It’s great having a huge user base to show off. Less great is not having much to show for it. We have been writing for months about how Android’s large market share hasn’t translated into actual phone usage or, more importantly, app-store sales. Android users consume less data than owners of Apple’s iOS devices, prefer to use Wi-Fi rather than 3G for data connections, and spend less on apps.
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That appears to be changing. A report out this week from Distimo, an app analytics firm, estimates that revenue generated by the Google Play Store, from which many Android users get their apps, has grown 67 percent over the past half-year. By contrast, Apple’s App Store revenue grew 15 percent, according to Distimo estimates, which cover the top 18 countries. That sounds less impressive if you consider that the App Store brought in twice as much revenue in absolute terms. But the numbers are shifting fast. In February, the App Store was generating three times as much revenue, and last November it out-earned Google Play by a factor of four. Google is gaining.
Much of this growth comes from three countries: the US, Japan and Korea. The US is the world’s second largest smartphone market after China. Japan has enthusiastically embraced Android. And Korea is the home of Samsung, the leader in Android handsets. That these three countries should be the first Android user bases to mature ought not be surprising.