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With 10 billion downloads in the books, here are the most popular iOS apps

by Phil Hornshaw

When Gail Davis downloaded Paper Glider on January 22, she probably wasn’t expecting to make iTunes App Store history. The UK resident was awarded a $10,000 iTunes gift card for downloading the 10 billionth app from the App Store.

Apple (AAPL), of course, is the real winner here. In conjunction with the 10 billionth app downloaded, the company has taken the opportunity to release lists showing the most popular apps ever on both its mobile platforms. These lists show us some things about what interests iPhone and iPad owners individually -- and it shows some potential gaps in the kind of apps that are offered on the iPad, which savvy developers might be able to fill.

While there is some fuzzy math in Apple’s methodology - “paid” apps, for instance, can be titles that briefly had a price but were otherwise free - there are some insights to be gleaned from taking a look at the lists Apple has put together.

Here is how the rankings of the top free and paid iPhone and iPad titles look with 10 billion apps downloaded.

All-Time Top Paid iPhone Apps

  1. Doodle Jump
  2. Tap Tap Revenge 3
  3. Pocket God
  4. Angry Birds
  5. Tap Tap Revenge 2.6
  6. Bejeweled 2 + Blitz
  7. Traffic Rush
  8. Tap Tap Revenge Classic
  9. AppBox Pro Alarm
  10. Flight Control

All-Time Top Free iPhone Apps

  1. Facebook
  2. Pandora Radio
  3. Google Mobile App
  4. Shazam
  5. Movies by Flixster
  6. The Weather Channel
  7. Google Earth
  8. Bump
  9. Skype
  10. Paper Toss

All-Time Top Paid iPad Apps

  1. SoundHound
  2. StickWars
  3. FlightTrack
  4. Backbreaker Football
  5. Calorie Tracker
  6. BlocksClassic
  7. iFart Mobile
  8. GoodReader for iPad
  9. Cro-Mag Rally
  10. Ambiance

All-Time Top Free iPad Apps

  1. Pandora
  2. Google Mobile App
  3. Movies by Flixster
  4. Google Earth
  5. Yelp
  6. Fandango Movies
  7. Remote
  8. iBooks
  9. Bible
  10. Solitaire

Here are our takeaways.

First, take a look and compare the top paid iPhone apps list and the top paid iPad list. Now, we can’t get too speculative -- Apple’s fuzzy numbers preclude us from drawing too many conclusions from what we see here -- but there does seem to be a pretty big distinction between what people on each platform are downloading. The iPhone is littered with games, many of them highly popular, most of them made with a pretty high degree of polish. Rovio Mobile’s Angry Birds is a phenomenon, gets updated with extra levels, and regardless of exactly how fun it is, it’s a very well-made app. The same is true for the Tap Tap Revenge series (TapTapTap is actually owned by Disney, a name with quite some power and money behind it). The only app on the whole list that does anything but play is AppBox Pro, considered by us to be one of those apps you download first thing when you buy an iPhone for its high degree of functionality.

iPad owners have different interests. Weighed against the iPad list, it suggests people use the platforms for different things -- namely, e-reading on the iPad, not so much on iPhone (not really shocking when you hold the two products up next to each other). And while iPad has its gaming representation, they’re not big, well-known games. StickWars appears lower on the most-downloaded list for iPhone, and if it’s the most downloaded game on the iPad, that suggests the platform lacks a “killer app” when it comes to gaming. Seems iPad needs its own Angry Birds.

I’d say the issue comes down to control when you consider gaming on the iPad. The big plus of the iPhone is that it fits easily in two hands and you can reach all parts of the screen while you’re gripping it. That’s not the case with the iPad, and the lack of games on the list might suggest that developers looking to create more innovative, iPad-specific experiences are reaching into an untapped market.