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Mobile apps to increase as smart-phone and tablet user bases grow exponentially
[May 06, 2011]

Mobile apps to increase as smart-phone and tablet user bases grow exponentially

SAN FRANCISCO, May 06, 2011 (The Economic Times - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Mobile app developers and aficionados are grumpy. A report released by ABI Research last week estimates that 44 billion mobile apps would be downloaded by 2016. This might seem enormous -- 8 billion mobile apps were downloaded in 2010, according to ABI -- but entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in Silicon Valley feel it is a gross under-estimation.

"This is a very low figure. It could go as high as 100 billion," says Gangadhar Sulkunte, a mobile apps entrepreneur. His company, 4th Main Software, has developed hLog, a comprehensive health-tracking app for the iPhone. Indeed, last year, technology advisory firm Gartner had forecasted 109 billion downloads by 2015. "Much of the initial growth will happen in the US apps market since it has the infrastructure and scale," says Sulkunte.

Sandy Shen, Gartner's Shanghai-based Research Director, agrees. "Mobile app stores are more established in the US and Western Europe, with local content, higher penetration of smart-phones and user awareness," she says. India's downloads will be relatively lower, adds Shen, because its penetration of smart-phones is lower. "But as 3G and 4G networks are rolled out in India and China, these countries will eclipse the American growth," predicts Sulkunte.

Mobile apps are clearly here to stay, and their spread continues to increase by the day. At present, 134,342 free applications are available for download on Google's Android Market while Apple's AppStore offers iPhone users 121,845 free applications (Source: Distimo). This is bound to grow further, as the smart-phone and tablet user bases grow exponentially. By 2015, Gartner estimates that smart-phones will account for 16 percent of total mobile phone sales in India, compared to 34 percent in China and 76 percent in USA.

But finding the perfect app can be a nightmare as there are a ton of apps out there. The likes of Amazon app store will curate and test apps, ensuring that only good-performing ones are available in the market. "Curation is an ongoing process," says Sulkunte. "But consumers still continue to find good apps primarily through referrals from friends and influential bloggers like David Pogue." Adds Shen: "Moreover, the dominance of mobile carriers versus third-party value-added service (VAS) providers don't really help with the growth of app downloads." Then, to sustain this high growth, app companies need to listen to what customers actually want. "With so many available apps, developers and stores need to innovate continuously to maintain the interest of their consumers," said Fei Feng Seet, analyst, ABI Research, a market research firm specialising in technology.

App providers are listening. iTunes' algorithm is rumoured to now consider qualitative feedback like user reviews above download statistics. Apps like OfferedApp offer users free apps, which they would otherwise have to pay for, in exchange for completing surveys. "But iTunes is likely to clamp down on such incentivised promotions when they cut into Apple's revenue from in-app sales," says Seet.

Meanwhile, India is primarily constrained by the unavailability of mobile high-speed networks. "Once India gets the latest 4G networks, its app usage will really shoot up," says Sulkunte.

To see more of The Economic Times, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to Copyright (c) 2011, The Economic Times, India Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services. For more information about the content services offered by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services (MCT), visit

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