Android app downloads on track to surpass iPhone by 2016

Apple's iPad has seen more than 3 billion downloads, while Android tablets only have had approximately 440 million by comparison.

Although analysts argued that the Kindle Fire did in fact nibble away at some of the iPad's sales during the 2011 holiday season, Apple's tablet is still being praised for other achievements this week.

Notably, the iPad has surpassed more than 3 billion downloads since it first debuted in 2010, according to ABI Research’s Mobile Applications Market Data report.

By comparison, Android tablets only seen approximately 440 million downloads overall.

That could be attributed to a number of reasons, some of which ABI Research covers, including the fact that there are more than 120,000 apps designed for the iPad alone.

Additionally, the fragmentation on Google's mobile OS isn't helping it at the moment. With many different tablets and smartphones running on various strains of Android -- not all of which are supported on older devices -- that holds the operating system back overall. At the same time, Apple only has two tablets (the iPad 1 and iPad 2), and both support the most current operating system, iOS 5, as well as all three iPhones still on the market. (Albeit, iOS 5 is reportedly not that great on some first-generation iPads.)

That definitely gives Apple some breathing space -- but the iOS maker can't relax for too long. The ABI report also posits that annual Android app downloads for smartphones are expected to hit 58 billion by 2016, more than double the expected 27 billion for Apple’s iPhone.

The iPhone has also been slower than the iPad when tracked by app download statistics. For example, the iOS-based smartphone took roughly two years to achieve the number of downloads that the iPad did in a year and a half.

Yet, it can also be argued that the iPhone paved the way for the iPad -- and perhaps even smartphones in general since it debuted in 2007. Nevertheless, that argument won't hold up for long if Android smartphone downloads increase at ABI's predicted rate over Apple's mobile operating system.