Indeed, Chamberlain said In-Stat surveyed consumers annually on whether they were very likely to buy a smartphone. Seven percent said yes in 2006, six percent said so in 2007 and in 2008 the number jumped to 32 percent.
"A lot of the 'maybes' jumped the fence," he said, "and now we're looking at one-third of these respondents saying the next phone they buy will be a smartphone, a five-fold increase. That's big."
In terms of who the winners are in the new mobile ad space given the opportunities brought about by app stores, Chamberlain said clearly developers and smartphone makers will benefit, but savvy marketers will too.
He cited successful mobile ad campaigns by traditional brands - Zippo's Virtual Zippo Lighter for cell phone wavers at concerts and Kraft Foods' iFood Assistant that offers nutrition and diet advice plus recipes -- and said we should see more old-school advertisers enter the mobile space.
"There was a point where traditional marketing people looked at it as a fad, and said, 'don't do it,' but now they realize if they bring useful apps that tie closely into what their brand does or offers, it's huge," said Chamberlain.
"We're going to see a lot more utility in these types of branded apps, so there won't just be 10,000 clones of Tetris and Bejewled stamped with a company logo. Instead of that we'll see something useful, if the marketers are really doing their job."
The unique capabilities of smartphones along with their engaging user model is spawning a whole host of companies offering apps, and New York-based Medialets is one to watch, according to the In-Stat analyst.
"Medialets is interesting because it provides tools and relationships between brands and developers, but more importantly it provides metrics that allow marketers to see exactly how their apps are performing," he said.
"They have a piece of code they put in there that will tell you how many times a person used the app, how many times you got a recipe from Kraft food, how many minutes you spent. You get a direct read on a continual basis which is invaluable. It lets the advertiser tweak and adjust what they're doing on a constant basis to see what works best; that's the part that's been missing."
Chamberlain added that the mobile app space could benefit from a neutral, accepted metrics company, similar to the way TV broadcasters use Nielsen ratings or publishers cite Audit Bureau of Circulations data.
This article was first published on InternetNews.com.