Seems like every week somebody weighs in with a new study describing the size of the app market. World Mobile Applications Market reported in January 2011 that the mobile app market will grow from $6.8 billion in 2011 to $25 billion over the next four years. That same month, Gizmag.com reported that Gartner estimated 2013 app revenue at $29.5 billion. A month earlier, IDC estimated $35 billion in worldwide app revenue by 2014. Whatever number you want to use, it’s big.
How do we get to those numbers? Smart phones are everywhere. The growth of smart phones led to the rise of apps culture, as described in a recent report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. According to that report, 82% of US adults are cell phone users. Of those adults, 43% have apps on their phones, which means that about 35% of all adults in the US have apps on their phones. The more meaningful number, however, is how many use those apps. The Pew report put the app user number at 68% of those with apps, or about 24% of US adults. That’s now.
The number of mobile app users is going to grow with the shift in computing use from desktop to mobile platforms. The South by Southwest Interactive Festival, the annual geek fest in Austin, Texas, is this week. This event, although admittedly over-populated with techies, provides a great look at what might be coming. After all, Twitter made a big splash at SXSW in 2007 and gained mainstream acceptance a year or so later. This year, as reported by CNN, “mobile connectivity is inseparable from the experience of the festival.” No doubt some folks still carried tablet computers or netbooks around the festival, but the future, at least based on SXSW attendees, looks more and more like a post-PC one. The CNN report on this year’s SXSW experience observed that “mobile phones prove more convenient and functional for messaging individuals or groups of people, booking taxis, and figuring out the locations of parties and get-togethers that have sometimes been put together on very short notice.” What drives all these functions? Apps.
So, where does this leave, or take, us? Will the mobile app market be $25 or $29 or $35 billion in a few years? Who knows? Any of those numbers is believable. One thing’s for sure – just as the number of web pages exploded with the growth of the internet, so will the number of mobile applications as the number of smart phones continues to grow, both in the US and worldwide