Graphic: Never Mind About Free Apps, Sales Will Grow 77 Percent This Year

Developers bemoaning the dominance of free apps in app stores like the Android Market: do not despair, there’s money yet in apps. According to a new report, revenue from the four top app stores run by Apple (NSDQ: AAPL), Google (NSDQ: GOOG), Nokia (NYSE: NOK) and RIM (NSDQ: RIMM) will total $3.8 billion in 2011, a rise of 77 percent compared to the year before.

The figures, from from the analysts at IHS Screen Digest (via iSuppli), indicate just how much apps revenue has grown in a relatively small period of time.

In 2008, when apps first started getting tracked by the company, revenues totalled a meagre $206 million, with Apple’s App Store the only real contender. That in itself is an instructive point for those who are questioning what kind of growth the tablet market might see — given that it, too, is dominated by Apple in its early days.

The researches forecast that apps will bring in revenues of $5.6 billion in 2012, $6.9 billion in 2013 and $8.3 billion in 2014. But it notes that the rise of the Windows Phone Marketplace from Microsoft (NSDQ: MSFT), helped along by Nokia’s push in Windows Phones, could impact those forecasts. (No mention of WebOS in the report.)

The numbers provide an interesting counterpoint to research from Distimo released last week, which is noting the rise and rise of free apps: the Android Market now has more than 134,000 free apps, while the App Store from Apple has more than 121,000.

Apple dominates. Indeed, when it comes to making money, Apple is bringing in more than all the others combined at the moment. It’s projected to bring in $2.91 billion in revenues in 2011 — that’s the gross revenue, not Apple’s share — and will continue to hold on to 60 percent of the market even in 2014. But that figure could be even wildly low — Distimo notes that today, in the iPad store, “daily revenue in the Top 100 paid is approximately $400,000,” and that’s before counting in-app purchases. The App Store this year will see 10.3 billion downloads in total.

In second place after Apple is the Android Market with $425.4 million in revenues (growing nearly 300 percent, on downloads of 5.8 billion), followed by RIM App World’s $279.1 million (growing only 69.2 percent, similar to Apple’s growth), and Nokia’s Ovi store with $201.5 million.