Apple's App Store generates four times the revenue of Google Play, but Google's sales of apps are growing fast in South Korea, Japan and India, according to a new monthly index released Thursday by analytics firm App Annie.
The growth of Google Play in Asian countries has been so robust that Japan exceeded the U.S. for the first time in Google Play revenues in October, said Ollie Lo, vice president of marketing for App Annie, which is based in Beijing and San Francisco.
Google Play revenues grew 311% from January to October, while App Store revenues grew 13%, Lo said in a telephone interview. He didn't release dollar amounts.
"Google Play is catching up with Apple's App Store," Lo said. "The Android platform is doing a good job at getting more publishers of apps."
The success in Asia for Google Play is partly because more people use smartphones and tablets in Japan and South Korea than other countries. The practice of making in-app purchases is also more popular in those countries, as compared to the U.S. and other Western countries, Lo explained. An in-app purchase is when a mobile game player adds functionality or features while playing a game at a small cost, or when a user decides to add more functionality to a productivity app.
Mobile users in many Asian countries have gone online to play games for years, Lo said. The games are free at first, but a fee is charged to add functions later on. As a result, apps publishers in those countries have become "real trailblazers for in-app purchases," Lo said.
App Annie found that eight of the top 10 revenue producers for Google Play in October were based in either Japan or South Korea.
While App Annie did not publicly release revenues or numbers of downloads for either app store, other analyst firms have publicly released some of that data. For all of 2012, IHS iSuppli projected that Apple's App Store will take in $4.9 billion in revenue, up from $2.9 billion in 2011.
Since the App Store is expected to earn nearly $5 billion in 2012, that means Google Play is on pace to earn about $1.25 billion in 2012, according to the 4-to-1 revenue ratio that App Annie revealed.
The App Store launched five years ago and offers more than 700,000 apps. In March, Apple revealed that 25 billion apps have been downloaded, with more than $4 billion paid out to developers.
About half of all apps on the various apps stores are free, according to several analysts. An apps business Web site, 148Apps.biz, said earlier this year that about 23% of apps cost 99 cents, while 9% cost $1.99. About 15% range from $2.99 to $999.99.
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