Mobile App Inflection Point: 25 Billion Apps Downloaded in 2011

Mobile analytics company Flurry estimates that application downloads to Android and iOS will hit 25 billion in 2011. That is a 300% jump from 2010, when six billion were downloaded. Of those 25 billion, five billion are expected to come in December as consumers buy new smartphones and start downloading to satisfy their insatiable hunger for mobile goodness.

Smartphones have hit an inflection point. It is not the one we are waiting for quite yet (when 50% of all U.S. consumers have smartphones) but growth like this happens when critical mass of adoption has been realized and a behavior once reserved for early adopters becomes the cultural norm.

Around 43% of U.S. consumers have smartphones. It is likely that the 50% inflection point will come before Q3 of 2012. What will app downloads look like then? There is no way that 300% growth year-over-year can be sustained but the exponential rates will continue throughout the rest of this decade until smartphones and app adoption reaches the point of cultural ubiquity.

Flurry says that revenues from app downloads will reach $2.5 billion this year. In the New York Times story about Flurry’s data, there is no breakdown on where that revenue is broken down between paid downloads, in-app purchases, freemium services or advertising. It is likely that revenue number will double next year as more apps are downloaded and a lot of the marketing programs, analytics services, engagement activities and all the push notifications tied to those solutions mature and become more prevalent.

The NYT article also does not break that revenue down by platform. How is the pie sliced between Android and iOS? Android developers have long lamented that the platform is not conducive to making money and that is one of the reasons why developers first look to iOS with new apps before moving to Android. It used to be that iOS was just an easier environment to develop for and make great looking apps, but that particular barrier has eroded in 2011 with a plethora of terrific Android apps coming to the platform.

There is also the question of how the rest of the ecosystem will evolve or devolve. My biggest question for 2012 is: what is going to happen to Research In Motion? Will the ecosystem rebound and if so, how will its app ecosystem grow with it? Same goes for Windows Phone 7, which has positioned itself well to have a growing and robust application ecosystem that developers can monetize well.

If 25 billion apps were downloaded in 2011, developers, carriers, OEMs and consumers should be getting excited for what is going to happen in 2012 and beyond. What are your expectations for the mobile ecosystem in the coming year?

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