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Apple starts off new year with record App Store sales

Company touts records all around: a 50 percent sales increase in 2014, half a billion dollars spent by consumers the first week of 2015, and its single-best day, on New Year's.

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Photo by Screenshot by Lance Whitney/CNET

Apple's iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch users spent almost half a billion dollars on apps and in-app purchases during the first week of January -- a new record for the App Store, the company announced Thursday.

That comes on top of the single biggest day ever for sales in its App Store -- New Year's Day 2015 -- and a record-breaking 2014, Apple said. Last year billings at the App Store increased by 50 percent over 2013, the company said, and app sales provided iOS developers with more than $10 billion in revenue -- bringing the total earned by developers to date to $25 billion.

Though Google's mobile operating system, Android, dominates the marketplace, developers gravitate toward Apple's iOS operating system as their top platform because users of the company's mobile devices spend more money on apps and games. On Apple's side, the App Store may not be its biggest moneymaker, but it still contributes a healthy share of revenue. Apple said last year that App Store sales came in at more than $10 billion in 2013. Though today's announcement didn't include a sales figure for 2014, the 50 percent increase in billings would presumably put that figure at somewhere around $15 billion. Since Apple snags 30 cents for every dollar spent in the store, Apple's cut of the action for 2014 could be about $4.5 billion.

Apple did not respond to CNET's request for comment.

The company pointed to a number of factors that it believes played a role in the App Store in 2014 and the start of 2015.

Launched last year, iOS 8 included Swift, a new programming language designed to be more user friendly for developers. The latest version of Apple's mobile OS also introduced HealthKit, which lets developers of health and fitness apps tie in their data with the new Health app. Another platform, called HomeKit, allows developers to design apps to work with home-automation devices.

Last year, the App Store also introduced new features such as app previews that let users watch a video demo of an app before deciding whether to download or purchase it. Another option for developers called App Bundles lets users save money by buying up to 10 apps in one shot at a reduced price.

Apple also talked up its new Apple Pay mobile-payments service. Using the iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus, users can tap into Apple Pay to purchase physical items at supported retailers. But they can also use the new iPhones, as well as the latest iPads, to purchase iTunes and App Store content via Apple Pay.

Many of these features are still new, so it's difficult to gauge exactly how much they've influenced App Store developers, users and sales so far. Adoption of iOS 8 among Apple users has been slower than it was for iOS 7 over the same period of time. The latest numbers from Apple show a market share for iOS 8 of 68 percent. But as more people upgrade to the latest version of iOS, developers are likely to take greater advantage of the latest features.

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