Apple pretty much invented the 'app store' phenomenon with the opening of its iPhone App Store in July 2008.

And, as the latest app sales figures for 2009 clearly display, the Cupertino computing giant basically owns the market.

The latest stats from research firm Gartner shows how Apple has made a mint from the $4.2 billion (£2.56 billion) that was spent on mobile apps in 2009.

And while Apple held 99.4 per cent of the market for apps last year, the emergence of new players in the smartphone market throughout 2010 should see its market share fall. However, Gartner still estimates that Apple could hold on to at least two-thirds of the market in 2010, extrapolating from current sales trends.

Games are number one

Apple announced earlier this year that total app sales to date had topped 3 billion, many of which were free. You can see the best picks of those free ones in our recent round-up.

"As smartphones grow in popularity and application stores become the focus for several players in the value chain, more consumers will experiment with application downloads," Stephanie Baghdassarian, research director at Gartner, said in a statement.

"Games remain the number one application, and mobile shopping, social networking, utilities and productivity tools continue to grow and attract increasing amounts of money."

Gartner's predicts 4.5 billion apps will be sold in 2010, totalling $6.8 billion in revenue. It remains to be seen how Apple's app store model will work with its soon-to-be-announced tablet PC, which is highly expected to be launched on January 27 in San Francisco.

Via Arstechnica.com