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Britain tops Europe for app addiction

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Europe has long been a heartland for the mobile industry, but new figures released today suggest that there is still plenty of room for smartphone growth — despite the fact that users across the continent are feasting on the explosion of apps.

According to new figures from mobile analytics company Flurry, around a fifth of people in Europe’s biggest countries are already rabid app users, with appetites that show no signs of slowing.

Flurry — which gathers information by anonymously tracking data from millions of apps — monitored usage in the five largest European economies: Germany, France, the U.K, Italy and Spain respectively. And what they found was a clear divide between Western Europe and the Mediterranean countries, though not necessarily a straightforward correlation.

Monthly active app users in Europe, courtesy of Flurry

As you can see from this graphic, Britain leads the pack with 17.2 million people — that’s a third of the adult population — using smartphone apps: the highest penetration in Flurry’s survey. France (population 65 million) and Germany (81 million) come next, with almost the same number of app users in total, while Italy and Spain trail.

There is good news for Southern Europe, however: it’s in those less saturated markets where growth is faster, and smartphones are getting more and more popular. From the report:

With growing adoption of iOS (s AAPL) and Android-based smartphones (s GOOG), the imminent release of Nokia phones based on Windows Phone 7, and the fact that the majority consumers actively use applications, we predict that the growth of this mass market media channel will continue to grow until near total smartphone market saturation.   To underscore just how aggressively this channel is growing, if we assumed the growth of smartphone adoption continued at their current rates, all five countries would have full smartphone penetration in just over two years.

For comparison, it might be useful to look at what’s happening in the United States. Recent ComScore figures suggested that 31 percent of the U.S. total of 293 million mobile subscribers had a smartphone (that’s almost 91 million users). Apparently 85 percent of those had used apps, or 77.18 million. Those figures indicate that the U.S. app market may be larger than Europe’s, but with the proviso that Comscore’s figures are consistently and significantly higher than those from Flurry.

The Flurry report comes as the company makes its own expansion into Europe, with a team headed by industry veteran Richard Firminger. Firminger joined Flurry after helping run European commercial operations for the likes of Amazon (s AMZN) and Yahoo (s YHOO) — as well as a stint as U.K. managing director at mobile marketing firm Enpocket (which was later acquired by Nokia) (s NOK).

It’s a bit of positive news for the business, coming almost exactly a year after it hit a major stumbling block when Steve Jobs publicly called the company out for surreptitiously collecting data from users. Of course, that was before it emerged that Apple was collecting hordes of location data itself — so presumably Apple would be less precious about user information if the situation came up again today.