Android is expected to surpass Apple in application downloads for the first time, according to research firm Ovum.
Android could notch 8.1 billion app downloads this year, compared with 6 billion for Apple's iOS devices. That marks an explosion of growth for both platforms; Apple had 2.7 billion downloads and Android recorded 1.4 billion last year. The total number of application downloads is expected to grow by 144 percent this year, Ovum said in a report issued today.
"Consumers' seemingly insatiable demand for mobile applications is set to continue this year, with downloads from app stores increasing around the world," said Ovum analyst Nick Dillon. "The outlook for the longer term is also positive, with consumers set to continue to use apps to add new features to their phones and to access their favorite services on the go."
Android's rise comes in lockstep with the surge in popularity of the platform, both with consumers and electronics manufacturers. A wave of companies have been attracted to the free mobile operating system, which powers smartphones and tablets. Carriers have also put their marketing dollars behind the smartphones, luring in millions of consumers. As a result, Android has seen its market share jump over the past few months.
Android also benefits because other application stores such as those at GetJar and Amazon have sprung up to provide alternative sources for mobile programs.
Apple, which began the apps craze with the launch of its App Store, can't compete with such diversity, but still leads in the value of its apps. Ovum said that the iPhone will continue to dominate the market for paid applications, with app revenue expected to reach $2.86 billion in 2016, compared with $1.5 billion for Android. That's despite Android taking a near two-to-one lead in app downloads by that time, with 21.8 billion Android app downloads vs. 11.6 billion iOS downloads.
Despite the growth, Ovum said it is tougher to create a breakout hit as consumers get more selective and discerning and more applications arrive on the market.
"App-savvy consumers are less willing to pay a high premium for anything but 'must have' apps," said Ovum analyst Eden Zoller.