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Google Play is a major source of mobile app downloads (Photo: Google)

Mobile app downloads more than doubled in 2012 and will continue to grow rapidly through 2017, a new research report says.

The report by Berg Insight, a Swedish market analysis company, said mobile app downloads soared to 60.1 billion in 2012 from 29.5 billion in 2011. They will continue to grow to 108 billion in 2007, the analysts forecast.

Berg said revenues from applications totaled 6.4 billion euros in 2012 and will grow at a compound annual rate of 17 pc to reach 14.1 billion euros in 2017.

The increases in app downloads were mostly realized through Apple's App Store, Google Play and some third-party app stores. And though the Apple App Store led the market in terms of monetization, Google's Android platform actually took the lead in total numbers of app downloads last year.

The Berg analysts noted that third-party app stores are increasingly popular in markets such as China, but that monetization is difficult.

Berg said the most important trends in the app market are the popularity of free apps and multi-platform support. It also cited the inclusion of social features in apps as a major trend.

"Common strategies today among many of the top revenue generating app developers are to publish apps featuring a social layer on more than one platform using free-to-download monetization” Johan Svanberg, a senior Berg analyst, said in a press release.

He cited mobile apps as one of the major growth markets in IT and media. Said Svanberg: “Like almost no other digital product, mobile apps represent a global opportunity with more or less instant worldwide distribution.”