Apple's most popular apps not exclusive to iPhone

by Phil Hornshaw

Apple (AAPL) might love to tout the phrase “There’s an app for that” in its commercials, but a recent analysis from PC World shows that while there’s an app for just about anything, you can get them on just about any smartphone.

PC World is running a story in which it analyzes the most popular apps in Apple’s iTunes App Store and finds that those apps are also the most widely available -- showing up not only on Android devices, but also on Research In Motion’s (RIMM) BlackBerry, on Microsoft’s (MSFT) Windows Phone 7, on devices from Palm and even on Nokia (NOK) phones.

Apple’s App Store is absolutely huge -- around 350,000 apps strong -- but PC World’s data suggests that even though Google’s (GOOG) Android Market might contain about 150,000 fewer apps than its Apple-run counterpart, the apps that most people are using are just as easy to come by within Apple’s walled garden as outside it.

Here’s a quote running down PC World’s analysis:

“After reviewing the top 35 iPhone apps, we found that a larger store doesn't always win, especially when it comes to core and popular apps. For example, Google's Android Market, currently a little more than half the size of Apple's App Store (200,000 apps), has the same selection of popular apps--with the exception of games. Even in the newer and less-populated app stores such as Microsoft's Windows Phone Marketplace (11,500 apps), you can get most of the same top apps.”

PC World goes on to run down a few of the differences between app stores, finding that iTunes includes three in the top 35 that Android doesn’t. Notably among them is Netflix, an app for streaming movies and TV shows that is in the works for Android and has even been seen in the wild. The other two are games -- CroMag Rally and StickWars.

In fact, it’s in games that Apple really does have an advantage in its App Store. There are a lot of exclusive iOS game titles and often games debut on iOS before they migrate out to other platforms, if they ever do at all. The most popular titles, such as Angry Birds and titles by big publishers like Gameloft and Electronic Arts (ERTS), seem to make it, but more independent titles usually stay put.

But even in the games arena, Android has a lot of things going for it. Social gaming network OpenFeint recently made a deal with Chinese game company The9 to create a new gaming network in China, and the two companies have banded together to help fund developers who are bringing their games from iOS to Android. Google’s platform also has the Xperia Play, Sony Ericsson’s Playstation-branded phone, which is quite a gaming machine and enjoys an exclusive deal with Gameloft that is bringing games first to the Play, and by extension, Android. For its part, Apple seems to recognize the importance of gaming and is reportedly stepping up its emphasis on that arena with the iPhone 5.

But as PC World points out, it’s not the size of the app store, it’s how you use it. The Android Market might be smaller than the iTunes App Store, but that doesn’t mean users can’t get most or all of the same experience, with more iPhone apps finding their way out to other platforms all the time. And Android is making positive gains of its own with its marketplace -- recent analysis suggests the Android Market will surpass iTunes by as early as this summer, and the Android Market already eclipses iTunes in the number of free apps it offers.