Actually, There Are Already Well Over 5,000 iPad Apps. The iPad Told Me.

Earlier today, a number of publications (including us) ran with the story that the App Store was closing in on 5,000 apps, with 4,870. These numbers came from analytics startup Distimo, which generally has good data and insight into the various app stores. But, naturally, it’s always better to get your data from the source. And while Apple, unsurprisingly, isn’t talking, they don’t have to. Because the iPad is.

The number of iPad apps in the App Store is actually already well past 5,000. How do I know? Sometime in the past couple of days, Apple added a new “Release Date” area to the iPad version of the App Store. This resides next to the standard “New” and “What’s Hot” areas along the top of the store. It’s simply a new way to sort through the apps. But this area has another nifty feature: it tells you how many apps there are in total so you know where you are in the navigation. According to this number, there are 5,351 iPad apps in the App Store.

To be clear, these are apps that are either iPad-only apps, or Universal ones (that work with both the iPad and iPhone/iPod touch). This isn’t counting any of the regular iPhone apps that still work on the iPad, or obviously, there would be something like the 200,000 number Steve Jobs cited yesterday.

This new Release Date area of the iPad App Store is actually very useful. Since the iPad is new, there are obviously far fewer apps built specifically for it than the iPhone/iPod touch. And while Apple’s New and What’s Hot area are pretty good at surfacing good apps (as is the “Top Charts” area), if you want the latest and greatest iPad apps to test out before any of your friends have them, this Release Date area is the place to be.

Update: Distimo has let me know in the comment that their data is only through April 26, hence the discrepancy.