The mobile applications (apps) business has reached maturity and is now growing exponentially. Apps generated impressive revenues of $12 billion in 2012, and in total 46 billion apps were downloaded in the year, taking the cumulative all-time total downloads to 83 billion.
By comparison, the all-time cumulative total number of downloads stood at 37 billion at the end of 2011 -- which more than doubled by 2012, according to the latest market study by Portio Research.
Moreover, during 2012, more apps were downloaded than in the previous 5 years combined.
This doubling of the market is forecast to happen once again in 2013. Portio's forecasts show that 2013 will see 82 billion apps downloaded worldwide -- taking the cumulative total to 165 billion apps by the end of the year.
Revenues are also forecast to grow rapidly. During 2012 app revenues reach $12 billion, in 2013 the forecast is for worldwide app revenues to reach $20.4 billion.
From this doubling of the apps business in 2013, Portio forecasts that downloads will continue to grow to exceed 200 billion per year by the end of 2017, and revenues in 2017 will reach $63.5 billion.
While the global mobile subscriber base is forecast to grow at a CAGR of 4.8 percent over the period 2012 to 2017, and annual handset shipments are expected to increase at a CAGR of 6.6 percent over the same time frame -- apps downloads are forecast to grow at 35.9 percent CAGR.
Portio's assessment shows that in mature markets, usage of apps per person is starting to level off, in Europe and North America, the number of apps downloaded per person is reaching a stable level. What’s driving the growth in the app download business is the rapid growth in smartphone and tablet sales.
Smartphone shipments worldwide are expected to reach 823 million this year, in 2013. Smartphones accounted for around 41 percent of total handset shipments during 2012. It's also expected to reach 46 percent during 2013, and more than half (56 percent) of total handset shipments will be smartphones by 2017.
From 680 million smartphones shipped in 2012, Portio expects to see 1296 smartphones shipped in 2017.
Tablet shipments are forecast to average a CAGR of 24 percent over the period 2012-2017, rising from 2012 shipments of 136 million, to 2013 shipments of 208 million, going on to 2017 shipments of 398 million devices.
In summary, Portio forecasts that over the period 2012-2017, the number of mobile apps users will grow at a CAGR of 29.8 percent, to reach 4.4 billion users by the end of 2017 -- that's 4 times as many apps users as there are today.