The research firm Gartner just published some figures that confirm the gut feelings that many of us have. They say that 89% of all the applications that will be downloaded this year will cost absolutely nothing. They also say that 90% of all paid apps cost less than $3. This is a trend that will only get bigger with time. By 2016, they predict that free applications will make up 93% of all downloads.
If you're a developer, should you be scared about this? Yes and no. These days the cool thing to do is to make your application free, but then charge for “upgrades” to make the application better. There's also apps that are merely extensions of properties that charge for things using a separate payment system. Take Amazon's Kindle app for example. The app is free, but you have to go to Amazon.com to buy books to make it useful. The research also fails to address the advertising business model, which a majority of developers use to put food on the table. How big is the mobile advertising space? How fast is it growing? Those questions, and others, weren't addressed.
What other data can we pull from Garnter's research? They say Apple's App Store isn't growing as fast as it used to, which makes a lot of sense since they've been around the longest. We often, sadly, see new apps being released on iOS first, and then only after several months we see them appear on Android. So it's obvious that Android is growing faster because all those ported apps are only now starting to show up in the Play Store. In addition, a majority of the smartphones on the market are powered by Android, which gives developers an incentive to target the larger user base.
We're curious, how much money have you spent on apps? Are you supporting the developers who slaved away in front of a hot desktop to give you the applications that you use all day?