Today most mobile applications for smartphones are downloaded from app stores. According to ABI Research data, last year consumers downloaded some 2.4 billion applications from such stores, and the download rate will accelerate over the next few years until in 2013 smartphone downloads are expected to peak at just below seven billion. Apple’s app store will continue to lead the field.
That will be the high point, however, and in the years that follow, smartphone download rates from app stores will start a slow decline (although total downloads from all sources will probably continue to grow.)
According to senior analyst Mark Beccue: “App stores aren’t going away; following the 2013 peak in demand, the number of downloads in 2015 will have decreased only 7% or 8%. But as our use of the mobile internet evolves, demand will increasingly shift elsewhere.”
The mobile web is getting more and more sophisticated, noted Beccue, so that more subscribers will use the functionality on mobile websites themselves rather than dedicated apps. “We see two emerging trends; first, many applications (increasingly built on web standards) will migrate from app stores to regular websites, and for some sites you won’t need an app at all. In addition, more and more popular applications will be preloaded on mobile devices. Social networking apps in particular will be pre-loaded on new products.”
This discussion has centred on smartphones and other high end devices that allow optimized mobile web experiences, which effectively means that we’re talking about mature markets. However another development may change that; mobile network operators (MNOs) will increasingly launch their own app stores, and these outlets may extend the principle of downloadable apps to feature phones, which means access to many newer and developing markets where smartphone penetration is lower.