Google Play has more downloads, but iOS still rakes in most of the profits

Sometime last fall, Apple’s iOS App Store(s AAPL) and Google’s Play(s GOOG) reached rough parity in the total number of apps they offer for download. But the two mobile app stores remain unequal in other ways: While Google Play accounted for a majority of worldwide mobile app downloads during the first quarter of 2013, Apple continues to rake in almost all the profits: it claimed 74 cents for every dollar spent on apps during the quarter, according to a report by Canalys published Monday.

This is basically mirroring the dynamic we’ve seen play out between Android handset makers and the iPhone maker: Apple takes in a vast majority of the profits in the smartphone industry while Android device makers sell far more handsets.

Here’s the stat breakdown on Android versus iOS downloads in the Canalys App Interrogator report:

Worldwide, Apple’s App Store accounted for the largest indexed proportion of revenue between the four stores, at around 74%, while the Google Play store saw the greatest number of downloads, accounting for about 51% of the stores’ collective total, with Apple close behind.

Google has a bare majority of downloads, but that will likely get bigger as Android is by far the leading mobile platform by volume. What’s less certain is how quickly Android app downloads will be able to draw away the revenue advantage that Apple (and its developers) so clearly enjoy. Android app downloaders have historically demonstrated a preference for free apps.

As I wrote earlier this year, Google’s app marketplace is indeed starting to catch up to Apple’s in a variety of metrics, including quality of available apps, better store management and app curation. But the revenue factor is a huge one: as long as developers can continue to count on iOS device owners being more likely to spend money on apps, the longer it will take for the Android platform to attract high-quality, popular and exclusive app hits that make iOS users feel like they’re missing out.