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Analyst: 80 percent of paid Android apps downloaded fewer than 100 times

by Phil Hornshaw

The size of the Google’s Android Market may be increasing to keep pace with Apple’s iTunes App Store, but that doesn’t mean that users are necessarily buying more apps.

According to a recent analysis of app stores by Distimo, 80 percent of paid apps in the Android Market have been downloaded by users fewer than 100 times. On the free side, that number is much lower – only 20 percent of free apps have seen fewer than 100 downloads.

Still, for all the Android users out there, and with Google reporting on Twitter that 500,000 new Android devices are activated daily, the bulk of the Android Market’s paid apps are ignored. This likely speaks to a number of problems in the marketplace. Firstly, the quality of apps in the Android Market can be lacking because of Google’s more lax policies about monitoring what is sold there (as compared to Apple). Secondly, the often-lamented trouble of app discovery in the store. Thirdly, device fragmentation certainly doesn’t help. Google is working on fixing these issues, plus a host of others. As far as app discovery is concerned, the tech giant recently added more detailed user reviews to apps to help buyers judge their quality.

On the other hand, Distimo found that 96 applications in the Android Market had received more than 5 million downloads. Chief among them was Google Maps, which was the most-downloaded app in the store with more than 50 million downloads. It’s the only Android app to have the 50-million distinction, though.

Issues definitely need addressing

Distimo’s findings highlight some issues with the Android Market that Google needs to address. In comparing it to Apple’s App Store, the Android Market is a hard place to make money off app sales. Distimo found that in the entire Android Market, only two paid apps have reached downloads of more than half-a-million times worldwide to date.

Compare that with the App Store for iPhone, in which six apps were able to hit that same mark within two months – and that’s just in the U.S. – not accounting for sales across the globe.

It’s the same story with games for Android, too: Five games in the Android Market have more than 250,000 downloads worldwide; in the App Store, 10 games hit that same mark, but in just two months, and just in the U.S.

Obviously, Google has some work ahead of it. In order to bring in more developers and grow the Android Market, Google has to make it easy for them to make money – and that means something needs to change in the store. The steps Google has taken are positive, but it needs to continue to improve the experience.

While there are a lot of initiatives out there to help bring developers to the Android Market, the only motivation that means anything is the ability to make money by creating Android apps, especially given the difficulty of creating Android apps for multiple different devices. Distimo’s findings highlight the fact that Google needs to find more ways of helping out developers if it wants to keep pace with Apple’s extremely successful marketplace.