It's difficult to remember a time before mobile apps. It was only a bit more than three years ago and now, according to a new report, the total population of mobile apps across the four biggest platforms is close to hitting 1 million.
Mobilewalla, a company that tracks apps, said its latest app count totaled 987,863, with about 2,000 entering the marketplace daily. In the last twelve months, Apple apps mushroomed from about 338,000 to nearly 590,000, while Android apps nearly doubled, reaching about 320,000 from 115,000.
'Fastest Growing' in History
"The growth of apps," said Mobilewalla founder and executive chairman Anindya Datta in a statement, "is the fastest-growing consumer segment in the history of commerce."
The app era began not that long ago, when Apple's iTunes App Store opened in July 2008. Datta noted that the first apps were largely oriented around fun, such as the Doodle Jump game, one of the most popular early releases. Now, as Apple has touted in its app advertising campaign, there's an app for nearly everything, with designs for tablet form factors as well as smartphones.
The most popular apps across platforms remain entertainment. About 17 percent of apps fall into that category, with another 13 percent being games, 10 percent books, 8 percent lifestyle, 7 percent education and the same amount for utilities, 5 percent travel, and 4 percent business.
Apple, which became the leader when it launched its App Store, currently has 59.95 percent of all mobile apps, while the Android platform has 32.54 percent. No other platform breaks into double digits. Third place is BlackBerry, with 43,544 apps, or 4.42 percent of the total marketplace, and Windows has 35,479, with 3.6 percent.
Although its market share is still very low, developers are increasingly interested in the Windows Phone 7 platform. According to a report last month from Appcelerator and IDC, 38 percent of developers say they are "very interested" in the platform, with about half attributing that interest to the potential in the Microsoft/Nokia partnership.
Some developers have complained about a flooding of the app market, with the many apps being offered for free making it harder to charge for others, thus hindering future development of great apps.
38 Percent Never Paid
For instance, a new report out of the United Kingdom shows that many mobile device owners have become used to making do with free apps. The fifth annual Consumer and Convergence report from KPMG found that, while 88 percent of respondents said they had downloaded at least one app to their smartphones, 38 percent reported they have never paid for one.
Michael Gartenberg, research director at Gartner, said that there are "never too many apps" because the quality varies so much. "There have been zillions of PC applications," he said, "and no one asks if there are too many."
But, he noted, it could become harder and harder for consumers and businesses to find the best ones. Until new ways of finding and recommending apps emerge, Gartenberg said, app developers are largely reliant on getting featured in the app stores.
He also pointed out that many of the free apps are ad-supported, so those developers can make some money by giving them away, while others use free apps as the first "free taste," with fees required for higher levels.