App Store MoneyThe shift to mobility has certainly hurt the ability to pick clear winners and losers. In the era of beige-box PCs, bean-counters could glance at market share data. But growth of smartphones and apps shattered such easy measurements The battle between Apple’s iOS and Google’s Android is more of an optical illusion where the “winner” can triumph in terms of market share, but lose when it comes to revenue.

Still, people want clear winners and losers and Time magazine is just the latest to answer the call. According to the magazine’s website, the winner is – well, that really depends…

After sorting through an avalanche of graphs and pie charts, Time’s Harry McKracken admits there is no definite objective answer.

“Android if you’re talking about market share; iOS if you mean financial success,” he writes.

That conclusion was reinforced by new figures showing the number of Android-based apps are growing, but the Google Play market place revenue remains woefully behind Apple’s App Store.

Canalys app revenue and downloads

In terms of sheer numbers of devices, Android is leading.

Time cites figures from Kantar showing a 52.1 percent to 43.5 percent for Google’s mobile software.

Kantar IDC smartphone sales

Although McKracken rightly describes the numbers as “more of a freeze-frame of the competition” between mid-November 2012 and mid-February 2013 than fluid reality, the figures were for sales, not usage.

Like the shipments versus revenue picture, higher sales do not equate to higher usage.

uTest app quality

For instance, we recently reported on a Citrix study that found 62 percent of its enterprise customers deployed iOS device, compared to 35 percent for Android handsets. By the way, the Cytrix report coincided with a new research announcing 97 percent of mobile malware targeted Android.

In another case, NetMarketshare found 60.1 percent of mobile browsers were online with iOS versus 24.9 percent for Android. The reports suggest that while Android devices are numerically leading, usage is dominated by Apple’s iOS.

NetMarketShare StatCounter (Android, iOS usage)

Then there is the question of revenue.

As Time indicated, the number of Android-based apps is approaching those available on Apple’s App Store.

McKracken also cites Canalys figures showing 51 percent of apps downloaded were Android while 40 percent were iOS during the first quarter of 2013.

Similar numbers arrived Wednesday from App Annie, where researchers announced Google Play and the App Store were at 90 percent parity, when it came to downloads during the first quarter.

app-downloadsAppAnnie app revenue

According to App Annie:

While the iOS App Store and Google Play both had solid gains in app downloads last quarter, Google Play had a higher percentage growth rate as well as a greater gain in absolute downloads.

As of Q1 2013, Google Play’s app downloads were close to 90% of iOS App Store downloads.

So, if Google Play had more downloads than the App Store, it should follow that revenue increased as well, right?

Not quite so fast.

Cytrix enterprise use

App Annie explains that despite increasing the number of app downloads and growing its revenue by 90 percent between Q4 2012 and Q1 2013, the App Store actually earned 2.6 times as much absolute revenue as the Android-based Google Play.

As Time’s McKracken points out, “iOS users are spending much more on apps, even if they’re downloading fewer of them overall.” In a similar vein, Apple was seen as earning $3 out of every $4 made by top app stores, according to a Canalys research earlier this year.

Why is Apple losing the market share war, but winning in revenue?

Perhaps a hint comes from the head of Major League Baseball, a business used to understanding curve balls.

Bob Bowman, speaking at a conference sponsored by AllThingsD yesterday, suggested Apple’s lack of a low-end device only bolsters the chance of spending coming from iOS rather than Android.

His user base, which used to split 80/20 in favor of iOS over Android, has now moved to 70/30. “The Samsung phone is quite a good Android phone,” Bowman said.

However, the uptick in Android users doesn’t track with revenue as 80 percent of MLB’s digital revenues are from iOS devices while Android accounts for just fifteen percent of sales, “maybe even 85/15,” Bowman said.