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iPhone users downloaded the most apps in Q4 2009 with an average of 37 per user, according to The Nielsen Company‘s App Playbook.

Android users came in next with an average of 22 app downloads per user. Users of other devices downloaded an average of 16 apps, putting them ahead of smartphone OS brands such as Palm (14), Windows Microsoft Mobile (13) and Blackberry (10).

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Not surprisingly smartphone users were generally using applications more than feature phone users. Smartphone users downloaded an average of 22 apps in Q4 2009, more than doubling the average of 10 apps for feature phone users. In addition, 46% of smartphone users said they had downloaded an app in the past 30 days, compared to 12% of feature phone users.

Nielsen analysts attributed BlackBerry’s relatively low number of app downloads to its significant corporate user share, which often locks the device and only allows corporate IT to install applications on the device.

Apple App Store Leads
Despite fanfare around application stores tied to specific mobile devices, as of the end of 2009, half of all applications users were accessing carrier app stores. Although carrier app stores retain strong market penetration, the Apple App Store was the leader in preferred application stores in the US and, combined with the dedicated AT&T Application Store, devices running on the AT&T network have the most popular stores.

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The relatively new BlackBerry App World Store was the second most popular app store due to BlackBerry’s industry-leading installed base. Carrier application stores come in next on the rankings due to the size of their subscriber base, suggesting users of more standard feature phones drove much of this ongoing popularity.

Apple, Android Store Users Most Satisfied
The Apple App Store and the Android Market Store have a sizable lead in terms of user satisfaction (84% and 81%, respectively) compared to the other application stores. While the often-overlooked carrier application stores are significantly behind the two leaders in terms of satisfaction, they are still marginally ahead of the BlackBerry App World and Windows Marketplace. It will be interesting to see how the just-announced revamp of the Windows Marketplace will impact satisfaction scores.

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Smartphones Projected to Overtake Feature Phones Next Year
In a development that may aid OS provider app store performance at the expense of carrier app store performance, smartphone penetration of the US mobile phone market will overtake feature phone penetration by the end of 2011, according to projections from The Nielsen Company.

Although only 21% of American wireless subscribers were using a smartphone as of Q4 2009 compared to 19% in Q3 2009 and 14% at the end of 2008, Nielsen expects smartphones to account for more than half of the US mobile phone market by 2011. Nielsen predicts smartphones will account for 24% of the US mobile phone market in Q1 2010 and rise to about 33% market share by Q4 2010. Growth will then accelerate in 2011, hitting 40% in Q1 2011 and about 50% by Q3 2011. Based on this rapid increase, smartphones should pass the 50% mark during Q4 2011.

About the Survey: Insights from Nielsen’s App Playbook were gathered from 4,265 respondents who had downloaded an application in the past 30 days, 2,351 of which owned a smartphone and 1,914 of which owned a feature phone. The respondents were identified through Nielsen’s Mobile Insights syndicated tracking study, which surveys 80,000 mobile subscribers per quarter. The App Playbook sample is weighted back to the total qualified population from the Nielsen Mobile Insights survey. The survey covers a wide range of topics related to applications, including audience profiling, market sizing, download and purchase behavior, app store channel, app usage and satisfaction.

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