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Apps Created for Android, iPhone May Top 1 Million

However, it still appears that most users stick to the top 50 apps in either genre most of the time.

A milestone was hit today in the market for smartphone apps. There may be a million of them out there.

If all the mobile applications ever created for the Android and iOS operating systems are tallied, they exceed that magical number, according to the app counters at Appsfire.

Unsurprisingly, only about 800,000, or 80 percent, of those apps are still active, Appsfire estimated. However, predicted that the combined total for active apps will break one million sometime in December.

Appsfire also noted that iOS apps hold a slight edge over Android apps, 52 percent to 48 percent. That gap will narrow as active apps approach the one million mark, with the split being closer to 50-50.

However, a survey of websites of other app counters didn't yield numbers as high as Appsfire's. That may be because Appsfire included apps found outside the Android market and global app numbers in its tally. The 148Apps.biz site, for example, pegged the total number of apps ever seen in Apple's U.S. App Store to be 593,492, while AppBrain pinned the current total of Android apps in the market at 282,830.

Apps in the Android marketplace can fluctuate, especially toward the end of a quarter, explained AppBrain. That's when Google typically prunes the marketplace of dubious apps at that time, it said.

The Apps We Really Use

While raw app numbers can be impressive--and boost the credibility of the catch phrase "there's an app for that"--the fact is that the number of bread-and-butter apps in an app store is in the ballpark of about two-dozen. For example, pollster Nielsen found that Android users spent 43 percent of their time with the top 10 apps in that market. Furthermore, they spent 61 percent of their time with the top 50 apps, Nielsen noted.

So if only a few number of apps are actually used by users, why all the posturing about "my store has more apps than your store?" From a marketing point of view, "more" is almost as attractive as "new" to technology consumers--even if the more is more of the same. For example, PCWorld's app expert, Armando Rodriguez, says that more than 900 Solitaire game apps have been written for the iPhone and 1200 for Android.

[Read: Why the Number of Apps in an App Store Doesn't Matter]

"If you were to remove all the copycat apps, you would probably end up with around the same number of apps currently available on Windows Phone 7 (30,000), which is a huge difference in terms of app variety," Rodriguez observed. "That's not to say that the WP7 platform doesn't suffer from duplicates. It does--just not on the same scale as Android and iOS."

While a million apps is quite an achievement, it may reveal more about repackaging ideas than innovation in the apps market.

Follow freelance technology writer John P. Mello Jr. and Today@PCWorld on Twitter.

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