App downloads on the slide


Smartphone users will download 37 apps on average in 2012, but excitement will fade

The world's smartphone subscribers will download about 36 billion apps in 2012, resulting in almost 37 native apps through the year for the average smartphone subscriber. A new forecast reflects almost a 6% global increase to the 35 apps downloaded per smartphone subscriber on average in 2011.

However, despite the increase against 2011, ABI Research senior analyst Aapo Markkanen believes the average download count will not increase substantially over the coming years. Rather, it is more likely to start modestly decreasing.

Markkanen explained: 'When forecasting on app downloads one has to make a number of assumptions on, for instance, the device mix, developer activity, and the demographics of existing and future smartphone users. The next waves of smartphone subscribers in the more mature app markets of the US, Western Europe, and parts of Asia will be downloading quite notably fewer apps than, say, the first one third of the mobile consumers who bought smartphones.'

Another major factor contributing to the downward trend in average app downloads is the evolution of mobile web. The decision by the Financial Times to pull the plug on its iOS app and bet instead on HTML5 can be seen as a hint of what is to come next.

In many app categories, like games and most utilities, the web will probably never catch up with the native app opportunity in terms of user experience, but at the same time there are also some popular areas where it can be anticipated to come rather close.

According to Markkanen: 'News and magazine apps are a segment where the momentum is likely to shift towards the web within the next two to three years. Since news and media content already account for a large share of smartphone usage and are likely to play an even bigger role in later adopters' usage, changes in this segment alone will make subscribers on average download fewer native apps.'


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