With a big ad on the back of today’s New York Times‘ business section, Apple announced iPod touch and iPhone users have downloaded 500 million apps from the iTunes App Store.
In the same exact way, Apple (AAPL) announced it’d crossed 300 million apps downloaded on December 5.
Figuring Apple crossed the 500 million mark yesterday, we estimate that Apple customers are downloading about 4.8 million apps to their iPhones and iPod touches each day.
Of course the 41 days between yesterday and December 5 include Christmas — a day on which we’re sure app downloads spiked. (And the iPhone and iPod touch install bases spiked, too.)
But holidays or not, the rate at which people are downloading apps is definitely accelerating.
It took 61 days for Apple to reach 100 million apps downloaded (1.6 million per day), 43 days to reach 200 million (2.3 million per day), and another 43 days to reach 300 million (2.3 million per day).
All of this is very impressive, but the increasingly swift app business remains immaterial to Apple’s revenues. Last year, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said iPhone apps could be a $1 billion industry in 2009. Apple would take 30% of that — about $300 million. Overestimate and double that figure and it’s still a small slice of the $38.9 billion in revenues Munster expects from the company this year.
But that’s OK. Like the iTunes music store, the iPhone App Store exists mostly to get people to buy iPhones and iPod touches — and keep them locked in when it’s time to replace them in a few years — not for the small profit Apple makes from software sales.
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