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(Photo: Apple)

App downloads soared in Germany last year as consumers bought more smartphones and tablets.

Bitkom, the country's high-tech industry association, said app downloads jumped 80 pc to more than 1.7 billion in 2012.

"The megatrend toward mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets is unbroken," said Tobias Arns, a mobile expert at Bitkom. "Smartphone programs are becoming more important for online services because mobile access to the internet is increasing."

App download growth is pushed by the wide availability of free programs. According to Bitkom, 83 pc of German smartphone owners use apps. Almost every second user downloads only free programs, Bitkom said.

"The many free programs have played a key role in the success of smartphones because they turn mobile phones into multi-function devices," said Arns.

According to the Bitkom research, one third of German smartphone users installs paid apps once in a while. A mere 5 pc said they regularly pay money for smartphone programs.