Market Data

Welcome to The Half-Trillion Dollar App Market

Lexi Sydow

In our new State of Mobile report, we reveal the app industry endured its first ever decline in direct consumer spend last year. But take advertising into account and it was actually a breakthrough moment for app publishers.

Was 2022 the first year that mobile apps generated half a trillion dollars? According to data.ai’s State of Mobile 2023 report, the answer is emphatically yes.

 

For a deeper dive into the key performance indicators for the mobile economy, download the full report.

 

Here's why. Last year, consumers spent $167 billion directly on premium app purchases and in-app extras globally. Meanwhile, brands assigned $336 billion of ad spend to the app market. The combined sum of the two totals? $503 billion. 

This milestone says a lot about the way the app economy is evolving. For many observers (including us), one of the key takeaways of the new research is the slight decline in direct consumer spend in 2022. The $167 billion total was 2% down on 2021.

This represented the first fall in mobile app spending since the market emerged in 2007. Clearly, global belt tightening played a central role in this. “For the first time, macroeconomic factors are dampening growth in mobile spend,” as data.ai Chief Executive Officer Theodore Krantz summarized.

Pay Attention to Four Trillion Hours of Attention

But the report numbers reveal another – perhaps even more telling – side to the story. Direct consumer app spend might be down, but consumer app attention is still on the up. Last year, the average daily time spent in apps per user across the top 10 markets analyzed reached 5 hours 2 minutes. Total hours were on track to surpass 4 trillion. That's up 9% on 2020. Meanwhile app downloads grew to 255 billion (+11% year-over-year).

Attention is, of course, the currency of global advertisers. They know that their customers are living increasingly mobile lives, and their response was to spend $336 billion on in-app ads. The total was 14% up on 2021.

 

The State of Mobile 2023 Report goes deeper into a time spent habits for key markets across 3 major regions.

 

However, the true extent of mobile's attention triumph is revealed when you take a longer view: in 2022, advertisers spent more than twice as much as they did in 2018 ($155 billion).

And we can expect the trend to be sustained across 2023. We predict the global mobile ad spend to hit $362 billion this year despite macro-economic headwinds.

How can data.ai make these projections? Our Data Intelligence products (notably App IQ and Games IQ) constantly monitor the performance of 250,000 apps. These features help thousands of publishers to assess the progress of their own products, track competitors and identify wider market opportunities. They also help us to form a birds-eye view of the industry as a whole.

The Unstoppable Rise of Streaming and Sharing

The remarkable switch of consumer attention away from traditional media and towards the smartphone raises the inevitable question: Which apps are responsible?

Our research provides very clear answers. In 2022, just three app categories (out of 20 monitored) captured 50% of all mobile time spent. No prizes for guessing that they all encompassed video and social. The categories were social media/communication (19.5%), entertainment/short videos (17%) and entertainment/video sharing (12.7%). Within these three segments, the market leading apps are WeChat, TikTok and YouTube, respectively.

 

View top ranking apps for 30 markets in the State of Mobile 2023 Report.

 

Short form mobile video is sweeping across the world and changing the cultural landscape forever. We can only guess at the long term commercial and creative consequences. But the numbers clearly tell us that we are in the midst of an entertainment revolution.

TikTok is, of course, leading the disruption. The product didn't even rank among the top 100 apps by consumer spend until 2020. Two years later, it was #1 and generated more than $3 billion in consumer spending. Only Tinder has higher consumer spend to date.

According to our analysis, TikTok is now one of only two non-game apps to pass $6 billion in all-time consumer spending. And it has generated more than 3.5 billion downloads – 2x the next closest app, YouTube.

In its success, TikTok represents another compelling trend in the app space: the rise of the super-publisher. Simply, the reach and scale of the app economy has enabled a number of specialist studios to flourish. In 2022, 1419 apps and games generated over $10 Million dollars. Meanwhile, 224 surpassed $100 million and 10 grossed $1 billion.

An Up and Down Year for Mobile Gaming

While social and short form video consolidated their commercial dominance, the app market's other dominant category stalled.

Consumer spend in mobile gaming dropped 5% to $110 billion in 2022. We could attribute this to the need among millions of consumers to cut back on discretionary spend. A return to normalcy that has included in-person work and schooling, is another pressure on the category.

 

While the decline in mobile game spending occurred globally, certain markets bucked the trend. Download the State of Mobile Report to uncover the markets experience growth.

 

Despite the slight decline, there were still notable successes in the sector. Apex Legends Mobile enjoyed a spectacular launch in May, while Diablo Immortal saw over $430 million in consumer spend during its first 6 months. Genshin Impact also maintained its momentum in 2022, moving past $3 billion in lifetime IAP spend in Q2 2022.

Another way to think about the slight correction in gaming spend is that it reflects structural changes within the category itself. To put it more succinctly: More people are spending more time in free games. After all, total downloads are still going up. They surged to nearly 90 billion in 2022 – 6.67 billion more than in 2021.

The force propelling the boom in installs is hypercasual gaming. This segment accounted for 29% of all downloads in 2022, assisted by the constant stream of new hits. Among those to break through last year were Merge & Fight, DOP4: Draw One Part and Stumble Guys.

Selected Further Highlights from the State of Mobile 2023

  • Users in Indonesia, Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Singapore and South Korea passed 5 hours per day in mobile apps in 2022.
  • OTT mobile video streaming apps accounted for 16% of all dollars spent on in-app subscriptions and purchases.
  • Mobile advertising continues to be the domain of the smartphone app. In attention terms, the mobile web browser accounted for just 8% of time spent.
  • Consumers spent nearly 110 billion Hours in shopping apps in 2022.
  • Food & grocery delivery apps continued to prosper. Sessions climbed 10% YoY in 2022 compared to 35% YoY growth in 2021 and 17% growth in 2019.
  • Travel officially bounced back to pre-pandemic levels. In 2022, each of the top five Travel subgenres surpassed their 2019 download totals.

Looking for More Mobile Insights?

This year's State of Mobile report dissects the macro-trends in the app market across gaming, fintech, retail, social, video streaming and more. Its findings are based on data insights captured by 250,000 apps categorized in data.ai's industry-first Game and App IQ taxonomy. 

Sign up here to claim a copy of data.ai’s industry-leading State of Mobile 2023 report:

 

DISCLAIMER: 

data.ai is a mobile market estimate service provider. data.ai is not registered in any investment advisory capacity in any jurisdiction globally, and does not offer any legal, financial, investment or business advice. Nothing contained in this communication, or in any data.ai products, services, communications, or other offerings, should be construed as an offer, recommendation, or solicitation to buy or sell any security or investment, or to make any investment decisions. Any reference to past or potential performance is not, and should not, be construed as a recommendation or as a guarantee of any specific outcome. You should always consult your own professional legal, financial, investment and business advisors. Additionally, by providing the information herein, data.ai does not make any representations or warranties and does not undertake any legal or contractual obligations whatsoever. No liability may accrue to data.ai as a result of providing this information to you.

January 18, 2023

Market Data

Related blog posts