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Google: Browser Is Most Popular Android App

Google (Nasdaq: GOOG)'s Android Marketplace now houses 70,000 mobile apps, but the most popular app, and the most important to Google, is the browser.

Jonathan Rosenberg, Google's senior vice president of project management, told investors on the company's second-quarter earnings call Thursday that clicks on mobile are growing much more rapidly than in any other area. Because of this, and even with Android handsets taking off at a rate of 160,000 activations per day in June, Google's mobile investment is "immaterial," according to Patrick Pichette, Google’s senior vice president and CFO.

With Google's hardware partners doing the heavy lifting in terms of building and promoting the devices, smartphones are aiding significantly to Google’s core business of mobile search, he said. (See Five Androids to Watch.)

"The most popular app is a browser," Rosenberg added on Google's earnings call, according to the Seeking Alpha transcript. “And what do people do with the browser on these devices? They search an order of magnitude more than they have on any previous type of smartphones, which they had in years past. So, the combination of people browsing on these smartphones connected on very, very fast networks, and searching on them is basically the formula around how... Google succeeds.”

Android search grew 300 percent in the first half of 2010, Rosenberg added, when asked if browser search growth adversely affects search within apps. Pichette said that mobile has grown 500 percent in the last two years in terms of traffic and that Google is an accelerator of that, although he didn’t break out mobile specific numbers compared to the desktop.

Both also admitted that Google still has more work to do on the mobile front, including improving its billing mechanisms, an oft-cited developer and consumer complaint about the platform. (See Android’s Fragmentation ‘Problem’.)

Overall, Google saw its net profit increase by 24 percent year-over-year, but its second-quarter earnings came in below analyst expectations. Cost-per-click growth was only 2 percent for the quarter, half of what it was last year, despite the growth in search.

Google is preparing to get more aggressive in mobile advertising, leveraging its AdMob Inc. acquisition and richer ad formats like click-to-call, Rosenberg said. (See JumpTap Lures Developers From Apple, Google.)

When asked if other avenues outside of advertising need to be explored to buoy Google's mobile business, Pichette noted that it's early days and the Android ecosystem is still growing -- and rapidly too.

"When we see an opportunity for people searching more, that's obviously something that we want to participate in," Rosenberg added. "So we see this platform is winning. We think that gives us an opportunity to build the mobile Internet and we think that in the long run that's going to be good for Google, it's going to be good for the applications developers, and it's going to be good for consumers. So we are investing in building that winning platform."

— Sarah Reedy, Senior Reporter, Light Reading Mobile

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