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Apple iOS app sales up 61 percent, says analyst

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Apple is selling significantly more apps in its App Store than it was a year ago, reports Fortune. That data, which comes via Gene Munster, a senior research analyst with Piper Jaffray, shows that mobile apps are becoming a larger part of Apple’s business strategy.

Munster’s report follows Apple’s announcement last week that over 15 billion have been downloaded from the App Store since its launch in 2008. Through those sales, Apple has paid out over $2.5 billion to third-party app developers.

According to Munster’s numbers, the average iOS user will download 83 apps during 2011. That’s a 61 percent increase year over year above the average 51 apps users purchased in 2010.

“We believe this trend points to the increasing importance of an app store with a broad selection of tested apps to drive device sales,” writes Munster in his report. “Smartphone users are showing an increasing appetite to use apps to add features to their phones and iOS has the leading app ecosystem.”

Not only are the number of app purchases up, but the average price of apps have also begun to rise, after a “race to the bottom” last year. So far in 2011, app prices have jumped 14 percent. During 2010, app prices fell 18 percent, says Munster.

With this rise in price, the average price of an Apple App Store app costs $1.44. This increased price, says Munster, is due to more high-end apps available for the iPad, which now represent a growing segment of all apps dowloaded through the store.

While app prices are going up, paid apps still remains a small minority compared to free apps. Munster found that only 18 percent of apps in the App Store cost money, while a whopping 82 percent are free.

App Store sales now only account for about 1 percent of Apple’s revenue. That said, apps are a large reason why people purchase iOS devices like the iPhone and iPad. And on that front. Apple is making mountains of cash.

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