Android is expected to overtake Apple in terms of the number of application downloads from their respective app stores this year, as demand for apps continues to grow, according to research by Ovum.
The analyst firm's Mobile Application Download and Revenue Forecast: 2011-16 predicts that Android users will download 8.1 billion applications during 2011, up from 1.4 billion in 2010.
Apple users, meanwhile, will download six billion applications this year, up from 2.7 billion in 2010.
Nick Dillon, an analyst at Ovum and author of the report, told V3 that the speed at which the market is growing had come as a surprise.
"We expected Android to pass Apple at some point in the near future, but the growth in the applications market is quite incredible and more than we anticipated," he said.
The value of applications downloaded across all operating systems will reach $3.7bn by the end of 2011, up 92 per cent on 2010. This huge growth will continue for the next five years to hit a whopping $7.7bn by 2016.
However, while Android will overtake Apple in terms of download numbers, Apple's application store will remain the most profitable, generating an anticipated $2.7bn in 2016, compared with $1.5bn for Android.
Application downloads for Microsoft's Windows Phone are predicted to be worth $983m by 2016, pushing BlackBerry into third place with $955m. Notably, the feature phone download market will be worth more than either of these, at $1.089bn.
Dillon told V3 that application sales for the feature phone market will remain high as the number of people who own basic phones in nations such as India increases.
"As people understand what applications can do for their phone, it will become easier for them to download basic, simple applications to enhance their devices," he said.
Dillon added that the number of application downloads is not a perfect measurement for the quality of an app store, but that measuring the actual use and any subsequent removal of applications from devices is hard to quantify.
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