After releasing the iPhone 4S in November, Apple and its iTunes App Store saw a big jump in app downloads, rising 83 percent over the same period in 2010.
TechCrunch has the report, which states that app market research firm Fiksu measured the volume of app downloads for the top 200 free apps in the iTunes App Store. Fiksu found volume across all those apps increased by 15 percent from October 2011 to November 2011, and also saw that for the first time, free app downloads broke the 5 million-per-day mark, rising as high as 5.65 million downloads per day in November. October’s record high mark was 4.91 million downloads.
App downloads had been on the decline since around June, as GigaOM reports, in a trend attributed to iPhone owners waiting for the iPhone 4S to hit store shelves. Apple saw a similar decline in iPhone sales in the space between the device’s traditional launch window in the summer and the iPhone 4S’ fall launch.
The new iPhone has been extremely popular to date in lots of different markets. Predictions have Apple selling 30 million more iPhones in the last quarter of 2011 than previously expected. Apple has been expanding extensively in places like China and South America to bring the iPhone to new customers, and as one might expect, when those new customers get a shiny new iPhone, they immediately download a lot of new apps.
Fiksu also put some of the blame for the spike in app downloads on the latest version of Apple’s iOS mobile operating system, iOS 5. Apple released the software just ahead of the iPhone 4S and it added a lot of new features, both for the new device and for existing iPhone versions. As a result, developers pushed a number of new updates for their apps during the same period, to add in new functionality like iCloud support. Many apps, especially games, were optimized to take advantage of the powerful new iPhone 4S, and as a result, lots of apps likely saw increases in popularity and a revival in downloads after the new OS’s launch.
As TechCrunch points out, the download spike shows that there’s still a whole lot of room to expand in the smartphone market. Among cellular phone owners in the U.S., smartphones account for only about 50 percent. That's a high number on its own, but also remarkable because that means there’s the entire other half of the cell phone market that doesn’t have a smartphone but could, and would also be downloading apps but isn’t. The iPhone 4S likely converted quite a few of those feature phone owners, but the market is still pretty young and there’s huge room for growth.