Apple App Store’s biggest December ever: 2B iOS apps downloaded

It was a very good holiday season for Apple developers, who saw a record number of their apps for iOS devices downloaded: Two billion in December alone. But it was also a pretty good year, and on Monday, Apple(s AAPL) released a bevy of statistics demonstrating the growth of its iOS App Store as well as the fortunes of its individual app makers.

Here are the new numbers Apple just released:

  • 40 billion apps have been downloaded — since the iOS App Store opened in 2008.
  • Half of those, 20 billion, were downloaded in 2012.
  • There are now 775,000 iOS apps available.
  • Apple has “over 500 million” active iTunes accounts, which means the company has that number of customer credit cards on file.
  • Developers, who get a 70 percent cut of app sales (Apple takes 30 percent), have made $7 billion since 2008.

December’s app numbers were very likely boosted by a large number of people unwrapping brand new iPads, iPad minis, iPhones and iPod Touches as holiday gifts — we don’t know how many just yet, but expect to hear that number during Apple’s earnings call in two weeks. But it’s important to remember that while total app downloads are one way of indicating how active a mobile platform is, plenty of people download an app and never use it again. It would be more useful to know how often many of those apps, now and in the future, are accessed.

This kind of App Store update from Apple is usually given at a product introduction press event or during an earnings call. In this case, it’s possible Apple felt that a year-end iOS stats update was in order right after the New Year. But the timing is also interesting since late last week, a report was issued stating that Google’s(s GOOG) app market, Google Play, may have surpassed Apple’s App Store total for the first time ever, with 800,000 apps for sale.

Updated at 6:24 a.m. PT to correct typo in number of Google apps for sale.