Google's Android store is pushing record numbers of app downloads to its users, with growth largely coming from developing countries. Android's ecosystem remains far less profitable than Apple's iOS App Store, however, which again grabbed the lion's share of customer spend on mobile apps despite handling fewer than half as many downloads.
A report by app analytics firm AppAnnie stated that Google Play is now serving 145 percent more apps globally, even despite having little influence in China, the world's largest and most commercially important audience of app users.
In the winter quarter, new app downloads (not counting re-installs or updates) across both stores approached 27 billion, with Google Play representing more than 19 billion and the App Store accounting for roughly the remaining 8 billion. The pace of downloads globally grew at 7 percent over the previous year.
However, revenue from app sales and subscriptions grew far faster: 20 percent over the previous year. Of a total a $17 billion spent on mobile apps, Apple accounted for $11.5 billion, leaving Google with the scraps: around $5 billion despite processing nearly one and a half times as many downloads.
Rather than rushing to claim market share in hardware units, Apple has focused on building a valuable customer base, not only in the U.S., Europe and Japan, but in China— a region that most American hardware and software firms have been essentially locked out of— as well as in emerging regions including India and Vietnam.
As a result, Apple is not only earning sustainable hardware profits but is also attracting valuable customers who buy services and pay for apps. AppAnnie noted that the top grossing app by customer spend was Netflix. Low commercial performance relative to Apple by Google Play indicates that Android users are significantly less likely to be paying for subscription content. The high rate of bootleg apps and content shared among Android users has the side effect of causing developers to focus premium app development on iOS first, and often exclusively.