Paid app downloads will continue to be an important element in the app store ecosystems over the next five years despite the proportion of free titles increasing.

According to Strategy Analytics, paid downloads will continue to decline during the period with 91 percent of all apps being free by 2017. This shift will see the average selling price of all downloaded apps fall to US$0.08 in five years’ time.

However, director of app research at Strategy Analytics, Josh Martin, said that paid downloads will remain “an essential component” in the app ecosystem, particularly for smaller developers to generate revenue. He added that developers building paid apps may find switching to tablets more profitable in the long term.

The fall in revenue from paid apps, combined with increased app store maintenance costs, could prompt companies to consider new revenue streams and consider higher revenue splits than currently.

Despite the decline in paid apps, the analyst firm forecasts that more than 350 billion smartphone and tablet app downloads will take place between 2008 and 2017, with paid apps generating revenue of US$57 billion globally.

With more revenue being earned through advertising in the future, Martin said platforms built with this in mind – such as Windows 8, BlackBerry 10, Tizen and Firefox – are likely to become more attractive to developers and end users.

Strategy Analytics also forecasts that Google Play will account for more than 45 percent of phone downloads by 2017 with Apple’s App Store taking 56 percent of tablet downloads in 2017, driven by the recently-launched iPad mini and continued dominance of the iPad.