Mobile Computing | Research

Free Apps To Make Up 89 Percent of Mobile Downloads This Year

Across all mobile platforms, nearly 90 percent of all downloads from app stores will be free apps in 2012. And, according to a new report from Gartner, 90 percent of the apps for which users are willing to pay will cost less than $3. Total downloads this year are projected to be nearly last year's figure.

Free Apps Dominate, Cheap Apps Growing Among Paid Apps
According to the report, "Market Trends: Mobile App Stores, Worldwide, 2012," in 2011 there were 24.94 billion app downloads from app stores, such as Google Play/Android Market, the Apple App Store, and others. Of those, 88.4 percent (about 22 billion) were for free apps, while about 2.9 billion were for paid apps.

In 2012, the total number of app downloads is forecast to grow by an enormous 83 percent and continue to grow at a rate of about 50 percent to 79 percent each year through 2016. As that happens, according to Gartner, the percentage of free app downloads will continue to grow as well.

  • In 2012, total app downloads will be 45.62 billion, 89 percent of which will be free.
  • In 2013, total app downloads will increase to 81.42 billion, with free apps making up 90 percent of total downloads.
  • In 2014, according to Gartner's forecast, total app downloads will hit 131.67 billion, with 91 percent of those being free apps.
  • In 2015, total downloads will jump to 205.38 billion, 92 percent of which will be free apps.
  • And in 2016, total downloads will soar to 309.61 billion, with 93 percent of those being free apps.

Among paid apps, those costing less than $3 will make up 87.5 percent of downloads in 2012, a figure that will jump to 96 percent by 2016, according to Gartner Research Director Sandy Shen.

Top App Venues
The big platform vendors (Apple, Google, and Microsoft) currently dominate app downloads, according to Brian Blau, research director at Gartner.

"Apple's market share is the largest, considering its App Store accounts for 25 percent of available apps in all stores," Blau said in a prepared statement. "The number of apps available is driven by an increasing number of stores in the market today that include platform owners, device vendors, communication service providers (CSPs) and others who want to offer core mobile app services. These stores will see their combined share of total downloads increase, but demand for apps overall will still be dominated by Apple, Google and Microsoft."

Outside of the big platform vendors, third-party vendors will also make their presence felt in the coming years, Gartner predicted.

"Amazon has appealed to users with its strong brand, global presence and a good selection of high-quality content while Facebook's recently launched App Center--supporting both mobile devices and desktops--will become a powerful competitor due to its strong brand and leading position in social networking and gaming," Shen said in a prepared statement. "In China, there is a boom market of independent Android stores, due to the lack of presence of Google Play and 'weak' stores from CSPs. We expect to see more new entrants to the market, aiming to deepen relationships with their customers and/or to capture some of this growth market."

Additional details can be found in the complete report on Gartner's site.

About the Author

David Nagel is the executive producer for 1105 Media's online K-12 and higher education publications and electronic newsletters. He can be reached at dnagel@1105media.com. He can now be followed on Twitter at http://twitter.com/THEJournalDave (K-12) or http://twitter.com/CampusTechDave (higher education). You can also connect with him on LinkedIn at http://www.linkedin.com/profile/view?id=10390192.

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