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Android Overtakes iOS in App Downloads: research

The Android operating system now leads in total app downloads, another benchmark in the race to dominate the smartphone market, according to ABI Research.

The market research firm’s Singapore office said Android overtook iOS in the second quarter of this year with 44% of mobile app downloads being delivered to Android devices, compared to 31% going to iOS gadgets.

Android has grown much faster than ABI’s earlier projections have suggested. In 2009, Google’s OS facilitated just 11% of total app downloads. At that time, the firm projected that figure might grow to 23% by 2014. Instead, 2011 seems to have been the year that Android made its move on iOS.

As recently as August 2010, ABI reported that iOS still held a dominant 52% of the market for mobile app downloads. “Android’s open source strategy is the main factor for its success,” said Lim Shiyang, an ABI research associate. “Being a free platform has expanded the Android device install base, which in turn has driven growth in the number of third party multiplatform and mobile operator app stores.”

According to ABI, Android’s install base now exceeds iOS by a margin of 2.4-to-1 worldwide; by 2016 that will grow to 3-to-1.

Shiyang says the open source factor alone could be enough to explain Android’s success, but ABI also notes that growth in iPhone shipments slowed in the middle of 2011, likely as consumers decided to wait to buy a new iPhone until the next model (which we now know to be the iPhone 4s) was released. While Apple growth was slowing, Android shipments increased 36% in the second quarter, analysts said.

Of course, the picture for the last quarter of 2011 could look very different, thanks to the October release of the iPhone 4S, which has already broken sales records. And Apple users still download more apps per user than Android by a 2-to-1 margin, according to the ABI report.

“Apple’s superior monetisation policies attracted good developers within its ranks, thus creating a better catalog of apps and customer experience,” said ABI’s Dan Shey.

In the end, both Apple and Android win. ABI expects global app downloads for 2011 to hit 29 billion total, a huge increase from 9 billion downloads in 2010. That’s thanks to a total smartphone install base that’s expected to grow 46% this year.

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