Apple's App Store hits 50 billion downloads

Tim Cook and Co. may have the champagne flowing over in Cupertino, because Apple has a has a pretty major milestone to celebrate.

The iPhone and iPad maker on has announced that its App Store officially hit the 50 billion app download mark this week; a figure that only includes unique downloads — not re-downloads or updates.

To commemorate the achievement, Apple handed out a $10,000 App Store gift card to one lucky man in the US, who downloaded the 50 billionth app. Brandon Ashmore from Ohio downloaded the free social word game Say the Same Thing by Space Inch, LLC to win the grand prize.

"Apple would like to thank our incredible customers and developers for topping 50 billion apps downloaded," Eddy Cue, Apple's senior vice president of Internet software and services, said in a statement. "The App Store completely transformed how people use their mobile devices and created a thriving app ecosystem that has paid out over nine billion dollars to developers. We're absolutely floored to cross this milestone in less than five years."

Given the immense popularity of the App Store today, it's almost hard to recall its humble beginnings. The App Store first opened in July 2008 with just 500 apps. Fast forward to today, and it now offers more than 850,000 apps to iPhone, iPad and iPod touch users in 155 countries. Apple said that customers are now downloading more than 800 apps per second, and two billion apps per month.

Rival tech giant Google isn't far behind when it comes to app downloads. During a keynote at Wednesday's Google I/O developer conference, Hugo Barra, vice president of Android product management, announced that Google Play recently crossed 48 billion app installs.

Google saw "2.5 billion installs in the last month alone," Barra added. "Even better, over the last four months, this year, we've already paid out more money to Android developers than in all of last year."