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Mobile apps to earn $17bn by 2012

As Android crowds the iPhone

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The market for mobile apps - be they for smartphones, less capable "feature phones," or carry-alongs such as Apple's iPad - will swell to $17.5bn by 2012.

Or so says a study commissioned by a company with a vested interest in that growth, Getjar, the self-described "world's largest cross platform app store," with just under 850 million apps downloaded to date.

The world's largest single-platform app store is, of course, Apple's. Downloads from the iTunes Apps Store topped three billion at the beginning of this year, after hitting two billion last September and reaching one billion in April, a mere nine months after it was launched.

The impetus for the study was a simple one. "We wanted to find out the real value of the industry because we felt certain segments like the iPhone were being over-hyped and so-called feature phones were being under-hyped," Getjar founder and CEO Ilja Laurs, the BBC reports.

Those feature phones are central to Laurs' argument that downloads will surge from seven billion in 2009 to 50 billion in 2012. "It is almost as if these phones don't exist," he told the BBC. "We know smartphones are an extremely important phenomenon, but in terms of consumer mindshare and revenue share, feature phones represent 90 per cent of the global market compared to 10 per cent for smartphones and data cards."

Laurs didn't immediately respond to our request for clarification as to what he meant by "data cards," but the 90 per cent figure remains compelling. That said, an inspection of Getjar's offerings show that the vast majority of apps for feature phones are either free or ad-supported.

Smartphone apps are where the profits lie. And a recent report by Canalys projects that 65.1 million smartphones will be sold in North America alone in 2010 - an increase of 38 percent from 2009's 47.2 million.

And those profitable smartphone apps will increasingly come from Google's Android Marketplace. Canalys projects that although RIM will remain the smartphone market leader in 2010, with growth of 20.5 per cent, and that Apple will remain in second place as it enjoys a higher growth rate of 27.1 per cent, projected Android phone sales of 12.3 million phones will close in on Apple's 13.8 million, benefiting from a 169.2 per cent growth when compared with 2009's sales.

Of course, projections are merely educated guesses. And when projecting total mobile application sales figures, Apple's iPad is the wild card in the deck.

Feature phones may account for a high number of app downloads, but it's the app stores that serve BlackBerries, iPhones, iPads, Android phones - and, yes, also phones that run Palm's webOS, Windows Mobile, Windows Phone 7, or Symbian OS - that would suck up the bulk of that projected $17.5bn in 2012. ®

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