Android activations surge, but paid app downloads still scarce

Jason AnkenyThe Android universe continues to expand at a pace that almost defies belief. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) now activates more than half a million new Android devices every day according to senior vice president Andy Rubin, who tweeted the news of the operating system's latest milestone last week--compare that to roughly a year ago, when Google was only turning on about 100,000 new Android units per week. Android activations are growing at a pace of 4.4 percent every week, Rubin added. It's no wonder that research firm IDC recently reported Android will grow to control more than 40 percent of the global smartphone market by the end of 2011 and reach 43.8 percent market share by 2015.

As developers are all too aware, Android activations aren't corresponding with premium application downloads--at least not yet. But there are signs of growth there, too. Mobile application search and discovery solutions firm Chomp reports that paid apps accounted for 5 percent of Android downloads on its network in May 2011, up from 3 percent in April. Android apps priced between $0.01 and $5.00 grew by a combined 1.8 percent, with apps in the $1.00 range experiencing a 0.9 percent overall increase. Games remain the most popular Android app category, yielding 27.1 percent of downloads--Utilities and Entertainment are tied for second, at 16.3 percent each.

But even with Google activating 500,000 new Android devices each day and app spending on the upswing, Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhone remains the leader in customer loyalty--and credit goes to iOS apps. Research firm Futuresource Consulting says that 54 percent of iPhone owners are committed to the Apple brand in order to keep using the apps they've come to depend on. iPhone owners have also made significant investments on in-app purchases: Futuresource notes that one of every three iOS users pay for virtual goods, additional game levels and the like, compared to only one in ten Android and BlackBerry users. Android may be the people's choice, but unless those folks start spending serious money in Android Market, iOS will remain the developers' choice. -Jason