Total iPad App Downloads Pass 3 Billion — Nearly 20% of iOS’ Total to Date

iPad owners have downloaded more than 3 billion apps for their tablets in the 20 months since the device made its debut, according to Singapore-based ABI Research. This means the iPad has accounted for almost 17 percent of the 18 billion total iOS downloads. By comparison ABI estimates the iPhone took as long as two years to reach the 3 billion app download mark.

No surprise here, but the figures cement the iPad as the clear tablet market leader, as Android tablets have only seen about 440 million tablet-specific app downloads so far. “In terms of hardware, the iPad device still offers much more compared to the current crop of tablets in the market,” said Dan Shey, ABI’s practice director in a press release. “Android is currently being used on many low end tablets that do not offer experiences anywhere near the iPad and this dampens the download momentum for users.”

European app tracking company Distimo found in November the 200 top grossing iPad apps generated more revenue than the top 200 hundred Android apps (both tablet and smartphone), which also indicates that both Android tablet app downloads and revenues are still well behind the iPad’s.

However, while Android tablets may be lagging now, Amazon’s Android-based Kindle Fire is challenging the iPad and eating into its sales according to investment firm Morgan Keegan. Strong holiday sales of the Kindle Fire prompted the company to lower its iPad fourth quarter sales estimates from 16 to 13 million. ABI Research also singled out the steady tablet adoption of Google’s latest version of the Android operating system, Ice Cream Sandwich as a signal that Android tablets will soon offer user experiences more in line with the iPad.

At the end of the third quarter of 2011, there were 120,000 apps specifically developed for the iPad, according to ABI.