July 23, 2010, 2:41 PM

25 billion annual app downloads in 2015, Juniper Research predicts

And that might be a conservative estimate, according to other research firm projections.

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As of June, iPhone and iPod Touch users alone had downloaded 4 billion apps since the App Store launched in July 2008.

As more wireless carriers, mobile device manufacturers and other companies create mobile app stores, the number of apps downloaded annually will soar from nearly 2.6 billion in 2009 to more than 25 billion in 2015, according to a new Juniper Research report.

Interested parties throughout the mobile universe are seeking to emulate Apple Inc.’s success with its App Store by launching their own branded app storefronts, such as Mobile Market from China Unicom, Airtel App Central from Bharti, and the Apps & Games Shop on Vodafone 360, the report says.

However, the Juniper report cautions that any company seeking to launch an app stores needs to first demonstrate sufficient scale to be able to induce developers to provide them with unique content.

“Apple has been able to achieve several billion downloads from a comparatively small handset base because customers are buying the iPhone for the apps,” says Windsor Holden, the author of the report. “That’s not been the case with other handsets. So even if you have a subscriber base of tens of millions, your addressable market is a fraction of that—and spread across a variety of operating systems and handsets.”

25 billion by 2015 could be a conservative estimate. Other research firms have different takes. For example, as of June 2010, iPhone and iPod Touch users alone had downloaded 4 billion apps since the App Store launched in July 2008, and that number will exceed 8 billion by the end of this year, according to Yankee Group Research Inc. That would mean Apple consumers will have downloaded in six months what it took two years to achieve, indicating a much greater growth curve than that projected by Juniper Research. And these numbers do not include app downloads from other popular and fast-growing stores, such as the Android Marketplace.

One thing is for certain: Smartphone adoption is soaring and the more smartphones there are in consumers’ hands, the greater the demand there will be for apps.

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