With over 100,000 apps available for the iPhone/iPod Touch and billions of downloads since the App Store opened just under two years ago, the market is clearly hot. And with the release of the iPad, expect a new flood of apps into the market.  However, a recent article in the New York Times suggests that even with the wealth of options, people generally use only five apps despite having downloaded far more.

The average iPhone or iPod Touch owner uses 5 to 10 apps regularly, according to Flurry, a research firm that studies mobile trends. This despite the surfeit of available apps: some 140,000 and counting.

Another finding that the article notes is that even thought hundreds of thousands of apps are available, the entire user group is generally exposed to the same few thousand apps.

A survey of iPhones, iPod Touch and Android users conducted in July 2009 by AdMob, an advertising network that helps people promote their applications on smartphones, found that people discover apps most often by browsing app stores. And even though the iTunes store is bloated with offerings, people tend to gravitate to the most popular….

“…The top apps featured at the store do change out,” Mr. Putney said. “But most users will never see more than 1 percent of the total apps available.”

These findings are important for iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad users, app developers, and even us here at iMedicalApps, and here’s why. For users, this means that finding the best apps requires some work – a conscious effort to search the app store for things that interest you. That includes looking beyond the most popular medical apps. For developers, this means that reaching potential customers requires finding ways to climb that popularity ladder. For the Malcolm Gladwell enthusiasts, this means finding the Mavens, Connectors, and Salesman (from Tipping Point) – basically the people with large social (or professional) networks who are most likely to adopt early and spread the message about your great app. And for us here at iMedicalApps, it means actively looking for that diamond in the rough, languishing at the bottom of the popularity rankings, and helping our readers discover useful apps they wouldn’t have seen otherwise.