App downloads set to slowly decrease

Smartphone owners are projected to download approximately 36 billion apps in 2012 – averaging about 37 native apps for the typical user.

Although the annual forecast reflects a nearly 6% global increase, ABI Research senior analyst Aapo Markkanen believes the average download count will begin to slowly decrease over the coming years.

“When forecasting on app downloads one has to make a number of assumptions on, for instance, the device mix, developer activity, and the demographics of existing and future smartphone users,” Markkanen explained.

“The next waves of smartphone subscribers in the more mature app markets of the United States, Western Europe, and parts of Asia will be downloading quite notably fewer apps than, say, the first one-third of the mobile consumers who bought smartphones.”

Another major factor contributing to the downward trend in average app downloads, says Markkanen, is the rapid evolution of the mobile web.

“[For example], the decision by the Financial Times to pull the plug on its iOS app and bet instead on HTML5 can be seen as a hint of what is to come next,” the analyst opined.

“In many app categories, like games and most utilities, the web will probably never catch up with the native app opportunity in terms of user experience, but at the same time there are also some popular areas where it can be anticipated to come rather close.”

Markkanen also noted that news and magazine apps are a segment where the momentum is likely to shift towards the web within the next two to three years. 

”Since news and media content already account for a large share of smartphone usage and are likely to play an even bigger role in later adopters’ usage, changes in this segment alone will make subscribers on average download fewer native apps,” he added.