Thanks to the popularity of the iPhone, Apple holds the top spot now when it comes to mobile app stores. But telecom research firm Ovum predicts that's set to change over the next four years, with rivals like Android and the BlackBerry poised for tremendous growth.
That change could even see Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) be unseated by Android, according to Ovum's Mobile Application Download Forecast 2009-2015 report, which found that app stores collectively will grow by a compound annual growth rate of about 41 percent globally over the next five years, with total downloads topping 21.2 billion -- up from 2.69 billion in 2009.
Ovum estimates that Apple, which popularized the mobile app store concept following the launch of the iPhone, garnered a dominant 67 percent of all smartphone app downloads in 2009 even though it only had 14 percent of the overall installed base of smartphones.
By contrast, Symbian had 49 percent of the smartphone installed base but grabbed only 9 percent of the total applications download market. By 2015, Ovum sees Symbian turning things around, gaining 19 percent of the download market, while Apple slips to 22 percent of all app downloads -- though that's a smaller slice of a much larger pie than today.
A big winner over the next several years will be Google's Android. Between 2009 and 2015, Ovum expects Android to increase its smartphone base from 5 percent to 18 percent and its mobile application download share from 14 percent to 26 percent, topping Apple's App Store.
The outlook is more mixed for Research In Motion's (NASDAQ: RIMM) BlackBerry line. Ovum forecasts BlackBerry will lose market share, but it will more than triple its share of the app download market from 5 to 17 percent.
Ovum also expects Microsoft, which is overhauling its smartphone strategy with a new Windows Phone 7 line due out this fall, to lose market share but double its small share of application downloads.
"The iPhone generates the lion's share of smartphone app downloads, but over the period, we will see the share of application downloads becoming more equally distributed," Michele Mackenzie, principal analyst at Ovum and the report's co-author, said in a statement. "Over the forecast period, other smartphone platforms gain ground, and by 2015, the landscape looks very different in terms of market share."
Adam Leach, Ovum principal analyst and the report's other co-author, said North America's dominant share of the smartphone mobile app downloads market will decrease from 57 percent in 2009 to 31 percent in 2015.
"Application stores benefit from a vast appetite for applications in this region as well as a growing smartphone base, as well as the fact that the dominant smartphone players have their roots in the North American market," he said.
David Needle is the West Coast bureau chief at InternetNews.com, the news service of