pure delight. Very personal and pleasant experience. Yes, enjoy your open-everything Android. It should feel as running naked on a sandy beach; or so you think.

But as the clothed-up consumer that I am, I prefer the closeness, restrains and constrains imposed on you by Apple. I don't need stupid and testy blank screen apps much less you having the power to bring chaos to the system together with malware and the such.

The iPhone will survive. Android will do well. Smart, passionless programmers/developers will enjoy the reward of creating for both crowds or just pick one and if you're good or lucky, you'd be very successful given the millions of users in both platform.

Observer

October 28, 2009 12:21 PM

A couple of people have mentioned what I have been thinking while reading this article and the related comments: We don't know exactly what Apple will be bringing to the table next but I don't doubt that it will be something that takes things to the next level. They have created a brand with such appeal that they don't really play by the same rules as other companies. The "cool factor" is so high with their products and they have a very loyal consumer base which is expanding daily. They have almost a "way-of-life" brand appeal to their users who tie all of their technology together with Apple products. Once the iPhone has reached a slowdown point there will be something new. Consider also the price points Apple is able to command with their products - they don't have laptops for less than $1000, and they are not shooting for the low-end handset market either, so they are bringing profits in that will allow them to spend big on research and development of the next newest thing that everyone will want to have. Don't they have an Apple TV coming? Imagine the possibilities - bring your iPod Touch home and play the games directly on your Tv. In my opinion regardless of the improvements of the Android system and the market share that it captures Apple is still going to keep reinventing itself and the landscape of consumer electronics culture by creating highly desireable products.

Dave

October 28, 2009 1:11 PM

Heh, 85,000 or 10,000 who cares? How many versions of Tetris, Bejewled, or snappy Twitter feed readers do you really need?

I think the reality for both Apple and Android marketplaces is that they only have about 200-500 USEFUL apps.

TexasNeuron

October 28, 2009 1:39 PM

The market for smart phones is growing - http://www.investorplace.com/changewave-alliance/articles/smart-phone-market-aapl-palm-rimm.html - and there is room for more than just one or two systems. It is a burden to develop for multiple targets for one ecosystem - i.e. Blackberry now and android going forward. Blackberry Appworld lags far behind itunes store for ease of use. We will have to see how the Android store does going forward.

iPhone also has the advantage of being an iPod with music, video, etc. I think it will do fine but its growth is likely to be affected.

I suspect the biggest loser with me Windows Mobile. I am not sure if Palm will survive either.

politcus

October 28, 2009 3:32 PM

Having tried and returned the iPhone, after playing with it for a bit, I believe that the iPhone (like most Apple products) is way overrated.

I really and truly hated the touch screen-only interface, the lousy battery life, the AT&T network and Apple's attitude in general.

I certainly hope that the Verizon android phone will be better...

jz1492

October 28, 2009 9:50 PM

Android Market: "...For a comprehensive, up-to-date list of the thousands of titles that are available, you will need to view Android Market on a handset."

What's with the secrecy? Are there actually more than 10,000 Android apps? How many of them are native and not trashy Java keypad apps?

Richard

October 29, 2009 3:15 AM

Why is everybody assuming that Apple will stand still while Android takes over?

The facts:

1. Apple has a huge lead. Google is just copying Apple's ideas and brings nothing new to the table (online store, etc).

2. Apple is a status brand with huge popularity among teens and young professionals. In contrast, a Motorola phone with Android is not as appealing (marketing-wise), and Motorola has an uphill battle to convince customers to buy their smartphones (Just like Palm had). Android is appealing to nerds and geeks like the ones that are commenting here, but unfortunatelly for Google, that is a small market.

3. Android's success will depend on hardware made by other vendors (like Motorola). Google makes no hardware products.

4. Apple will keep improving their products. They will not stand still as most of you are assuming.

5. iPhone OS is built on top of proven Unix, given Apple a stable platform to build on.

6. Android is significantly harder to use than the simple iPhone OS, which will be an obstacle to some customers.

vaiol123

October 29, 2009 5:30 AM

To be honest, I'm getting tired of looking at the iPhone. It's just kinda boring after a while. Plus, the typing can lag so much sometimes and it offers little customization. Maybe Android will get it right.

ari-free

October 29, 2009 5:31 PM

I think Android will take out Windows Mobile first (Palm webos is dead in the water with its html based app approach) and you'll have a lot of casual PC developers working on Android.

iPhone is like the old Palm Pilot. It will stretch its advantage for as long as possible but it won't be able to deal with diversity and competition and will look pretty old after awhile.

dog

October 29, 2009 8:49 PM

Yep iphone is doomed... android will crush it... just like the Zune took out the ipod.... wait a minute....

Wasn't the palm pre that was going to kill the iphone?

Geeks are almost as far off the consumer pulse as the stock market analysts...

you can fool some of the people some of the time, but quality wins eventually

sean

October 30, 2009 10:18 PM

I believe most are missing the mark. Android allows all phone manufacturers to push the industry forward and compete in various ways and directions. More chances that someone will find the perfect formula to eclipse the IPhone. Competition is the best thing for everyone and Apple will only be pushed harder to try to maintain there inovative edge but they won't be able to for long. Challengers are everywhere and they are HUNGRY!

Chris

October 31, 2009 8:06 PM

Why is it that developers think users care about how the software is developed? So you don't like Apple's restrictions? Who cares? What matters is that users don't have to run antivirus software on their iPhones. That will be the case for Android users well before the number of Android apps equals the number of iPhone apps.

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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