Consumers will have downloaded 25 billion mobile applications to their smartphones by the year 2015, claims market research firm Juniper Research in a report released today. That's an increase from less than 2.6 billion applications in 2009.
Part of this projected increase is due to the launch of additional "app stores" worldwide, including those in large markets like China and India. However, cautions the report, just mimicking Apple's model alone may not be enough. "Customers are buying the iPhone for the apps," says report author Dr. Windsor Holden. "That's not been the case with other handsets."
Big Markets, Lots of Downloads
The report specifically makes mention of app store efforts from China Unicom, India's Bharti and the Vodafone 360 app and games shop, the latter available on 247 mobile networks in more than 60 countries. Also mentioned is GetJar, a cross-platform mobile application store which just exceeded 1 billion downloads last month.
Although perhaps not a household name yet, GetJar offers around 65,000 applications (compared to Apple's 225,000, for example). The company aims to triple its revenue over the course of the next year, double its workforce and make its online store more reliable and user-friendly, GetJar CMO Patrick Mork told the Wall St. Journal in June.
25 Billion by 2015...or 50 Billion by 2012? Conflicting Reports Confuse
In that same article, Mork said consumers would download 7 billion applications to their handsets in 2009, a number much higher than that reported by Juniper today. He also said that 50 billion apps would be downloaded in 2012, a number twice as large as the one being reported for 2015 by Juniper's report.
Mork didn't pull those numbers out of thin air, however. They come from a report GetJar commissioned, released in March. Consulting firm Chetan Sharma Consulting performed an independent study which predicted a year-over-year growth rate of 92% for mobile app downloads, with an economy that would generate $17.5 billion in sales by 2012.
Whether or not you want to believe those numbers or the more conservative predictions from Juniper, however, is up to you. We feel more comfortable with Juniper's numbers, though, over those from a commissioned study financed by an app store company.
Don't Just Copy Apple
Juniper's report also warns that simply copying the Apple "iTunes App Store" model may not be enough to encourage developers to build apps for a particular platform. (Case in point: Palm's webOS or Nokia's OVI store, perhaps?) Instead, an app store would need to demonstrate sufficient scale in order for developers to get involved.
After noting that people are buying the iPhone specifically for the apps, Holden said the same may not be true for other mobile manufacturers. "Even if you have a subscriber base of tens of millions," says Holden, "your addressable market is a fraction of that - and spread across a variety of operating systems and handsets."
Also according to Holden, "freemium" is now becoming the prevalent business model for mobile applications, with in-app purchases, subscription services, micropayments for virtual items and upgrades to premium content as the method for monetizing a developer's efforts.