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Mobile app downloads to reach 160bn by 2017, free apps dominate

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Mobile app downloads will surpass 160 billion by the end of 2017, suggests a new report, with the majority of that figure attributed to free apps.

The new paper published by Juniper Research said that free apps will dominate the over 160 billion downloads that will occur by 2017.

Only 5 per cent of the 160 billion will equate to paid-for app downloads as those offering freemium content and those reliant on advertising continue to wield increased success in the app stores.

The huge rise in app downloads can be attributed in part to the developing market consumers choosing to upgrade from feature phones to smartphones, therefore opening up the entire Google Play, App Store or other app store libraries for the first time.

Free apps will continue to do well because many consumers are unwilling to fork out such a price. However, this may cause the amount of purchasable in-app content or freemium content to rise, as “the downward pressure on pricing leaves many the only option to offer their apps for free at the point of download.”

With games making up 40 per cent of the expected 80 billion app downloads made this year, many low quality apps are being released. This could lead to games becoming quickly bored with their newly downloaded apps, perhaps affecting the actual used figure of the app downloads.

“Engagement time per game is often extremely low, with many being accessed no more than once or twice. This is in contrast to social communication apps. Many such apps have extremely high levels of engagement, with smartphone users regularly checking Facebook several times a day.”

App download figures could also be affected by web-based, cross-platform apps like those based on HTML 5.

“This transition from native to browser-based apps can be advantageous for developers, as one of the defining features for the various app stores is how open or closed they are as an ecosystem.”

Next, read our pick of the best mobile phones of 2013.

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