As of today there are now more than 400,000 apps available in Google’s Android Market. Quite an impressive milestone to say the least. Another impressive point worth mentioning, according to our good friends over at Android Police the Android Market also has the world’s largest assortment of free mobile apps. While Android tablets and smartphones continue to grow in popularity it’s fair & realistic to say that at this rate it won’t be long before the Android Market exceeds a total of half a million apps.
Since it’s launch back in late 2008 the Android operating system sure has come a long way. As of the end of December 2011 the Android Market exceeded a total of 10 billion downloads, yes that is billion with a “B”. With an estimated average of 700,000 new Android tablet and smartphone activations daily it comes as no surprise that Android is quickly emerging as the world’s most popular mobile operating system, not far behind Apple’s iOS.
Why exactly has Android emerged so fast and become a dominant and powerful force in the tablet OS market? Well, there’s numerous reasons for this but likely the most apparent reason is the fact that open source is the driving force behind most of the success. Open source code has resulted in worldwide Android developer communities who are dedicated to helping one another in order to frequently enhance and greatly improve the Android OS.
Back to the topic of free Android apps. So as not to be deceptive, “free” doesn’t always essentially mean absolutely “free” in every sense of the word. A lot of Android apps might be free to download and install but they are also developed on what’s known as the “freemium” model. In layman’s terms what this means is that sure you can download free Android apps but will sometimes be limited to how much you can do with such apps unless of course you purchase upgrades or what are known as in-app purchases. This is most commonly found in Android tablet games where in a lot of cases you are stuck on the first or second level unless you pay for upgrades in order to enjoy the full experience of what certain mobile games have to offer. Not that there’s anything wrong with this, and hey, developers need to put food on the table too, I just don’t want to mislead our readers is all. To be completely fair & unbiased, the same type of business model is commonly used when it comes to iPad apps and games.
Not to rain on the Android parade, and for the record I’m a big fan of the Android OS and use it every day, but there are a few widely common gripes a lot of people have when it comes to the Android Market. One gripe being limited search capabilities. With the almighty Google being the king of search engines, you’d think there would be better ways available to narrow down app searches in the Android Market. For instance, if you’re looking for Android tablet specific apps, well, good luck with that unless of course you use an external source where someone has done all the heavy research for you. As it stands, there’s no real way of telling in the Android Market which apps are specifically for smartphones or which ones are specifically for tablets. Of course many apps work just fine on both types of devices but trust me when I say there is a difference.
Another important point worth mentioning is that having an abundance of apps so quickly is not always necessarily a good thing. What I mean by this statement is that you also have to consider the amount of useless apps out their which are flooding the market. Even though I’m a big fan of the Android OS, I have to give kudos to Apple when it comes to regulating app submissions because let’s be honest they certainly do a much better job and are more strict in that department which of course makes for a better overall user experience. Mind you, this doesn’t entirely mean that no useless iOS apps slip through every now and then, it’s just a more common occurrence (at least at this point) in the Android Market. In short, sometimes less really is more and big numbers don’t always deserve big praise.
On a more positive note and despite all of the pros and cons you have to admit a milestone like this is definitely worth celebrating. Who knows for sure by what date the Android Market will reach the half million mark, but my guess is it will be sooner than later especially with the new and improved Ice Cream Sandwich version of the OS as well as highly anticipated and upcoming Android Jelly Bean operating system which we’ll most likely see revealed during 2012.