Gartner Projects Mobile App Downloads Will Top 102 Billion in 2013

Looking to learn a new skill? Perhaps you should considering learning how to build mobile apps. It's a booming business that's only going to get bigger in the coming years, that is unless users at large suddenly find themselves disinterested in smartphone and tablet devices (unlikely). How big? According to market research firm Gartner, mobile app stores will see annual downloads jump past 102 billion in 2013, up from 64 billion in 2012.

Those downloads collectively translate into $26 billion, up from $18 billion a year prior. That's a lot of cash, especially when you consider that 91 percent of total downloads in 2013 will be free downloads. By 2017, Gartner says in-app purchases will account for nearly half -- 48 percent -- of app store revenue.

Google Play

"We expect strong growth in downloads through 2014, but growth is forecast to slow down a bit in later years," said Sandy Shen, research director at Gartner. "The average downloads per device should be high in early years as users get new devices and discover the apps they like. Over time they accumulate a portfolio of apps they like and stick to, so there will be moderate numbers of downloads in the later years."

By "moderate," Shen is talking about more than 268 billion app downloads in 2017, most of which will be free. As it stands today, free apps account for about 60 percent of the total available apps in Apple's App Store and 80 percent in Google Play.