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Mobile App Stores will Develop New Social Features

Between them, Google Play and Apple’s App Store accounted for nearly 40 billion downloads in 2012. To put this accomplishment into perspective, consider that in 2009 the entire mobile app market accounted for less than 5 billion downloads.

According to the findings from their latest market study, Juniper Research has forecast that in 2017 over 160 billion software apps will be downloaded globally onto consumer handsets and tablets.

This sharp increase in volume -- from 80 billion in 2013 -- is a result of many consumers in developing markets upgrading from feature phones to smartphones, and a growing number of apps downloaded at no upfront cost.

Games Top the List of Mobile Apps

The Juniper study also found that the majority of annual application downloads will be in the games category, with at least 40 percent of downloads arising from this area.

Furthermore, app stores will seek to improve stickiness by developing social features that enable game-play between application users.

For instance, the recently announced Google Play Game Services allows for real-time multi-player games and leader boards across not only the Android platform but also iOS and the web.

This, coupled with an increasing number of apps which are free at the point of download, will lead to an explosion in the total number of apps downloaded.


Developer and Network Operator Challenges

Nevertheless, the challenge remains for developers to profit from their apps, as the downward pressure on pricing leaves many the only option to offer their apps for free at the point of download.

The rise of the app store has effectively cut many Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) out of the application software value chain.

"Carrier billing has become an increasingly viable option for MNOs who want to see a share of app store revenues, and also for app stores who want to distribute their content to un-banked consumers," said Siân Rowlands, research analyst at Juniper Research.

Other key findings from the study include:
  • Only 5 percent of apps will be paid for at the point of download in 2017, down from 6.1 percent this year.
  • Storefronts will improve their discovery services for consumers, as the influence of Amazon’s Appstore recommendation engine becomes more prominent.
  • MNOs must realise they won’t see as great a revenue share as they did during the pre-app store era.

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