|BlackBerry phones laid out on the counter at a BlackBerry store in Mumbai (AFP PHOTO/Indranil MUKHERJEE)
This year will see smartphone apps surpass the 56 billion download mark for the first time, and as tablets go mainstream, 14 billion apps optimized for their larger screens are also expected before the end of 2013.
According to ABI, it won't simply be a record year for apps, it will also be the year in which the Android platform overtakes the Apple App Store, with Google Play accounting for 58% of all downloaded apps over the next 12 months compared with Apple's 33%. Windows Phone users are expected to account for just under 4% of total app downloads and the much maligned BlackBerry comes in next with 3%.
However, in the tablet market Apple is expected to maintain its position as the global leader with a 75% of download share, while Android -- excluding Amazon's Kindle Fire tablets -- will account for 17%.
Developers look to Android
As smartphones start to reach the tipping point in more and more countries, there could be a change in the developer community. Traditionally app builders start on Apple's iOS platform and if the app is successful, an Android version is later developed. But as the overwhelming majority of handsets entering the market worldwide are Andorid, developers might be tempted to invest more in their Android offerings, particularly those aimed at tablets.
Senior analyst Aapo Markkanen, however, reminds, "Arguably the most pressing issue for Google is how much of this handset momentum will ultimately trickle down to tablets, where Apple is holding the fort remarkably well."
China, India, Brazil drive smartphone market
In a separate report, also published Monday, IDC revealed that 2013 will also be the first year on record that global smartphone shipments outstrip feature phone shipments. The company estimates these 918.6 million smartphones will represent 50.1% of the global market over the next 12 months. IDC is also predicting that by 2017, as more countries launch their 4G LTE networks, this number could jump to 1.5 billion handsets.
This growth in the market is being driven by emerging economies, evidenced by a slowdown in the US and Europe, where ownership is already at tipping point and much of the market is based on upgrades and renewals rather than owners buying their first smart device.
As a result, China is now the biggest smartphone market and is expected to remain so over the next year, while growing demand has also been identified in India (the world's fastest-growing smartphone market according to IDC figures) and Brazil.
"Even as China starts to mature, there remains enormous untapped potential in other emerging markets like India, where we expect less than half of all phones shipped there to be smartphones by 2017, and yet it will weigh in as the world's third largest market," said Melissa Chau, Senior Research Manager, IDC Asia/Pacific.
"Brazilians have yet to turn in their feature phones for smartphones on a wholesale basis," said Bruno Freitas, Consumer Devices Research Manager, IDC Brazil. "The smartphone tide is turning in Brazil though, as wireless service providers and the government have laid the groundwork for a strong smartphone foundation that mobile phone manufacturers can build upon."
And as the majority of the handsets shipped to these markets will be affordable -- i.e., in the sub-$200 category -- they will be built on an Android, rather than Apple, operating system, giving app developers even more reason to start targeting Andorid rather than iPhone users first.