Apple is set to lose its crown as the world’s most popular app platform to Google in the next few months as its rival rapidly closes the downloading gap with the iPad maker.

The moment marks the end of one of Apple’s longstanding advantages, amid formidable competition from Samsung and new devices from Google’s Motorola.

Apple has used its superior apps presence to retain a competitive edge over smartphone rivals as they improve their hardware offerings but Android has recently won over most developers, creating a larger selection of apps that may soon overtake Apple’s.

Apple last month announced that 50bn apps had been downloaded for its iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, with more than 850,000 available at the App Store. At the same time, Google said 48bn apps had been downloaded to Android devices. With Google touting 2.5bn downloads per month against Apple’s 2bn, researchers at Asymco and Enders Analysis predict that Google will surpass Apple by total downloads and apps available in the next few months.

“The [download] rate for Play is higher so I would imagine it will have a higher total in a few months if not sooner,” says Horace Dediu of Asymco.

Apple, which has sold about 600m iOS devices compared with about 900m Android gadgets, is expected to unveil its latest operating system at its Worldwide Developer Forum next week.

The iPhone and iPad remain more lucrative sources of revenue for app makers than Google’s rival Play store.

Distimo, a provider of app analytics tools, estimates that Google Play’s share of daily revenues from the main app stores has increased “significantly” in the past six months, from 19 per cent in November 2012 to 27 per cent in April.

“It’s not always true that the revenue will be less on Google,” says Vincent Hoogsteder, Distimo’s chief executive, noting that some apps, such as Whatsapp Messenger, make more from Android in certain countries, such as Spain and Italy.

However, at $5.1m, the daily revenue of the top 200 grossing apps in the US App Store is still more than four times larger than the equivalent on Google Play, according to Distimo’s estimate. Apple said last month that it had paid out more than $9bn to developers though the App Store since launch, after taking its 30 per cent cut of each app sold.

While Android devices still lack some of the most popular apps available for the iPhone, developers often launch on both platforms almost simultaneously. Zynga’s Draw Something 2 game appeared on Google Play last week, a month after it launched on iOS, while Vine, Twitter’s six-second video app that was released for iPhone in January, is expected on Android imminently.

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