Apple started a mobile app store revolution -- and plenty of people are making plenty of money from the concept. Indeed, mobile app stores will see annual downloads reach 102 billion in 2013, according to market research firm Gartner Inc. That's up from 64 billion in 2012.
Money-wise, total revenue in 2013 will reach $26 billion, up from $18 billion in 2012. And that's even with free apps accounting for 91 percent of total downloads. But the real money is in in-app purchases (IAPs). Gartner said IAPs will account for 48 percent of app store revenue by 2017, up from 11 percent in 2012.
"We expect strong growth in downloads through 2014, but growth is forecast to slow down a bit in later years," said 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."
Major Monetization Method
According to Gartner, IAP purchases will drive 17 percent of the store revenue in 2013 and increase to 48 percent in 2017. Much the same as downloads, IAP is expected to post strong growth in 2013 and 2014 and slow in later years. As Gartner sees it, this is because smart devices are reaching more mass-market consumers who are not as willing --- or cannot afford -- to spend on IAPs as early adopters. Nevertheless, Gartner said, IAP will become a major monetization method for apps stores and developers.
Brian Blau, research director at Gartner, noted that 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. And 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," Blau said. "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."
A Dual Strategy?