NEW YORK: Only around one third of mobile users in the US are prepared to pay to download an app and that proportion will not change in the short term, according to new research.

Insights provider eMarketer predicts that a total of 80.1m US consumers will pay for mobile apps at least once during 2015, or 33.3% of all smartphone and tablet users.

The number of consumers buying apps will edge upwards over the next few years to reach 85.0m in 2018, but the proportion will remain more or less unchanged on 33.8% as the mobile device universe expands.

In fact, the percentage of tablet users who pay for apps appears to have peaked at 47.0% in 2013, and that of smartphone users at 36.0% in 2014.

"The preference for free, ad-supported apps is rising among mobile users, and the share of smartphone and tablet users who pay for apps will actually tick downward over the next four years," said Cathy Boyle, senior mobile analyst at eMarketer.

This despite the continued growth in the number of smartphone and tablet users and the number of app users overall.

eMarketer also noted that the market for mobile app purchases had been affected by a reduced supply.

Developers were moving away from pay-to-download versions to offer free apps that would attract more users and income, it said, as in-app purchases, subscriptions and in-app advertising had been found to be generally more lucrative.

That is because few users avoid apps altogether: almost 93% of US smartphone owners and just over 90% of tablet owners will download at least one this year and those proportion will creep upwards over the next three years

"Paid apps can and do attract a sizeable and loyal audience – some in the productivity, business and navigation categories, for example – but that is a declining percentage of the marketplace," eMarketer concluded.

Data sourced from eMarketer; additional content by Warc staff