Google has long positioned Android as the open standards alternative to the closed iOS ecosystem operated by Apple. But a comparison of the top apps among Android and iOS users in November by NPD Group suggests that Android has proven to be a highly effective platform for promoting the use of other Google services.
Four of the top five apps among Android users, based on reach, come from Google Search, on 85% of Android phones, Gmail (83%), Google Maps (74%), Facebook (70%) and YouTube (60%). Google Search by Voice comes in at No. 6 with 57% reach, and Google+ at No. 10 (24%).
On the iOS side, Facebook ranks as the top app (86%), followed by Apple’s native weather app (43%), YouTube (40%), Amazon (38%) and App Trailers (35%). (Not included in the iOS top app list is use of the native mail client, used by 94% of users, with the vast majority likely accessing Gmail.)
Linda Barrabee, research director for NPD’s Connected Intelligence service, points out in a blog post today that the top apps for each platform reflect the different approaches of Apple and Google to the smartphone market. Apple is mainly interested in selling hardware and Google in pushing search and other ad opportunities.
Still, she notes that the proliferation of Google-branded apps atop the Android list is striking compared to top iOS apps.
Apple pulling the YouTube app from iOS 6 last year didn’t help Apple users “surface” the Google-owned video property on the iPhone and iPad. There was also the Apple Maps debacle, with Google last month introducing Google Maps for iOS 6 to the great relief of iPhone users.
Google Maps quickly became the most popular app in the App Store, reaching 10 million downloads in just the first 48 hours. It’s still the No. 2 title in the App Store, and would likely be included in NPD’s top 10 list if the data extended to December. But the rollout of a freestanding Google Maps app for Apple customers “still does not equate to parity in Google service experiences cross-OS, and may continue to impact usage as well,” writes Barrabee.
For now, Google is still the default search engine for iOS devices. But given the fierce rivalry between Google and Apple, it won’t be surprising to see rumors re-emerge that Apple is switching to Bing as its built-in search box with the next iOS update. The Apple Maps fiasco underscores the risks for Apple, however, in substituting its own alternatives for popular Google tools.