updated 11:00 pm EST, Sun January 16, 2011
Asymco says iPhone app downloads overtaking songs
App downloads on iOS are accelerating quickly enough that they could overtake music in just two months, Asymco estimated on Sunday. The App Store will reach the 10 billion mark in just 31 months, less than half the 67 months it took for 10 billion songs, and at its current rate should overtake iTunes sometime in March. The company's Horace Dediu noted that Apple was now not only recording 30 million app downloads per day but seeing that rate increase.
The near-exponential rate was coming both as the actual number of devices increased but as many established owners were downloading apps more often. Basing figures on estimates of ownership from iPod touch owners, he determined that a typical user had as many as 60 apps, or more than five times as many as they had just after the App Store launched in July 2008. Apps, unlike songs, were facing a "network effect" where an app owner would spread word and encourage others to download the title themselves, expanding growth in a way not normally encountered for songs.
"Apps overtaking digital music is a watershed event," Dediu said. "Apps are a new medium: they will impact all other media."
He added that the app ownership rate could be higher still as it assumed that all iPads, iPhones and iPods were still in use, which was impossible.
The popularity could work to Apple's advantage and prevent users from jumping ship to Android or other platforms, he said. Owning so many apps could create a "very tight lock" on an iOS device user as the cost of re-purchasing all the apps, where they exist, could be too expensive for most. The dependence could be more severe than for desktop platforms, since mobile app consumption could soon overtake the computer market, the analyst predicted.
Google has typically been quiet about its Android app download rate, but with roughly a third as many apps and a less app-centric platform is unlikely to see a similar effect in the near future. Other app portals are typically a tenth the size or less either through novelty or low device market share that in turn reduces interest in development.