In the battle between mobile platforms, one of the most critical factors is the success of the respective app library. The Apple App Store dominates all rivals in terms of sheer volume of apps, but Lookout Mobile Security's App Genome Project illustrates that by many measures Android apps are beating iOS apps as Android continues to whittle away at Apple.
The App Genome Project was created by Lookout Mobile Security as an ongoing effort to provide insight into mobile market dynamics, gain insight into how mobile apps access personal data and sensitive capabilities on mobile devices, and identify security threats in the wild.
The methodology for the App Genome Project is designed to analyze and compare Android Market against the Apple App Store from the perspective of what a user in the United States will experience when visiting the respective app platforms. In comparing the two app environments, the App Genome Project used data from the Android Market and the Apple App Store, as well as four alternative app markets (two for each platform).
Apple more or less created the app store concept and had a significant head start on Android, and other mobile platforms. But, the Apple App Store appears to be approaching a point of saturation while alternative app stores are popping up faster than Starbucks these days--extending beyond mobile platforms to desktops and netbooks.
The Android Market is currently growing at a rate three times that of the Apple App Store. Since August of last year, the volume of apps in the Apple App Store has increased by 44 percent, while the Android Market has gone up an impressive 127 percent.
Granted, both of those measures is relative to the size of the respective app store--so in terms of pure numbers of apps the two platforms are much closer. However, if the same rate of growth continues, the Android Market will pass the Apple App Store in app volume by mid-2012.
The App Genome Project report contains some other positive trends for Android as well. One of the challenges the Android Market has faced has been the prevalence of free apps. The percentage of paid apps increased from 22 percent to 34 percent since August of 2010, and the chunk of those costing only 99 cents or less decreased dramatically from 61 percent to 37 percent. That means more users are paying for Android apps, and they're paying more per app at the same time.
There does seem to be a point--from a user perspective--where it doesn't really matter if there are 100,000 apps or one million apps. There is more than sufficient variety for virtually any need, and the excessive volume of apps becomes more of a burden than a benefit. But, with the value of a mobile platform tied so closely to the value of its available app library, the App Genome Project is an interesting lens through which to view the battle between Android and iOS.