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Apps inch up toward iTunes users' favorite activity

Listening to music files is still tops, but that's slowly but surely heading toward becoming the second-most-popular iTunes activity.

Here are the results of NPD's research into how iTunes users spend their time and money. Note that the results do not add up to 100 percent because most people use iTunes for more than one type of activity. NPD

Apple's iTunes platform may have started with music in mind, but over the last couple years, a rival for people's attention has arisen from within, according to new research.

Although 54 percent of U.S.-based iTunes users in 2010 headed to the software to listen to music, that figure dropped to 41 percent of users in 2013, according to new data from research firm NPD.

At the same time, the amount of people downloading apps has jumped. For free apps, the figure has grown from 24 percent in 2010 to 35 percent in 2013. For paid apps, the figure has shifted from 12 percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2013.

Just to be clear, the figures don't add up to 100 percent because NPD didn't make it an either-or inquiry.

Although it appears apps might eventually win out over music, both activities are extremely popular and iTunes itself continues to grow. According to NPD, iTunes now has 67 million users in the United States, up from 50 million in 2010.

Apple's iTunes platform was originally designed as a way for users to manage tracks and listen to songs. Over time, however, the platform has grown into a full-fledged marketplace, offering everything from games and movies to e-books and podcasts.

Free apps, however, are becoming more and more significant.

According to NPD, 95 percent of iOS users download free apps and, on average, have 35 free downloads on their devices. Paid app downloads have declined from 72 percent of users in 2012 to 69 percent this year, according to NPD.

Not surprisingly, games are the most popular apps, with 81 percent of iOS users downloading free titles. Social-networking applications come in second with 70 percent usage.

One other interesting tidbit on the state of music downloads: just 9 percent of iTunes users download a full digital album, compared with 29 percent who download individual songs.