This amazing number takes into account both free and paid downloads, but does not include updates or re-downloads of previously deleted apps. Also, nearly half of those downloads occurred in 2012 alone.
The Cupertino company also noted that it has some 500 million active iTunes App Store accounts on file. The nearest competitor I could find numbers for was Amazon, with 188 million active accounts. (I’m sure that Google is keeping tabs on the same information for the Play Store, but darned if I could nail down a single number of active accounts…)
What I find most interesting about these numbers is how close we came to not actually having an iTunes App Store in the first place. It was announced on July 10, 2008, a year after the debut of the original iPhone itself, but Steve Jobs was initially opposed to the whole idea. Walter Isaacson noted in his 2011 biography of Jobs that Apple board member Arthur Levinson and Phil Schiller (senior VP of worldwide product marketing) repeatedly pressed him on the issue, until he finally relented. When the iTunes App Store opened the next day, it had 500 apps across multiple genres and price points. 3 days later, customers had downloaded 10 million apps. The store reached its first billion apps downloaded in April 2009.
Given the meteoric rise of the iTunes App Store and the competition hot on its heels, it should be extremely interesting to see what the new year brings to the mobile marketplace.