If you're wondering just how big the potential for apps is, Apple has seen users download 40 billion apps since the arrival of its App Store, with nearly half of those being grabbed in 2012.

Twiddling Those Thumbs

Apple must be feeling rather bored as it misses out on all the hardware fun at CES. Just to remind everyone that it still exists, it has put out its first press release for 2013 to highlight the sheer volume of apps download for its iOS devices last year, aided by more stores with over 155 countries now in reach. 

The figures are pretty staggering with 500 million active user accounts, and two billion downloads in the month of December alone. There are now over 775,000 apps to choose from for the iPhone and iPod with 300,000 dedicated iPad apps. These have seen over $7 billion paid out to developers, with Apple taking its 30% cut too, that makes a $10 billion business out of pretty much nothing in just five years. 

The 20 billion apps downloaded last year shows the growth in sales of iOS devices and the broadening of the portfolio from tech-heads to the average user, playing games and using creativity tools. The note highlighted Temple Run, a game coded by two people which has seen 75 million downloads on the App Store. 

Learning Opportunities

Free to Play to Win

A couple of free-to-play titles were also highlighted, showing that they brought in over $100 million from advertising based revenue. So, if you have the right product, and get lucky in placement or getting kudos from the right people, there is still plenty of room for break-out successes among the staggering number of apps and games. 

With such a healthy but hectic ecosystem we still expect to see Apple doing more in terms of curation and app visibility this year. There's also the small matter of likely iPad refreshes in the Spring. Apple's quarterly earnings are up at the end of the month and should shed some more light on its seasonal sales.

While the Android store has similar vibrancy, players looking to catch up (notably Windows Phone 8 and the upcoming BlackBerry 10) will be wondering how on Earth it is possible to make up the ground, despite their earnest progress. However, there's good signs for Microsoft with recent research showing its app store picking up steam.