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Apple App Store vs Google Play: year-end trends and statistics

Distimo have released a fascinating report into the performance of Apple and Google's app stores throughout 2012. We dissect some of the data and find out what the most popular apps are, which country download the most stuff and importantly who makes the most money.

Published onDecember 21, 2012

google vs apple app store

Distimo, an app market data and analytics company, has released a very interesting report into this year’s performance of the Apple App Store and Google Play. They’ve collected a ton of data on various aspects of each store: total revenue, the most popular download types, rate of growth, and a load of other stuff. So, let’s break down their report and look at some of the really interesting points.

Just how big is the app market?

According to the report there are now over 700,000 different applications available across both the Apple and Google platforms, and with the total market estimated to be worth around $22 billion we can safely assume that it’s a pretty huge market. It appears to be growing pretty quickly too, with the increasing adoption of tablets over traditional PCs, more and more users are getting their applications from app stores rather than traditional retailers.

The United States is still the largest market, followed by Japan, the UK and Australia. Google Play appears to be doing exceptionally well in Japan, where it sells almost as many apps as it does in the US, and it’s also doing incredible well in South Korea.

What are the most popular apps?

Distimo have collected the total number of app sales into various categories. We can see that gaming is by far the most popular, in terms of downloads, and generates the most revenue out of all the different app types.

google vs apple revenue by category

This isn’t really surprising when you consider the popularity of games like Draw Something or Grand Theft Auto. In fact, you can even check for yourself — if you browse the highest grossing apps on Google Play, the entire list is pretty much full of games. Widgets and entertainment are the second largest categories, with news being one of the smallest.

The trend seems to be that most apps are moving towards in-app purchasing, such as games that are free to play but let you buy upgrades. 69% of all apps generated their revenue from these types of transactions in 2012. Interestingly though, 35% of the revenue from the top 10 publishers was made by up front, one off fees, so in-app purchases don’t necessarily appear to be the most profitable way of generating revenue.

Who makes the most money?

Well, Apple definitely win this round; they more than quadruple the average daily revenue of the Google Play store. On an average day in November this year, the Apple App Store managed to pull in $15 Million, while Google Play only managed an average daily revenue of $3.5 Million. Those are still quite astonishing daily figures, but Google appears to be quite a long way behind its rival.

It also appears that Google Play is the slightly more expensive of the two. Perhaps lower prices on the Play store would encourage more customers to part with their money.

However when you look at the growth figures, over the past 4 months (August to November) Google grew at a rate of 43% in the world’s 20 largest counties, where as the Apple App Store only managed a 21% growth over the same period. When we look at the whole year, it appears that Apple managed growth of 51%, but sadly Distimo doesn’t have any figures to compare this figure against for Google.

When we look at growth on a region by region basis, the two platforms are showing slightly differently growth rates among their top five countries.

google vs apple region growth

It is worth noting that the US doesn’t appear in the top five growing regions for either Apple or Google, suggesting that the market is already much more saturated compared with Europe and Asia.

And the winner is?

It looks pretty clear that Apple is still the current market leader in terms of the overall app market, and it still has some very strong growth figures to back up their already impressive market share. But, as has always been the case with Android, the competition is catching up.

There are also still a few things to consider for the future. Firstly, given that the adoption of Android is growing rapidly, thanks in part to Samsung’s huge install base, this will no doubt trickle into Google’s share of the app market in the coming year. There’s also the tablet market to think about. Apple had a big head start with the iPad, and Android devices have only recently seen popular adoption by regular consumers.

Time will tell whether Google Play will ever match up to Apple’s revenue generating ability. From the stats it looks like Google has a lot of catching up to do, but with an ever growing install base it wouldn’t surprise me if we see even more impressive growth figures come the end of 2013.