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Apps rule the smartphone world

The importance of apps to the success of  smartphones and tablets has never been more evident. London-based market intelligence firm ABI Research yesterday released estimates suggesting that smartphone app downloads will reach 56 billion this year, an increase of over 86 percent from 2012, which in turn saw double the number of downloads recorded in 2011.

And that’s just smartphones. ABI expects tablets to account for another 14 billion downloads, continuing the trend of tablets taking a bigger slice of the overall mobile app marketplace with each passing year.

Of the various OS platforms, ABI predicts that Android devices will account for 58 percent of the total smartphone app downloads, with the iPhone coming in a strong second at 33 per cent. It’s not quite a two-horse race but it’s close. ABI expects Windows Phone to finish the year with 4 per cent of the total downloads and BlackBerry with 3 per cent.

One could argue that it’s the popularity of the OS platform that leads to the app downloads rather than the other way around, but either argument serves to underscore the overall importance of apps. In survey after survey, consumers have sited the easy availability of apps as one of the main reasons for choosing a smartphone and, more importantly, the absence of apps as one of the main reasons for not choosing a smartphone.

By all accounts, the new BlackBerry 10 OS is a highly innovative and polished piece of software but its ability to help BlackBerry stem its decline in smartphone market share will depend to a large extent on how many apps are developed for the platform. That’s why this week’s report that Netflix, like Instagram before it, has no plans to develop a custom app for the new BlackBerry OS is so inauspicious. (Yahoo’s announcement that they will be phasing out their BlackBerry app is another blow to BlackBerry’s image.)

Microsoft has also struggled with some of the same issues with Windows Phone 8, although the news that the Windows app count had recently passed 135,000 is testament to the resources that Microsoft has put behind its developer program.

It’s clear that whereas before apps were regarded as fun add-ons to the overall smartphone experience, they are now perhaps the main determining factor in smartphone selection and continued growth of the entire sector. Apps rule and the battle for smartphone market share will be won and lost because of them! 

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