Despite the growth of Google's Android Market, Apple's App Store is still the top dog among mobile app stores.
Looking at different app stores this past year, research firm Distimo found that sales of iPhone apps alone in Apple's iPhone App Store generated four times the revenue seen by Android Market. Sales of iPad apps in the App Store chalked up the second highest revenue total.
The standings were compiled by looking at the total revenue created by the 200 highest grossing apps across each store. For the purposes of its report, Distimo separated Apple's store into two distinct entities--one for iPhone apps and one for iPad apps.
One country Apple can thank for its app store sales is China, where downloads jumped dramatically in 2011. Comparing China with the U.S., Chinese iPhone users accounted for 30 percent of the total downloads between the two countries, while Chinese iPad owners generated 44 percent of the downloads among the two nations.
Apple's App Store did see a drop in downloads twice this past year--once in February before the new iPad debuted and again in October before the iPhone 4S launched. But each dip was followed by a jump in downloads after the new device hit the market.
Beyond Apple's iPhone and iPad stores and Google's Android Market, Distimo's full 2011 report examined Amazon's Appstore, BlackBerry App World, Nokia's Ovi Store, and Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 Marketplace. Among those, almost all doubled the number of apps being offered this year.
Collectively, the major app stores now offer more than 1 million apps. But Microsoft's Windows Phone 7 store showed the greatest relative growth in 2011, increasing its available apps by more than 400 percent, noted Distimo.
Counting just the number of free apps, Android Market was the leader this year, outpacing iPhone apps this past June. iPad apps took third place, followed by the Ovi Store, Windows Phone 7 Marketplace, BlackBerry App World, and Amazon's Appstore.
This past year also proved the success of the freemium and in-app purchase models, where users grab an app for free but pay for individual options or a more full-featured version.
Among the 200 top-grossing apps, Google's Android Market generated 65 percent of its sales from freemium apps, while iPhone apps captured 50 percent from freemium software.
And drilling down just to games, always one of the most popular categories, the three largest stores for gamers were Apple's App Store (for iPhone apps only) with 79,077 games, the Android Market with 46,045, and the App Store (for iPad) with 28,683. However, the Windows Phone 7 store showed strong growth in the number of games offered, surpassing the Ovi Store and BlackBerry App World this year.
So, which apps proved to be most popular in 2011, according to Distimo?
Based on the most downloads, Angry Birds nested on the top perch, followed by Facebook, Skype, Angry Birds Rio, and Google Maps. Rounding up the Top 10 were Apple's iBooks, Angry Birds Seasons, Fruit Ninja, Talking Top Cat, and Twitter.
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