Mobile apps will have generated a total of more than US$30 billion revenue by the end of 2012, according to ABI Research.

The total includes all money generated from paid downloads, in-app purchases, subscriptions and in-app ads since mobile apps emerged. It is almost double the amount that had been reached by the end of 2011.

“Consumers’ high interest in apps has for a long time been obvious from download volumes, but it’s 2012 that will go down in history as the year when the economic side of the business finally took off. We’re no longer talking only about a short-term gold rush. Apps have become a major digital industry,” said senior analyst Aapo Markkanen.

According to ABI Research, Apple has been the catalyst that has allowed apps to generate significant revenue, with its compelling OS and its “well-executed distribution and billing mechanisms”.

However, Markkanen said Google has been the company that has stood out in 2012 by reinventing Android Market as Google Play, which now resembles “a respectable department store” compared to the previous “garage sale”.

ABI Research believes Android developers’ share of annual app revenue is now around one-third.

Microsoft and RIM have made monetisation a key part of their mobile strategies, meaning it will be relatively easy for developers to benefit if Windows Phone 8 or BlackBerry 10 take off, the analyst firm said.