Beginning in January, users of smartphones on the Verizon Wireless network will have to get Intelliscreen, Weather Eye or the latest version of Angry Birds from Google's Play Store, or BlackBerry App World.

Verizon has announced that it's getting out of the consumer app business, and the familiar icon for getting apps directly from the nation's biggest wireless carrier will disappear from the home screen of new devices. Business apps for enterprise will still be available.

'Whole New Tech Landscape'

"Verizon set out to create an app storefront, offering device optimization, security and simplicity for developers," the company said on its Developer Community blog on Monday.

"Verizon Apps launched in March 2010 -- the beginning of what would be an app popularity surge. There's now a whole new tech landscape in which both consumers and developers can interact like never before. We're evolving our strategy to further simplify today's experience and meet the needs of tomorrow."

Mobile applications that add functionality, allow content access or just ease the morning commute with fun and games are a huge driver of smartphones and tablets.

By the end of last year, Americans were spending 94 minutes a day using mobile apps, compared with 72 minutes surfing the Web, according to statistics from comScore, Alexa and Flurry Analytics. Six months earlier, the numbers were 81 minutes for apps and 74 for browsing.

The number of apps for a particular platform -- iOS, Android, BlackBerry or Windows Phone -- is widely viewed as a barometer of its success because that gauges how much developers are betting on that platform's popularity.

With the success of homegrown platform app stores, Verizon evidently feels it's not worth the trouble to develop and sell them directly.

"It's more about being part of a larger ecosystem than an app store that stands alone," says tech analyst Michael Gartenberg of Gartner Research.

More Relevant Stores

"It appears that there are more relevant and more robust app stores out there, and that their customers were not utilizing their site to the degree in which it made sense to continue."

Users of Verizon iPhones will not be affected by the change because they could already get applications for Apple's iOS only from the iTunes App Store, which now has more than 700,000 active offerings.

Verizon Apps will be phased out for users of Android and Research In Motion devices beginning in January, with the process expected to be completed by March 27.

Developers of existing apps will still be able to access metrics and get payments while the shutdown client is being deployed, and Verizon will soon add new marketing strategies to help Android developers get their work discovered by Verizon customers, such as promotion of AppLuvr, which lets users share apps and discover ones theirs friends are using.

Beginning in December, all monthly subscriptions for apps billed through Verizon will end on the customer's renewal anniversary date.