If you've been wondering just what the point of the whole "there's an app for that" culture on smartphones is, the answer - as usual - is money: $6.2 billion, to be precise.

That's the value market watcher Gartner is placing on the mobile application store market as a whole for 2010 - despite the fact that eight out of ten applications downloaded by users of things like the Android Market or Apple's App Store are either completely free or ad-supported.

According to an article over on Softpedia, Gartner's figures predict that there will be around 8 billion individual smartphone application downloads from official sources in 2010 - rising to an impressive 21.6 billion by 2013.

To put the figures in monetary terms, the mobile application sector generated around $4.2 billion (£2.6 billion) in revenue in 2009 with Gartner's predictions expecting that to rise to $6.2 billion (£3.8 billion) in 2010 and then rocket to $29.5 billion (£18 billion) in 2013 - representing a major new sector for companies to exploit. Even developers of no-cost applications can get in on the act, with the market watcher predicting that around 25 percent of 2013's total app store revenue will be from advertising rather than direct purchases.

The application market isn't only important for making people rich, however: Gartner's research director Carolina Milanesi believes that the quality and breadth of applications available on each individual platform - including Google's Android, Apple's iPhone OS, Palm's WebOS, and Microsoft's Windows Mobile - "will help determine the winner among mobile devices platforms" far more decisively than the quality, appearance, or performance of the operating platform itself.

With Apple's iPhone continuing to dominate the smartphone sector, and interest in Google's Android soaring steadily up to meet it, it'll be interesting to see which platform gets its killer application first.

Are you a tricked-out smartphone user festooned with apps, or is your 'phone just for making calls? Have you ever spent real cash money on smartphone apps, or do you just browse to see what freebies are on offer? Share your thoughts over in the forums.

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