Apple’s iTunes App Store breaks 15 billion downloads

by Phil Hornshaw

Apple announced today that the iTunes App Store has surpassed 15 billion downloads, a mere six months after it logged its 10-billionth one.

The App Store has more than 420,000 apps, Apple announced by press release, and together they’ve been downloaded more than 15,000,000,000 times by a user base of about 200 million iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad owners. That works out to about 75 app downloads per user.

“In just three years, the revolutionary App Store has grown to become the most exciting and successful software marketplace the world has ever seen,” Philip Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Product Marketing, said in the statement. He goes on to highlight several app developers and their success stories, including Smule, the makers of virtual musical instruments Magic Fiddle, Ocarina and Magic Piano; and Epic Games, publisher of ChAIR Entertainment’s Infinity Blade.

Apple also said in the statement that from the App Store, about $2.5 billion has been paid out to app developers. That’s interesting considering the number of downloads Apple is sending out, showing the popularity of apps, but also the popularity of free apps. Even if you set all app prices at their cheapest, $0.99, users have still downloaded a ton more free apps than they’ve paid for, it seems. That also doesn’t take into account in-app purchases. In the case of Infinity Blade, for example, about a third of that game’s revenue comes from in-app purchases, not its download price of $5.99. ChAIR announced today the game has raked in $11 million during its first six months of life, according to a story from VG247.

The amount of total revenue from apps in the App Store is higher, obviously, than just the $2.5 billion paid to developers, since Apple also takes a cut of all downloads and in-app purchases, but it still suggests that free apps are getting in front of a lot more of those 200 million users than paid ones. That’s where Apple’s advertising comes in, which was estimated at about $300 million for 2010 and which analysts expected to reach as high as $8 billion by 2015.

All in all, a lot of money.

The speed at which users are downloading apps has also increased. Apple notched 10 billion just six months ago, in January, and gave away a $10,000 iTunes gift card to the person who pulled the milestone download. It took the App Store two years to build to that figure, increasing its user base with new iOS devices like the iPad and spreading those devices to new markets, but it only took a quarter as much time to get half as many downloads.

Obviously, this all suggests that the App Store is very successful, but more than that, it shows that having a lot of apps is something that users seem to enjoy. That number up above – 75 downloads per user on average – suggests that not only are users downloading a lot of apps, but that they’re spending time finding apps to download, and not just grabbing the first five on the charts and never coming back to the App Store. With a community becoming more and more interested in apps, developers are going to keep finding lots of good reasons, about 2.5 billion and rising, to keep creating interesting things to run on iOS devices.