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Study finds ‘iPhone is for games, Android is for apps’

by Phil Hornshaw

We’ve seen a lot of studies breaking down the app markets for Apple’s iOS platform as compared to Google’s Android lately, since the year is winding down. Lots of market research firms are taking stock of the two biggest rivals in the mobile industry, and coming up with some interesting findings.

The latest is a study from Xyologic, which analyzed the top 25 publishers for both iOS and Android and came to the conclusion that “iPhone is for games, Android is for apps.” This is because of the top 150 apps in the iTunes App Store, Xyologic found that 100 of them were games. Meanwhile, in the Android Market, only 85 of the top 150 apps were games.

The difference in downloads between the two platforms is stark, as well: Apple users downloaded 71.6 million gaming apps in November, and 25.6 million other apps during that same period. On Android, the reverse is true, with 91.5 million downloads going to non-game apps and 33.4 million going to games in November. In 2010, Android users were even more slanted toward non-gaming apps, with only 34 of the top 150 apps in the Android Market being games, compared to 79 games of the top 150 iOS apps.

It’s a stark contrast, and perhaps telling of a few things about the differences between iOS and Android. As GigaOM points out, Apple’s iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad are becoming pretty big contenders in the video game sphere. Apple seems to be actively cultivating that view with its latest devices and the addition of its A5 chip to the iPhone 4S and iPad 2, both of which have been marketed as being powerful mobile gaming machines.

But while some tech sites have read a difference in the kind of users that pick up Android devices as compared to iOS devices, it’s probably a lot less about the cultures surrounding these devices and much more about the platforms. A recently batch of data released by Distimo found that the top 200 apps in the iTunes App Store were making, on average, four times as much revenue for their developers than the top 200 apps in Android Market. The apps that make the most money in both markets tend to be games, suggesting that if you’re a game maker and you want to make money, you take your apps to Apple rather than Android.

The drawbacks of the Android platform, like fragmentation and difficulty with app discovery, has caused many developers to choose not to pursue the platform, or to take their apps to iOS first. Games on Android tend to be freemium – free to download but including in-app purchases for in-game items – a lot more often than on iOS, as well.

That suggests that while there could be fundamental differences in the kind of people who opt for Android over iOS, it’s much more likely that the reason there are so many more games in the top slots for Apple’s platform is that they tend to do well there. It’s also hard to fathom that with 700,000 device activations daily, Android devices are tending to only attract people who want to use them for work or who are much more tech-minded. In other words, it’s probably not about culture or specialization in one kind of app over another.

Xyologic’s findings paint an interesting picture of the two rival app markets by showing off their trends, but they tend to show where each needs to put its focus. Android is logging quite a few more downloads than iOS, suggesting Apple needs to keep growing its market share, especially in emerging markets. And iOS attracts more developers and more moneymaking gaming apps, which suggests Android needs to solve some of the problems with its market in order to do the same.