As COVID-19 has gripped the world, altered economics and transformed daily lives, one thing is certain: we have all leaned on mobile to connect, work, learn, play and escape. At the height of the pandemic our mobile usage has sky-rocketed — accelerating our mobile adoption by 2 to 3 years. As we close the books on 2020, what has happened in mobile? How has this transformed the game for business, and how should businesses prepare to win on mobile in 2021? The End of Year Review from mobile analytics firm, App Annie, examines the trends.
Global spend to hit $112 Billion in 2020, growth of 25% year-over-year
Across iOS and Google Play, total spend in mobile apps and games set a new annual record. While 65 cents of every dollar went to iOS, spend in Google Play will grow close to 30% — a trend we’ve reported on for many quarters. iOS maintains the stronghold of global spend, but due to competitive Android devices and a growing device footprint, Google Play has seen sizable growth.
Top markets driving growth for iOS include US, Japan and the UK — which differs from the top markets for growth in iOS consumer spend from 2018 to 2019, including the US, China and Japan. Top markets for growth in spend on Google Play included the US, South Korea and Germany — with South Korea and Germany taking Japan and the UK’s place in terms of growth in Google Play spend from 2018 to 2019.
In terms of categories, $0.71 of every dollar went to games across iOS and Google Play combined — with spending accelerated by this year’s boom in mobile gaming. Among non-gaming categories of 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.
130 billion mobile app and games downloads in 2020
Globally, downloads will approach 130 billion annually across iOS and Google Play. Typically much of this growth is from emerging markets, but in 2020 COVID-19 catalyzed demand for digital solutions to socially-distant problems. As a result, downloads grew 10% year over year, despite more maturity in the mobile market. Global Google Play downloads outnumbered iOS downloads by 160%, but both app stores saw 10% growth year over year.
Across both app stores, Games increased their relative level of downloads, representing 40% and of total Google Play and iOS downloads in 2020. Games represented 45% of all Google Play downloads — up from 40% in 2019 — and 30% of all downloads on iOS — which remained constant from 2019.
The biggest categories of growth globally were Games, Business and Finance on Google Play and Games, Business and Utilities on iOS. On a country level, India, Brazil and Indonesia were the largest contributors of growth in downloads on Google Play whereas the US, Japan and Saudi Arabia saw the greatest growth in downloads on iOS.
Time spent will top 3.3 trillion hours on Android phones in 2020 — up 25% from 2019
One of the biggest areas of growth we saw on mobile was in time spent — a product of both more people using mobile apps and spending greater time in them each day. Globally, the biggest categories of growth in time spent include Business apps, up 200% — largely from collaboration and conferencing tools like ZOOM Cloud Meetings.
This, however, does vary by market — underpinning why mobile market data is critical to a business strategy in 2020 and beyond. A one-size-fits-all mobile strategy could leave you open to competitive threats and blind to opportunities. Mobile market data and insights can keep you informed on the latest shifts in the market, changes in consumer behavior and long-term market trends.
We are poised to see continued strong growth in ‘at home’ mobile services into 2021 — particularly as markets contend with outbreaks and public confidence in containment until the eventual rollout of global effective vaccines. While news in November 2020 looks positive for vaccine development, mobile will remain the central hub of connectivity in the new normal.
ZOOM, Google Meet, TikTok and Disney+ are top performers for non-gaming apps
Preliminarily, we’ve taken a look at the top apps of 2020 by downloads and app store consumer spend through November 14, 2020 along with average monthly active users through October. We tend to see a seasonal bump in downloads, spend and usage around the holidays and expect full-year rankings could shift as a result.
Breakout apps by year-over-year growth in 2020 include:
- ZOOM Cloud Meetings and Google Meet saw standout growth in downloads during 2020 — as businesses went remote and collaboration went entirely online, demand for mobile apps surged. We expect mobile usage to remain high in 2021 as businesses retain varying levels of remote policies globally.
- TikTok’s tidal wave continued throughout 2020 — particularly as content-hungry consumers flocked to the app to create, socialize and stay entertained — even increasing its cross-app usage with major video streaming players like Netflix, indicating that TikTok is not only blurring the lines between social and streaming but is a force to be reckoned with in the streaming world in its own right and is set to break into the 1 billion monthly active user club in 2021.
- Disney+ had a standout year for growth following its rollout into European and Latin American markets. Disney+ ranked 5th for consumer spend among non-gaming apps in 2020 — monetizing mobile users to subscribe to the app, leveraging exclusive content like The Mandalorian and Mulan. Disney announced a corporate restructuring in Q4 2020 to support its primary focus for the Entertainment division on streaming.
Among Us, My Talking Tom Friends, ROBLOX and Call of Duty see success in 2020
Mobile gaming hit new heights in 2020 — fueled in part by cross-platform play, the growing Core mobile gaming market, and continued growth in casual gaming. Key social features also helped to drive mobile gaming adoption and market share — including chat, friend invites and competitive multiplayer modes — particularly those adopted by casual games.
Breakout games by year-over-year growth in 2020 include:
- Among Us — a competitive multiplayer game within the Casual Arcade subgenre — had a standout year for growth in downloads and active users. By combining multiplayer gameplay — typically leveraged and popularized by Core games like battle royale — with hyper-casual elements of Arcade games, they were able to garner a large and heavily engaged audience. Its multiple maps and deeply customizable gameplay settings help keep the game fresh and enables users to adjust settings to best fit the friends they are playing with — strategic elements that help to bolster retention.
- My Talking Tom Friends launched in February 2020 and was the 8th most downloaded game globally in 2020. The Casual > Simulation > Tamagotchi game builds off the popular My Talking Tom franchise to capture latent demand and give a fan-favorite a fresh take.
- ROBLOX — a Casual > Simulation > Sandbox game — broke into the top 10 apps by consumer spend in 2020, which is particularly impressive given the heavy dominance of Core games in the top grossing charts. ROBLOX hosted a concert featuring Lil Nas X — a music star popularized by his TikTok cover of old-town road in 2019 — and garnered 33 million views across his four shows. Cross-genre collaborations and ‘exclusive’ content can be a unique drawcard for mobile games with savvy mobile-first gamers.
- Call of Duty: Mobile turned 1 on October 1, 2020 and nearly surpassed 1 billion hours spent on Android phones in the peak month of its first year. The console-turned-mobile favorite hit another milestone in 2020, coming it at #4 by average monthly active users, up from #13 in 2019.