There are apps being developed for anything and everything and according to a report from research giant Gartner, there's more than a good chance they will all soon be free to download.
The report found that nearly 90 percent of the 45.6 billion apps that will be downloaded this year will be free. Gartner says free apps will account for 40.1 billion of all downloaded mobile apps in 2015, while five billion will have some form of charge associated with their downloading. Come 2016, the report said, a total of 309 billion apps will be downloaded with 93 percent of them being free.
Gartner's research director Sandy Shen said "In terms of the apps that consumers are buying, 90 percent of the paid-for downloads cost less than $3 each, Similar to free apps, lower-priced apps will drive the majority of downloads. Apps between 99 cents and $2.99 will account for 87.5 percent of paid-for downloads in 2012, and 96 percent by 2016."
Although consumers prefer free and cheap apps, Shen said this does not mean developers would be forced to to do other things to make a living, but rather would have to find other forms of income associated with the apps they produce.
She cited as examples providing applications for free download and then charging users to unlock particular features or to acquire add-on content; or allowing users free access for only a trial testing period.
According to iSuppli, another leading market research company, app purchases this year will total $5.6 billion, compared to $970 million in 2011.
Gartner expects the number of downloads featuring in-app purchasing to have increased from 5 percent of all downloads in 2011 to a 2016 figure of 30 percent.
"In-app purchasing opens the door to a recurring revenue stream for developers," according to Shen, "but app performance and design will always be the most important factor when attracting new users and keeping them satisfied."
At present, Apple holds the giant share of the mobile app market, with Gartner expecting the App Store to receive 21 billion download requests in 2015, a 74 percent increase over 2011. The Apple App Store has a 25 percent market share of all available apps in all stores, with Gartner predicting Apple, Microsoft and Google being the future leaders in the mobile app space.
However the big three will be challenged by third-party providers, like Facebook and Amazon.
Shen said "Amazon has appealed to users with its strong brand, global presence, and a good selection of high-quality content, while Facebook's recently launched App Center -- supporting both mobile devices and desktops -- will become a powerful competitor due to its strong brand and leading position in social networking and gaming. In China, there is a boom market of independent Android stores, due to the lack of presence of Google Play and 'weak' stores from communication service providers."