Report: Lock-in From Apple’s Heavy App Users Will Keep It Ahead

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Apple’s  app market dominance isn’t going anywhere anytime soon, according to a new report by research firm research2guidance. Despite an eroding lead thanks the growing popularity of the Android Market and other competing offerings, Apple shows signs of being able to hold on to its download advantage for a while yet.

According to research2guidance, Apple’s App Store actually saw a 2-percent increase in app store market share in the first quarter of 2011, up to 59 percent from 57 percent in 2010. Apple’s share had previously dropped 24 percent since the introduction of Google’s Android Marketplace competitor.

Apple’s ability to stop and even reverse the slide is a good sign that Android will never totally eclipse the iOS platform in terms of worldwide smartphone use, and it’s also a good sign for developers (since iOS remains the best way to make money with mobile applications) and users (since it means new apps will continue to populate the App Store).

Research2guidance estimates that even if Apple’s share erosion continues at the same rate it experienced in the last two years, it will hold on to 40 percent of the market until 2015. And even in that worst-case scenario, two factors will keep the App Store profitable and attractive to users alike.

The first is the lock-in effect of downloaded apps. It’s a subject Kevin has covered before, when he asked what the magic number was before users would consider switching to another mobile platform. Most users felt that spending a certain amount of money would make them unlikely to switch, though that number varied quite a bit depending on the respondent.

App lock-in is helped by the fact that users of Apple’s iPad tablet seem to be “heavy app downloaders,” according to research2guidance. That means they download a lot, a fact aided by the lack of a worthwhile tablet app market competitor. Google’s own Android tablet app store still isn’t very well-stocked, as Kevin has pointed out.

If the recent increase holds true, Apple may be on the verge of reaching an equilibrium with Google, at least as far as apps are concerned, instead of continuing to cede ground. But even if the Android onslaught continues, Apple’s App Store should still be a winner, and looks like it will remain so for the foreseeable future.

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