Gartner: Mobile app downloads to surpass 100B in 2013

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Mobile app stores will generate annual downloads of 102 billion in 2013, up from 64 billion a year ago, according to a new forecast from research firm Gartner.

Annual mobile app downloads will surpass 138 billion in 2014 and eclipse 268 billion in 2017, Gartner projects. "We expect strong growth in downloads through 2014, but growth is forecast to slow down a bit in later years," Gartner Research Director Sandy Shen said. "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." 

App stores across the mobile ecosystem will rake in combined revenues of $26 billion this year, increasing from $18 billion in 2012, Gartner said. Free applications will represent 91 percent of total installs in 2013, a slight increase from 89.6 percent last year.

"Free apps currently account for about 60 percent and 80 percent of the total available apps in Apple's (NASDAQ:AAPL) App Store and Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) Play, respectively," said Gartner Research Director Brian Blau. "iOS and Android app stores combined are forecast to account for 90 percent of global downloads in 2017. 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."

In-app purchases will account for 17 percent of total revenues this year, up from 11 percent in 2012, and are on pace to reach 48 percent of revenues by 2017, Gartner added. While IAP is a major contributor to worldwide iOS app revenues, rival platforms have not reached the same levels, although Gartner expects their respective IAP contributions will increase in the future. 

"We see that users are not put off by the fact that they have already paid for an app, and are willing to spend more if they are happy with the experience," Blau said. "As a result, we believe that IAP is a promising and sustainable monetization method because it encourages performance-based purchasing; that is, users only pay when they are happy with the experience, and developers have to work hard to earn the revenue through good design and performance." 

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