Mobile app growth to reach $57 billion by 2020

By James O'Brien

Mobile app growth is expected to increase steadily over the next four years, but the incoming tide of downloads and revenue will likely slow as the forecast period plays out.

According to StreetInsider, the International Data Corporation’s (IDC) new study shows that mobile app growth will total some 210 billion annual installs on users’ devices between 2016 and 2020, up from a total of 156 billion app downloads in 2015. The projected installs should represent some $57 billion in direct revenue to app developers in 2020. App makers say their 2015 non-advertising revenue was $34.2 billion.

When it comes to iOS and Android platforms, Android takes the majority of 2015 install volume at 60 percent, compared to Apple’s 15 percent. The delta is largely due to the sheer volume of Android-based devices, IDC explains. At the same time, Apple won 58 percent of global app direct revenue last year, while Android users generated 36 percent of the annual direct revenue through the Google Play platform.

Take statistics with a grain of salt

The researchers present the advancing numbers with a caution about the changing nature of the industry in years to come. IDC expects that as the market matures, install volumes and direct revenue will slow, even as the total number of app downloads increases between now and 2020. Additionally, IDC experts caution against reading too much into the measurements offered.

“While they provide a convenient measure of the mobile app economy and its beneficiaries, we caution that preoccupation with download/install volumes and associated direct revenue may miss the thrust of changes in the mobile marketplace,” said John Jackson, research vice president of mobile and connected platforms at IDC.

According to Jackson, a change is coming in how mobile users interact with apps versus social and other mobile ecosystems. With Facebook and Google claiming a sizable share of mobile advertising spend, and with Facebook’s recent incorporation of news and other content feeds into its user experience, traffic and install volume are likely to gravitate toward those platforms — and away from downloaded apps of other kinds — Jackson said.

Written By

James O'Brien

Technology Reporter

For the past half decade, James O'Brien has covered technology and the ways it intersects with our lives and work. His points of focus include data analytics, the mobile sector, driver-less cars, the Internet of Things, IT infrastructure, data security, 3-D printing, and technology…

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