Because Google’s free Android software is available in many shapes, price points and across a variety of carriers and manufacturers, the search giant has relatively easy and early on taken the lead in terms of device activations. But even with its clear lead in terms of unit sales, Android has always lagged behind iOS in terms of quantity of the apps found on its store, dubbed the Google Play Store. Today, Google has announced that its store now carries 700,000 third-party apps, which means that the Play Store has officially matched the App Store in sheer number of apps available…

Brian Womack, reporting for Bloomberg:

By luring software developers to its Android platform, Google is attempting to eliminate a key selling point Apple has used for the iPhone and iPad.

Applications have become a battleground as the two companies look for an edge in the $219.1 billion smartphone market, akin to how Microsoft Corp. dominated the personal-computer business by getting other companies to write programs for its Windows operating system.

The report doesn’t mention the number of tablet-optimized apps on the Android store, though Google executives mentioned at yesterday’s Nexus media event that any application written for an Ice Cream Sandwich-driven seven-inch tablet should scale up nicely to eight, nine and ten-inch tablets and beyond.

Rather than run blown up iPhone apps, Apple prides itself with more than 275,000 apps that have been written specifically for the iPad. Apple’s press release from last week updates us with the latest statistics about its platform:

iPad runs over 700,000 apps available on the App Store, including more than 275,000 apps designed specifically for iPad, from a wide range of categories including books, games, business, news, sports, health, reference and travel. iPad also supports the more than 5,000 newspapers and magazines offered in Newsstand and the more than 1.5 million books available on the iBookstore.

The iTunes Store puts the world’s most popular online music, TV and movie store at your fingertips with a catalog of over 26 million songs, over 190,000 TV episodes and over 45,000 films. The new iBooks app for iPad lets users read ebooks in over 40 languages.

Of course, quantity is one thing and quality is an entirely different thing. People more often part with their hard-earned money to buy hardware and software in the Apple ecosystem compared to Android. Contrast this to the ad-supported nature of the Android platform, with users not buying apps as often as their Apple counterparts do.

This has helped Apple pay $6.5 billion to developers since the App Store’s inception in the summer of 2008 – and that’s after Apple’s customary 30 percent cut. Whichever way you look at it, the breadth and quality of apps available on Apple’s App Store still makes Apple’s platform the most lucrative playground for both developers and users out there.

We will see if Google matches to beat Apple on two other important metrics – the quality and breadth of Android apps and its app store’s revenue.

What do you think?

How long until Android becomes a more lucrative ecosystem for developers than Apple’s iOS platform?