Android Passes the 20,000 Apps Mark

The number of applications for Google’s Android mobile platform can now be measured in the tens of thousands. According a report by the Web site Androlib, which tracks Android use, there are now more than 20,000 Android applications available for download. Of those, 62.2 percent are free and 37.8 percent require a fee.

While it’s a nice bit of momentum for Android – doubling the number of apps available in the Android Market store in the last five months – the upstart mobile platform is barely in the ballpark compared to the 100,000-plus applications available for the iPhone.

But analyst Jack Gold said Android’s fast growth shows it “has the potential to be a very credible, serious competitor to the iPhone in the next 12 months. And Google (NASDAQ: GOOG) is going all out to make it easier to develop more applications,” Gold, who heads the technology research firm J. Gold Associates, told “Android is basically Linux, so it’s a techie’s dream.”

Another difference is that Android is available on a number of different devices from different vendors, while the App Store is limited to the iPhone and iPod Touch. Google itself is rumored to be developing its own branded and unlocked Android phone for release next year.

“Developers are getting more exposure to other devices with Android, but I don’t know how important that is for now,” analyst Maribel Lopez told “What is impressive is that Android has come out of nowhere a year ago, to be one of the most talked about mobile platforms and it’s generating a lot of excitement. The iPhone is still the device to beat because it’s still the most simple to use, but the competition is really pushing,” said Lopez, who heads Lopez Research.

App stores rule

The iPhone’s popularity has vaulted the AppStore model to the most popular way to gain access to mobile applications, with Google, Nokia, RIM, Palm and others all offering some kind of mobile storefront of applications. By that measure, Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) is far in front.

Apple also recently announced there have been over two billion downloads at the iPhone app store. Like Android, most of the iPhone apps are free, though a significant number are paid.

Many of these online store fronts are dominated by entertainment titles, but the mix could be changing. Last month the research firm Gartner listed what it thinks will be the top mobile applications for consumers by 2012. Topping the list is money transfers, followed by location-based services (LBS) and mobile search. In the fourth spot, mobile browsing, while mobile health monitoring checked in at number five.

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