A growing number of people are choosing a mobile phone deal based on whether or not the device can download applications, rather than the cost or number of minutes and texts bundled in.
A study by comparison site MoneySupermarket.com found that this trend is beginning to create what it calls an 'appster' generation. These users have downloaded an average of nine applications in the past 12 months, spending £9 over and above the cost of the phone and contract.
This trend is still in the early stages, but is expected to accelerate, according to the report. Nearly half of users claim that they would consider switching, or have recently switched, their mobile to a smartphone specifically to get access to applications.
"The iPhone has led the way in the smartphone market since its launch, and the advent of applications has really added fuel to the fire," said James Parker, manager of mobiles at MoneySupermarket.com.
"Apps are already extremely popular, but it seems that plenty more people will consider switching to a smartphone in order to be part of the latest mobile phenomenon."
Parker also highlighted the launch of streaming applications such as music service Spotify, which recently launched on the Android and iPhone platforms.
"This move is a milestone in the mobile world, and it will be interesting to see what other services pop up as apps in the next few months," he added.
Not everyone is convinced that applications are worthwhile, however. Around a third of people see them as gimmicks, or relegate them to the realm of tech geeks and show-offs.
Although the majority of apps are for entertainment, humour or marketing, many are designed to be informative, and some large enterprises are starting to make use of the platform to deliver mobile interfaces for their applications, especially those offering hosted services.
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