Pulse on Current App Trends, 2020 in Review

Matthew Kloss | January 5, 2021
Strategic Accounts Executive

It’s been an unprecedented year. From socially distant  lifestyle shifts to the digitization of everyday goods and services, a lot changed. One thing was certain however: mobile devices were a keystone of connectivity, work and entertainment in 2020.

Here’s a look back on the major mobile trends of 2020. You can also take a look back at our last installment of our Pulse on Current Trends Report, where we covered app engagement trends from Q3 2020.

Global App Engagement

This year, app downloads broke records. Globally, 130 billion downloads were generated across the iOS and Google Play stores. This represented a 10% year over year increase. Global Google Play downloads surpassed iOS downloads by 160%. That said, both app stores saw 10% rise in year over year growth.

Source: App Annie

Games represented 40% of all Google Play and iOS downloads in 2020. Specifically, for Google Play, games represented 45% of all downloads, up from 40% in 2019. For the App Store, games represented 30% of all downloads, which remained constant from 2019.

On Google Play, the biggest categories of growth globally were Games, Business and Finance. The biggest categories of growth were Games, Business and Utilities on iOS.

India, Brazil and Indonesia were the largest contributors of growth in downloads on Google Play. On the App Store, the U.S., Japan and Saudi Arabia saw the greatest growth in downloads.

Global App Spend

Total spend on apps across iOS and Google Play set a new annual record of $112 billion in 2020. This represented 25% year-over-year growth.

Top markets driving growth for iOS were the US, Japan and the UK. Top markets for growth in spend on Google Play were the US, South Korea and Germany.

Mobile games took $0.71 of every dollar generated across iOS and Google Play combined. This reflects the year’s mobile gaming gold rush. For non-gaming apps, in-app subscriptions drove the most growth.

Top categories for growth were Games, Photo and Video and Social Networking on iOS and Games, Entertainment and Social on Google Play.

Source: App Annie

Top Apps

In terms of downloads, TikTok dominated consistently throughout 2020, as content-hungry consumers flocked to the video sharing app to create, socialize and stay entertained.

In Q1 2020, TikTok set a new record, generating 315 million installs globally, the most any app has driven in a single quarter. Altogether from January 1, 2020 to December 17, 2020, the app drove 961 million installs globally.

Source: App Annie

 

Other notable apps were ZOOM and Google Meet, which saw standout growth in downloads as businesses shifted to all-remote work and collaboration. Disney+ also saw record growth this year following its rollout to European and Latin American markets. Notably, Disney+ ranked 5th for consumer spend among non-gaming apps in 2020. This reflects the app’s successful leverage of exclusive content like The Mandalorian and Mulan to drive subscriptions.

As mentioned above, mobile gaming hit new heights in 2020. The top mobile game by spend was Honor of Kings, which drove $2.5 billion in player spend, up 42.8% from 2019.

Source: App Annie

A notable breakout game was Among Us. Although the game was first launched in 2018 to little fanfare, it began to garner attention through the influencer sphere across YouTube and Twitch this year. To date, Among Us has clocked 276.8 million lifetime downloads, with 94.7% of downloads coming in 2020.

UA & Retargeting Spend

Mobile app marketers spent $74.6 billion globally in 2020 to drive app installs. This represented a whopping 30% increase in ad spend compared to 2019. Across operating systems, this included $48.5 billion spent on Android and $26 billion spent on iOS.

The number of app downloads increased by 33% in 2020, up 25% compared to 2019. While the growth rate of marketing-driven installs (non-organic installs) dropped by 27% this year, organic installs increased by almost 60%.

Source: Appsflyer

App retargeting spend also continued to rise this year though at a slower pace than in 2019. With retargeting first adopted at an explosive rate by apps in 2019, keeping up this pace of growth would be unrealistic. That said, although growth was cut by half in 2020, it remained extremely robust at 82%.

This trend reflects the significant increase in the cost of installs, compared to the far more affordable price of retargeted media. It also highlights the continued focus on cultivating user loyalty amid retention struggles.

Takeaways

The year 2020 will go down in history books as an unprecedented year. From entertainment to connectivity, mobile asserted its position as a centerpiece of consumer’s stay-at-home lives.

  • Globally, 130 billion downloads were generated across the iOS and Google Play stores, a 10% year over year increase.
  • Total spend on apps across iOS and Google Play set a new annual record of $112 billion in 2020. This represented 25% year-over-year growth.
  • In terms of downloads, TikTok dominated consistently throughout 2020. Altogether from January 1, 2020 to December 17, 2020, the app drove 961 million installs globally.
  • Mobile gaming hit new heights in 2020. The top mobile game by spend was Honor of Kings, which drove $2.5 billion in player spend, up 42.8% from 2019.
  • Mobile app marketers spent $74.6 billion globally in 2020 to drive app installs. This represented a 30% increase in ad spend compared to 2019.
  • While the growth rate of marketing-driven installs (non-organic installs) dropped by 27% this year, organic installs increased by almost 60%.
  • While app retargeting growth was cut by half in 2020, it remained extremely robust at 82% compared to 2019.