Paid apps 70 percent of the App Store--and just a third of Android Market

Jason AnkenyApple (NASDAQ:AAPL) will hold its annual autumn press event on Sept. 1, and as usual, the rumors are piling up--the smart money says the computing kingpin will unveil a new iPod touch with a camera for video chatting, a revamped iTunes platform integrating social media features and a redesigned Apple TV running iOS. If past Apple media shindigs are any indication, we can also expect some metrics contextualizing the company's continued marketplace dominance--Apple execs likely will announce the App Store now exceeds 250,000 iPhone, iPod touch and iPad applications, a benchmark the storefront passed Friday according to website 148Apps.biz. As of late Monday afternoon, the App Store offers consumers over 253,000 applications from more than 50,000 unique publishers, 148Apps.biz reports--the store is now adding an average of 629 new apps each day, with Books leading all other categories at close to 44,000 active applications, followed by Games (almost 37,000) and Entertainment (roughly 29,000).

148Apps.biz cites $2.66 as the average price of a premium iPhone application--subtract games (average price: $1.24), and downloads across other categories climb to $2.90. Paid apps now make up about 70 percent of the App Store's total inventory according to website monitoring firm Pingdom--it's a far different picture on Google's rival Android Market, however, where free applications make up about 64 percent of the 95,000 total available apps. There's probably no one explanation that accounts for such an enormous discrepancy, but Pingdom suggests several theories, chief among them the continued difficulties facing developers hoping to make a living selling Android apps--the firm notes that payment options are available in just 13 of the 46 international markets where Android smartphones are available, while the App Store supports premium downloads in 90 countries worldwide. (Other possibilities: Without a strict approval process, Android Market could be drawing more hobbyist app projects--also, it's possible a significant number of Android devs hail from the open source world, where issuing free software is commonplace.)

Nor can you discount Apple's ongoing efforts to improve the App Store consumer experience, an initiative that benefits iPhone developers as well. The latest major overhaul is the introduction of On the Grid, a new App Store section devoted exclusively to the burgeoning location-based solutions category. For now, On the Grid features just a dozen apps, including customer favorites like Facebook, foursquare, Twitter and Gowalla--all are free except for one, location-enabled productivity app GeoFences, which retails for 99 cents. The timing is interesting given that On the Grid's rollout coincides with new Forrester Research data indicating that just 4 percent of Americans have tried location-based services, and only 1 percent use them weekly. Consumers may be slow to embrace location-based apps, but at least now there's a dedicated section of the App Store ready and waiting when they decide to take the plunge. -Jason

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