Apple rang up $10B in app sales in 2013

And it paid developers more last year than it handed over in the App Store's first 4+ years

Apple sold more than $10 billion worth of iOS apps in 2013, the company trumpeted today.

The year included more than 3 billion app downloads in December alone, a one-month record, Apple added.

"We'd like to thank our customers for making 2013 the best year ever for the App Store," Eddy Cue, who heads the company's Internet Software and Services group, said in a statement.

Because Apple pays developers 70% of App Store revenue, 2013's final tally meant the Cupertino, Calif. company sent checks totaling at least $7 billion -- Apple hinted at $8 billion -- to app makers, while keeping the remaining billions for itself to cover the costs of operating the store.

Apple makes it very difficult to compare one year's App Store sales with another. While it occasionally issues press announcements about App Store milestones, including one at this time last year, it rarely uses the same metrics in any two releases. In its Jan. 7, 2013, tout of App Store success, for example, Apple omitted 2012's total sales.

However, two nuggets can be sifted from today's $10 billion announcement.

According to last year's release, the company had paid developers over $7 billion since the e-mart's inception in mid-2008. This year's statement cited $15 billion total, meaning Apple paid developers more in 2013 than it had in all the prior years combined.

And December 2013's download count of 3 billion apps was 50% higher than the number for December 2012, the previous record.

By Apple's account, the App Store did better in December than the app universe as a whole. A week ago, U.S.-based mobile analytics firm Flurry said that app downloads -- of all platforms, including the two largest, Apple's and Google's -- were up 25%, on average, through December when compared to the year before.

Flurry pointed out that in more mature smartphone markets -- like the U.S. and Western Europe -- the traditional December boom in app downloads is softening because fewer devices are going to first-time smartphone owners, those who had historically run riot that month to populate their screens.

"Fewer people are coming online with mobile for the very first time. Consumers who are on second, third or fourth devices have apps that they like and trust, and while they still download new apps, there isn't much more impetus to do so on Christmas than any other," Mary Gordon, Flurry's director of industry insights and analysis, wrote on her company blog Dec. 30.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at  @gkeizer, on Google+ or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His email address is

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