Mobile Marketer has re-launched! Click here to learn more!

The race is on: iOS, Android each approach 1 million live mobile apps

Apple has been the leader in mobile applications ever since the space started to take off. However, both iOS and Android are nearing one million live apps with some predicting Android will get there first, suggesting the platforms are on more even footing than ever before.  

While Android is the more widely available mobile operating system, Apple has traditionally offered more apps as well as the highest quality offerings. But Android has quickly caught up to iOS over the past year and each is expected to hit the one million mark for live apps sometime in the next couple of months.

?The two platforms are closer to parity than they have ever been with regard to applications,? said Karl Stillner, CEO of Appolicious, Chicago. ?Android has effectively caught up in quantity, and in most cases, quality.

?However, there are more pure native applications on iOS than Android still, due to Android developers working with hybrid native/Web solutions to address the device fragmentation issue that exists on that platform,? he said.

Apple?s advantages
The number of apps offered on the iOS platform has been one of its competitive advantages over Android and others. But, with iOS and Android soon offering same number of apps, this means consumers could have many of the same options on either platform.

However, there are likely to be some differences in the types of apps that are available on each platform.

For example, developers who are looking to monetize apps still tend to focus more on the Apple App store because results, on average, are better compared to the more fragmented Android ecosystem.

?The Apple approach gives organizations and developers a straight line strategy to reach all iOS users,? said Arun Ramdeane, senior account executive at Atimi Software, Vancouver, Canada.

?When deploying flagship apps for Android, one must think about their total addressable market and if monetization is a driver, which device do you support to reach your goal,? he said. ?More time is spent on planning your route to market with Android vs. Apple.?

Quality apps
Apple has also traditionally offered the higher quality apps because it has done the better job of enforcing its App Store guidelines. However, Google is beginning to take a more active role in policing apps available on Google Play, suggesting quality may be less of an issue in the future.

In the short term, developers are likely to continue to focus on bringing apps to the iOS platform first.

?The two platforms are not at parity when it comes to apps,? said Scott Michaels, a partner at Atimi Software. ?They may be at parity in numbers, but in a couple key metrics they are not equal.

?Those are the overall revenue being generated ? Apple wins ? and overall quality of the offerings ? Apple wins,? he said.

?That is borne out by our work every day in this market. Our clients still do iOS first, as that is where users are still the most likely to be converted from free to paid, and where they see the biggest impact overall to the brand.?

Room to grow
It is likely the number of apps available will not stop at one million but continue to grow as apps become more integrated into different aspects of life.

For example, more enterprise apps are likely to become available in the consumer marketplace as the bring-your-own-device trend continues.

Additionally, retailers have only begun to figure out the many ways that apps can be leveraged to improve the shopping experience.

The growing number of available apps means it is more important than ever for developers to ensure they offer quality apps. Apps with small budgets and me-too apps are not likely to find success in this increasingly competitive app marketplace.

However, many brands still do not understand the app market. While there are examples of highly successful brands apps ? Nike, REI, Starbucks and Delta are all examples ? there are still many brands that have yet to successfully find a way to connect with consumers via mobile apps.

?Largely, brands are still trying to figure out how to better integrate mobile apps into their marketing mix,? said Peter Farago, vice president of marketing at Flurry Analytics, San Francisco.

?For many brands, there is an opportunity to re-architect the entire digital marketing strategy around the mobile app as the primary consumer touch point,? he said.

?Brands can shift their strategy from periodically reaching consumer through campaigns with living with them through a mobile app.?

Final Take
Chantal Tode is associate editor on Mobile Marketer, New York