We’re not even a week into 2012, but Google’s Android team may already have reason to celebrate. Just a few weeks ago, Google celebrated their ten billionth Android app download, and now new research from mobile app analytics firm Distimo reports that there are 400,000 apps available in the Android Market.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that free apps make up a considerable portion of that 400,000, and Distimo’s research indicates that the ratio of free to paid apps has jumped from 60% to 68% over the last eight months. Distimo pegs the prevalence of free apps on the current popularity of the freemium app economy, which also isn’t much of a surprise considering the potential payouts inherent to the model.
Interestingly, while the overall number of applications has surged, the average number of applications developed by individual developers has dropped. There are nearly 100,000 registered developers creating rich content for Android, but they create 4.1 apps on average these days as opposed to the five apps per developer seen last year.
This latest milestone also has Android picking up speed when it comes to app submissions. It took only four months for the Android Market to jump from 300,000 to 400,000 apps, compared to the seven months it took Apple’s App Store to hit the same numbers.
Still, that rapid growth may come at a cost for end-users — once a developer is registered, they can begin publishing apps directly into the marketplace. Google can ultimately yank questionable apps that they feel may violate their terms and conditions, but there are quite a few useless apps that manage to stick around anyway.
As is always the case with app numbers, it’s a question of quantity versus quality. I’d much rather see a slower rate of growth that features more fully-developed apps rather than blistering growth thanks to scores of slap-dash apps. That’s not a knock against Android in particular — Apple has their fair share of crappy apps too — but I think there’s something to be said for emphasizing overall market quality rather than sheer speed of growth. Still, that the’s blessing (and curse) of the Android approach. When everyone can publish an app with very little oversight, plenty of devs will publish phenomenal ones, and many many others won’t.