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On the 10th of July 2008, the mobile phone landscape was altered forever with the launch of Apple’s App Store. Hip, funny, useful software applications quickly became one of the prime reasons for choosing a handset and an operating system and a brand new commercial economy was born.
Companies gave developers the tools they needed to create apps, and soon a vibrant software application ecosystem grew across the various mobile platforms. The symbiotic relationship between handset maker and developer created a shared destiny for both parties involved. The bigger the eco-system became, the more appealing the brand became to app-aware consumers, and the more developers were able to earn in lucrative revenue-sharing structures.
Before smartphone makers championed their own app stores, independent stores such as Pocketgear, GetJar, Mobango, eStore and Handster provided consumers with applications for just about every mobile platform. Today, independent stores continue to prosper and even power some of the major handset makers’ branded storefronts through white label agreements. By making use of carrier deals, empowering developer toolsets and revenue-sharing schemes with advertisers and developers, independent stores continue to compete valiantly in the mobile app race.
Today, the largest, officially endorsed mobile phone app stores are those of Apple, Android, Blackberry, Nokia, and Windows Mobile. Mobile phone manufacturers such as Motorola, LG, Sony Ericsson and Samsung produce Android based devices, as well as their own proprietary operating system handsets. With the wide adoption of Android by the aforementioned manufacturers and others such as HTC, the Android Market is currently the fastest growing app store.
Let’s take a look at the largest app stores in existence today.
#1 Apple iTunes App Store (225,000+ apps)
Apple’s app store for its iPhone and iPod Touch devices was launched on the 10th of July 2008. The latest figures put the total number of available apps at more than 225,000, which is the largest number of apps available on any platform and is estimated to be growing at a rate of 13,800 plus apps every month. 75% of the store’s content include paid apps and a single app will set you back roughly $3.62 on average. Popular categories include games, which constitute about 58% of the store’s content, and entertainment at close to 18%. Apps require approval from Apple, which means that app quality is generally high. However, the store is littered with demo apps and often multiple versions of the same app exist, which can be confusing. The store’s complete catalogue of free and paid apps are available in 90 different countries.
#2 Pocketgear (140,000+ apps)
When Pocketgear purchased Handango in February 2010, it became the world’s largest cross-platform independent app store with over 140,000 free and paid applications. Launched on the 1st of June 2008, it offers support for Symbian, Windows Mobile, Blackberry, Android, Linux, Java and Palm (RIP) platform handsets. Like many independent app stores, Pocketgear competes by powering storefronts for over 40 different partners that include some of the world’s top mobile operators and handset makers. Pocketgear’s applications go through an approval process, which allows for some quality assurance to consumers. As with many independent app stores, you’ll find freeware, demo and ad-supported applications as well as full commercial versions offered in 240 countries.
#3 Android Market (84,000+ apps)
Google launched the Android Market on October 22, 2008 for devices running its Open Source Android OS. Many of the world’s top handset manufacturers such as LG, Sony Ericsson and Samsung produce devices based on the Android platform as well as their own. Handset manufacturers find Android appealing because it makes their handsets more attractive to app conscientious consumers. The store houses an estimated 84,000 apps and is currently the fastest growing store, at a rate of 16,000 plus apps every month. 43% of apps are paid and any one app will cost you an average price of $3.27. The quality of apps inside the store are more questionable as apps can be listed without the approval of Google, but the store does offer a unique 24 hour return policy should you not be happy with you purchase. Consumers can purchase paid apps in only 14 countries, while free apps are available in 46.
#4 GetJar (70,000+ apps)
The fourth largest app store, and considered to be the world’s second largest independent app store, launched in 2004 and supports over 2,100 handsets. GetJar has an open market approach, which allows them to deliver over 70,000 mobile applications for both feature phones and smartphones across major platforms such as Android, BlackBerry, Windows Mobile, iPhone and Symbian. All hosted apps go through an approval process, which ensures some quality control for consumers. Unlike other stores, developers are not required to pay a fee to host their applications and may list their applications as either Freeware, Demo, or Adware with an option to add commercial versions for sale later. This means most apps on GetJar can be downloaded for free with developers being offered shared revenue through GetJar’s in-app advertising network. GetJar sets itself apart from the official or “boutique” stores by giving app developers access to advanced creation and marketing tools and partnering with cellular carriers to market their inventory to the carrier’s customers.
#5 Mobango (25,000+ apps)
Launched on the 1st of December 2004, Mobango comes in at number 5 with a catalogue of over 25,000 apps for Android, Flash Lite, BlackBerry, Java, Palm (RIP), Symbian and Windows Mobile-based handsets. The store offers a variety of free, demo, ad-supported, trial and shareware applications. The site is less app focused than other stores and encourages users to browse as well as share mobile themes, ringtones, videos and pictures across the Mobango community. The community features sets it apart from the rest and provides users access to free 2 GB that they can share and use to consume content.
#6 Blackberry App World (8,500+ apps)
When Blackberry’s App World opened on the 1st of April 2008, it brought together its own and third party developer apps in an effort to present its users with a unified experience in discovering and buying Blackberry apps. Before then, Blackberry apps were scattered across the web and hosted on developer sites or third party app stores. The store is estimated to host a more modest 8,500 applications and grows at a rate of about 500 apps a month. At roughly 76%, most of the applications in the store are paid apps with a higher average cost of $8.26 per app. Popular categories include games at 29% and utilities at 18%. All applications require approval from Research In Motion which provides some quality assurance and 63 countries offer free apps while only 13 offer paid apps.
#7 Nokia OVI Store (7,000+ apps)
The Nokia OVI store quietly launched on the 28th of August 2008. Even with little fanfare at launch, it has grown to house an estimated 7000 applications and grows at a respectable rate of roughly 320 applications per month. 85% of the store’s content includes paid applications at an estimated average cost of $3.47. The majority of the store is geared towards handset personalization at about 40%, while music comprises another 15%. All new applications are quality assured by Nokia and the store enjoys the widest reach of all the app stores with 240 countries offering paid apps and 239 offering free apps. The store supports a wide range of platforms for Nokia handsets built on Flash Lite, Java, Symbian, Maemo and WRT Widgets.
#8 Handster.com (6,500+ apps)
Handster originally launched on the 26th of May 2005 as a Windows Mobile Software store. It has since then added support for Symbian, Android, BlackBerry and Java in late 2009. It offers over 6,500 applications and also offers links to buy a select few iPhone apps from Apple’s App Store. It promotes itself primarIly as a white label app store, but compared to the likes of Pocketgear, it still has some way to go before it is taken seriously. Handster is available in 240 countries worldwide.
#9 LG Application Store (3000+ apps)
The store was launched on the 14th of July 2009 and offers applications for LG’s non-Android based handsets. LG’s customers with Java and Windows Mobile based devices are offered a collection of more than 3000 applications with free and paid apps available in 23 countries.
#10 Windows Marketplace (1,400+ apps)
Having only launched on the 5th of October 2009, the app store is still relatively new, but we expect to see it grow with the rumoured launch of Windows Phone 7 later this year. The store currently hosts close to 1,400 apps and grows at a modest rate of 140 apps each month. 78% of the store comprises paid content, with the average price of an application estimated to be $6.99. All apps are quality approved by Microsoft and the store’s complete catalogue of free and paid apps is available in 30 different countries.
#11 Sony Ericsson PlayNow (1,200+ apps)
Launched on August 10, 2009 the store offers applications for Sony Ericsson’s Flash Lite, Java, Symbian and Windows Mobile based handsets. Customers are offered a collection of over 1200 apps with free and paid apps available in 13 countries at last count.
#12 Samsung Application Store (800+ apps)
The store opened on the 14th of September 2009 and offers applications for Samsung’s non-Android based handsets. Samsung’s customers who use Bada, Java, Symbian or Windows Mobile-based devices can select from a collection of more than 800 applications with free and paid apps available in 78 countries. Samsung has recently spurred development by offering prizes to developers for developing applications for the Samsung Application Store.