Mobile applications have taken off in the past several years. Thanks in large part to the rise of the iPhone, millions upon millions of consumers treat their mobiles like computing devices. It’s a trend that nobody expects to slow anytime soon.

But despite the rapid growth of mobile apps, when it comes to app sales, there’s good news for everyone in the mobile ecosystem: the best is yet to come.

According to research firm Gartner, mobile app sales topped $5.2bn last year, but this year that number will leap to $15.1bn. It expects total app store downloads to double to nearly 18bn. By 2014, Gartner sees that figure growing exponentially to 185bn.

While a rising tide usually lifts all boats, the awesome growth Gartner expects to see will lift some boats much higher than others.

In 2010, Apple’s App Store was responsible for nine out of ten app downloads, and while Gartner does believe other app stores will see gains, it predicts that Apple will continue to dominate through the end of 2014. For developers, that means that despite the momentum Google has achieved with Android adoption, developing for the iPhone is still going to be the most lucrative segment of the market.

Even if the iPhone remains the most dominant platform in mobile, however, if Gartner is anywhere close to the bulls eye with its estimates, the next several years should bring about some significant changes in the market.

After all, as the pie grows, we will likely see increased competition, new business models and more mature and sophisticated product offerings. The good news for everyone is that, even if you can no longer build a fart app and expect to make six figures in a month, such a rapidly growing market will create numerous opportunities for new players and when all is said and done, some of the biggest winners in the mobile application space are probably companies that haven’t even been started yet.