Pulse on Current App Trends Deep Dive, WeChat Ban

Naomi Shebah | August 25, 2020
Director of Account Managemenet

Welcome to YouAppi’s App Trends Report, a regular rundown of actionable insights to help better market your app. In this installment, we’re discussing global app trends in the first half of August as a result of the WeChat ban in the U.S.

WeChat Ban in the U.S. Looms 

As we reported in our last App Trends article, the looming TikTok ban announced in early August has prompted a boost in downloads of alternative video-sharing apps. Less publicized was President Trump’s executive order to ban WeChat, which was announced at the same time as the TikTok ban.

WeChat is a popular Chinese messaging app used across the Chinese diaspora. WeChat, called Weixin in China, functions like Facebook, LinkedIn, Uber, Instagram and several other apps all at once. For many Chinese people, WeChat is an indispensable app for staying in touch across the world. Part of this popularity is due to the Chinese government blocking American social media apps such as Facebook and Twitter, making state-sponsored apps like WeChat the norm.

WeChat is owned by Tencent, China’s biggest tech company and the world’s largest gaming company. In March, Tencent reported that WeChat has nearly 1.2 billion monthly active users.

WeChat reached approximately 764,000 installs across the U.S. App Store and Google Play in the first half of 2020. While this only represents a little over 2% of the app’s 32 million downloads globally, U.S. consumers spend the most on in-app purchases in WeChat outside of China. In H1 2020, U.S. users generated $120,000 or nearly 6% of the app’s $2 million global gross revenue from IAP.

How the WeChat Ban Could Affect Tencent

Given the small market share WeChat has in the U.S., the ban is mostly symbolic. However, if the executive ban extends to gaming apps, Tencent’s business holdings could suffer markedly. 

Tencent owns Riot Games, the maker of League of Legends. Tencent also has a stake in Epic Games, parent company of Fortnite.

How the WeChat Ban Has Affected Messaging Apps

Following the August 6 executive order calling for a ban of Tencent’s WeChat, consumers began experimenting with alternative messaging apps. Both Signal and QQ saw a boost in U.S. installs in the six days following the executive order compared to the six days prior.

Source: Sensor Tower

Signal saw its U.S. installs grow 30% in the six days following the executive order (compared to the six days prior). In the first half of August, Signal saw 65,000 installs in the U.S. This amounted to 10,800 daily installs of the app, compared to about 8,300 in the preceding period.

QQ saw its installs grow more than threefold to 15,000 installs, as compared to about 5,000 in the prior period. 

According to Apptopia data, while both apps increased engagement since the announcement, there was a marked boom for QQ in the U.S. market. While Signal has a larger user base worldwide, QQ has a comparatively larger user base in China. This popularity could account for the boost in U.S. growth since QQ’s larger Chinese user base would make it a natural choice of the alternatives for consumers in the U.S. who are looking to communicate with users there. However, the app is also developed by Tencent. This means it faces uncertainty depending on the potential extension of the U.S. ban to other apps in Tencent’s portfolio.

QQ App Downloads & DAU (U.S.)

Source: Apptopia

Signal and the Black Lives Matter Movement

Interestingly, while Signal did not see a boost in engagement around the time of the executive ban announcement, it did see growth in the week following the proliferation of Black Lives Matter protests in the U.S. after May 25. The encrypted messaging app was touted as the app of choice to organize and protest against police brutality without threat of surveillance by U.S. law enforcement.

In the first week of June, there were 183,000 downloads of the Signal app. The app drove two times the amount of downloads compared to the week prior to May 25 at 51,000 downloads. 

Signal App Downloads & DAU (U.S.)

Source: Apptopia

This suggests that other factors than the impending WeChat ban could contribute to Signal’s continued growth in the U.S. market.

 

We’re keeping a close watch on app engagement as user behavior evolves in 2020. Tune into our next Pulse on Current App Trends Report for more actionable insights to better market your app.