Some 36 million mobile apps will be downloaded worldwide via smartphones in 2012— which works out to an average of nearly 37 native apps for the average smartphone subscriber over the course of the year, according to a new forecast from ABI Research.

The number of mobile app downloads continues to grow–the forecast of 37 native mobile apps from ABI’s Mobile Applications Storefronts Research Service would be a nearly 6% increase from the 35 per average smartphone subscriber in 2011. ABI doesn’t see that figure increasing substantially in coming years, however. On the contrary, it’s likely to start decreasing, according to ABI senior analyst Aapo Markkanen.

“When forecasting app downloads one has to make a number of assumptions on, for instance, the device mix, developer activity, and the demographics of existing and future smartphone users,” he explained. “The next waves of smartphone subscribers in the more mature app markets of the United States, Western Europe, and parts of Asia will be downloading quite notably fewer apps than, say, the first one-third of the mobile consumers who bought smartphones.”

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The ongoing evolution of the mobile Web is also going to contribute to what’s likely to be a decline in the average number of mobile apps per smartphone subscriber, he adds. The Financial Times has taken its iOS app off the marketplace and shifted it to HTML5, Markkanen noted. Growing numbers of native mobile apps such as games and most utilities are being built using HTML5.

“News and magazine apps are a segment where the momentum is likely to shift towards the Web within the next two to three years,” noted Markkanen. “Since news and media content already account for a large share of smartphone usage and are likely to play an even bigger role in later adopters’ usage, changes in this segment alone will make subscribers on average download fewer native apps.”

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