Apple App Store Prices to Climb as Downloads Surge

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Hear that jangling, flushing sound? That’s your bank account, linked to your Apple App Store wallet, draining incrementally faster—or at least the hypothetical sound it’ll make as those once-but-not-future 99-cent apps metamorphose into pricier versions on average.

That’s what Piper Jaffrey analyst Gene Munster found, anyway, writing that as iOS App Store downloads (that’s iPhones, iPads and iPod Touch devices) grow by a whopping 61%, so will the average prices for apps, expected to rise 14% in 2011. Plan on that trend continuing, too, says Munster.

(PHOTOS: Gadgets: Then and Now)

Maybe that sounds obvious, but the average app price increase is actually a rebound from an 18% price decline in 2010. Munster’s numbers coincide with Apple’s announcement last week that upwards of 15 billion applications have so far been downloaded by over 200 million iOS users. Using Apple’s data, Munster estimates 82% of App Store apps are free, while 18% are paid.

What’s the upsurge equal in average sales terms? $1.44 per iPhone app, says Munster (the top 50 iPhone apps sell for an average of $1.66). But that’s trifling compared to the increase in iPad-exclusive app prices, expected to leap 36% year-on-year to reach an average of $6.32.

And Apple looks to rake it in by year’s close, with the average iOS user estimated to download an average of 83 apps in 2011, an upswing from 51 apps in 2010. Count that in daily iOS-related downloads and you get over 32 million apps a day, or—wait for it—triple what users are downloading in daily iTunes songs.

Don’t panic over pennies, iPhone buffs: Munster says the predicted price hike is basically due to the increase in iPad sales, whose pricier apps are pulling the overall App Store average up.

“Smartphone users are showing an increasing appetite to use apps to add features to their phones,” adds Munster in his research note, noting that “iOS has the leading app ecosystem.”

MORE: Apple’s App Store Reaches Its 15 Billionth Download

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.