App downloads set to hit 102 billion in 2013 — mostly all free

If you own a smartphone it’s likely you download apps for it, and given the proliferation of mobile devices, it’s not surprising that the volume of app downloads is continuing to rocket.

According to Gartner, mobile app stores will see annual downloads reach 102 billion in 2013, up from 64 billion in 2012, with free apps accounting for a whopping 91 percent of the total downloads this year.

“Free apps currently account for about 60 percent and 80 percent of the total available apps in Apple’s App Store and Google Play, respectively,” says Brian Blau, research director at Gartner.

While it’s obviously difficult to make a paid app stand out in a hugely crowded marketplace, there is still money to be made, with total revenue from apps set to reach $26 billion this year, up from $18 billion in 2012. Gartner predicts that in-app purchases (IAPs) will account for 48 percent of app store revenue by 2017, up from 11 percent last year.

“We expect strong growth in downloads through 2014, but growth is forecast to slow down a bit in later years,” says Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner. “The average downloads per device should be high in early years as users get new devices and discover the apps they like. Over time they accumulate a portfolio of apps they like and stick to, so there will be moderate numbers of downloads in the later years”.

“iOS and Android app stores combined are forecast to account for 90 percent of global downloads in 2017,” Brian Blau says. “These app stores are still increasingly active due to richer ecosystems and large and very active developer communities. However, we expect average monthly downloads per iOS device to decline from 4.9 in 2013 to 3.9 in 2017, while average monthly downloads per Android device will decline from 6.2 in 2013 to 5.8 in 2017. This relates back to the overall trend of users using the same apps more often rather than downloading new ones”.

Mobile App Store Downloads, Worldwide, 2010-2016 (Millions of Downloads)

Source: Gartner (September 2013)

Additional information is available in Gartner’s report “Forecast: Mobile App Stores, Worldwide, 2013 Update”.

Image Credit: KROMKRATHOG/Shutterstock

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