In April Apple announced that a billion apps had been downloaded from its iTunes App Store. Now, 14 months since the Store’s launch, the folks at Cupertino have revealed that another billion apps have zipped over the wires.
That’s an incredible acceleration of growth–8 months to a billion, 6 months to another billion. These figures translate to a 6.6 million app-a-day download rate for the last two and a half months. Why so fast? Back in April there were just 25,000 apps available, and now there are more than 85,000. That helps explain why so many more apps are being downloaded. But there’s also the fact that people are more aware of the App market, thanks to aggressive Apple advertising and a growing embrace of downloads among Apple’s installed userbase.
While the income pouring in through the App Store may not be at the core of Apple’s business–its Mac, iPod, and iPhone hardware are still its bread and butter–it still represents a big chunk of cash (with Apple taking a 30% skim off paid app sales). It’s easy to see the writing on the wall: App Store income will soon become really important for Apple. That’s because while iPod sales might be slowing (the app-friendly Touch being an iPod, of course) the iPhone’s sales are basically set to sky-rocket.
Sales will skyrocket for a number of reasons–the key force is the end to Apple’s carrier exclusivity deals and its launch into the Chinese cellphone market. In the U.K., it has just been confirmed that Orange will soon sell the iPhone alongside previous exclusive-vendor O2. That pattern is likely to expand to other nations where Apple is only using one carrier. Though we have no evidence of an imminent date, Apple’s marriage to AT&T in the U.S. can’t last much longer–the clunky handling of iPhone data tethering and MMS capabilities for American iPhone owners surely have embarrassed Apple and angered its execs enough to threaten a longer-term extension to AT&T’s deal.
It has also been long-rumored that Apple’s been chasing a distributor in China–the world’s biggest cellphone market with 700 million subscribers–and that despite numerous set-backs, China Unicom was the favorite. That deal has been confirmed, and the phone will launch in China from October. We think Apple’s attempts to deal with China’s biggest carrier, China Mobile, soured partly since the network bosses wanted to meddle with Apple’s business plan and take a cut of the App Store sales–hence we can assume Apple’s happy to settle with Unicom due to preferable App Store conditions in the deal.
All these moves mean Apple’s iPhone installed user base is going to literally explode over the next six months or so. And with continuing growth in the number of developers writing apps for the platform. this is going to equate to even faster application sales. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the four billion app barrier being smashed sometime around Valentines Day, 2010. And then Apple’s financial love affair with mobile apps will be plain for all to see.