With the release of the first Windows Phone 8 smartphones almost upon expectant consumers worldwide, Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) has announced an important milestone for its mobile operating system, Android. The Google play store, long seen as a second-tier rival to Apple’s (Nasdaq: AAPL) iOS app store, has now reached 700,000 downloadable applications, according to a report from Bloomberg Businessweek.

At its event announcing the iPad Mini last week, Apple reported that it now has more than 700,000 apps in its app store. This still gives the world’s most valuable company an edge in the mobile marketplace, but it is a gap that Google appears to be steadily closing.

The smartphone market is now worth some $219.1 billion, the same report states. Increasing the amount of third-party content that it can host for users makes any mobile operating system more appealing to the casual smartphone user, who wants to be able to access as many secure apps to download or stream content such as games, music, videos, and news to their mobile devices as possible.

Apple’s iOS powered mobile devices, the various iPhone and iPad models, have always sold at a higher initial price than their competitors, the general understanding being that a natural advantage in areas like its app ecosystem justifies the higher premium users are required to pay.

App developers, meanwhile, invariably develop their software for the market they find most promising, which has made Apple’s app store (carefully curated by the company itself) the most prestigious market to enter.

But in an increasingly crowded marketplace, mobile hardware companies are starting to feel the need to sell their own marketing potential to app developers. Just this week, for instance, the struggling Finnish tech company Nokia (NYSE: NOK) unveiled a new ad-exchange program essentially offering app developers the chance to better monetize their products if they develop for their upcoming line of Windows Phone 8 devices.

With its lead in the app market shrinking, Apple will need to begin competing with its major mobile rivals in other areas of hardware and software as more and more tablets are introduced that try to undercut the tech giant both in terms of price and available features. Google also recently unveiled its own 10-inch, $399 tablet to rival the original iPad both in size and cost.

The two companies also have introduced smaller tablets, though the newly-minted iPad mini defied many analyst expectations with a higher price point than expected price point of $329.

Similar to Nokia’s announcement earlier this week, Apple has tried to argue that its iOS operating system leads to more sales for app developers. The company said last week that developers have made $6.5 billion since the App Store was first launched in 2008.

Google stock rose on Wednesday morning following a pause in trading due to the markets being closed from Hurricane Sandy. Shares jumped as high as $681.00 in late morning trading. Apple shares opened lower than their closing point of $603.70 from Friday, Oct. 26, trading as low as $587.70 on Wednesday morning.