Research firm In-Stat forecasts that more than 100 million app-store compatible mobile phones will be shipping in the next five years. Though the application market took off after Apple's debut of its App Store, other makers -- such as Research in Motion (BlackBerry), Palm OS and Google -- will also become bigger players as they build out their application-selling sites, says David Chamberlain, a principal analyst at In-Stat.
Globally, In-Stat forecasts that smartphones that have a strong app-selling feature will account for about 30% of the global smartphone market by 2013, Chamberlain says. In the U.S., the potential for smartphones is even greater; some 30% of people surveyed by In-Stat last year said they intended to make their next phone a smartphone--up from 5% in 2007, Chamberlain says.
"There's going to be a big jump [in sales] in the U.S. in the next 12 months," he says. "We're seeing growth in smartphones even as growth is going down for other cell phones."
And with all those smartphones will come more traffic at the app stores, where marketers could be primed to take advantage of the space, with things that are not necessarily showy or complicated. Zippo, he notes, has a very simple -- and very popular -- application at Apple's App Store that "doesn't do a thing, except put the name Zippo in people's hands."
"It's a terrific level of engagement," Chamberlain says. "This is an area where you can get up close and personal and have measurable engagement with more people."
Of course, with increased consumer traffic, increased marketer traffic will likely follow. To stand out, marketers will have to target effectively and create applications that people will either find useful or be worth recommending.
"They need to understand the qualities that they're marketing and bring them out front" in applications, Chamberlain says. "Do you need to have something useful to every user? That's not the kind of marketing you're doing here; this is much more individual."