Google's Android Market offers the largest share of free apps at 57 percent, while the Windows Mobile Marketplace offers the smallest share at 22 percent, says a report on mobile app stores released last week by Distimo.
The report looked at trends in the U.S. for May 2010 among the major app stores, including Apple's App Store for the iPhone, Apple's App Store for the iPad, RIM's BlackBerry App World (worldwide), Google's Android Market, Nokia's Ovi Store, Palm's App Catalog, and Microsoft's Windows Marketplace for Mobile.
A large percentage of free apps are likely found in the Android Market because developers from only nine countries are allowed to distribute paid apps, while users in only 13 countries are able to download paid apps, Distimo said. These numbers compare with the 46 countries in total where the Android Market is available. Users also need to register for a Google Checkout account to pay for apps, which Distimo sees as another impediment.
An AdMob survey from last August found that half of all Android users at that time had not purchased apps due to the lack of access from certain countries and the restriction of using Google Checkout, which requires a Google account and a credit card.
A report last December from Skyhook Wireless found developers also frustrated with the ability to make a profit off the Android Market due to its design and method of doing business. In its initial few months, the market provided only free apps before opening the tap to allow paid software.
In other findings, Distimo discovered that 50 percent of apps sell at $2 or less in all the mobile stores, except for the Windows Mobile Marketplace and Blackberry App World (where the lowest price allowed is $2.99).
Looking at Apple specifically, 28 percent of all apps in Apple's iPhone App Store are free, while 23 percent of all apps for the iPad are free. Nine out of the 10 most popular free apps and 8 out of the 10 most popular paid ones are games. But e-books are also a hot trend. Both Apple's iBooks app and Amazon's Kindle app are among the 10 most popular free apps for the iPad, with iBooks No. 1 and the Kindle No. 10.
In the iPad's App Store, the average price of all paid apps and the 100 most popular ones is $4.65, compared with an average price at the iPhone's App Store of $4.01. But the average price of the top grossing apps is higher at the iPhone's App Store, the report said. This trend is influenced by several high-priced apps that became top grossers only on the iPhone side, including the $999.99 iVIP Black app for millionaires, the $899.99 iRa Pro mobile video surveillance app, and the $299.99 DDS GP medical app for dentists.
Distimo provides analytics on mobile app stores to its business customers and offers developers a free analytics tool to monitor their own apps.