This Week in Apps #97 - Look at Them Grow!

Ariel Ariel
6 minute read 1/21/22

This Week in Apps is a short, no-fluff, round-up of interesting things that happened in the mobile industry. Here are our top highlights.

U.S. Business Downloads Index (7 Day)

App Store
207.80 +4.6%
Google Play
262.28 +5.5%

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1. The Most Downloaded Apps in December

December, the month for many apps and games, is behind us. I rounded up the most downloaded apps in the world and ranked them for you.

Let's dive right in:

Instagram was the most downloaded app in the world in December of 2021, making its way into nearly 60 million new devices across the App Store and Google Play, according to our estimates.

TikTok was right behind it with 51 million estimated downloads, in a battle we've seen go back a few months now. A battle TikTok would win comfortably if the app wasn't banned in India...

Speaking of India, Meesho, a shopping app for India, has had its best month of downloads, reaching the #3 most downloaded app in the world. Even though it's only targeting India. That's a lot of downloads!

Meta's remaining champions, Facebook and WhatsApp, were the 4th and 5th most downloaded apps in December.

The one app we keep seeing more of over the last few months is Capcut, TikTok's video editor. I talked about it more than once, and I think it's showing a big trend that many video editor apps, which monetize very well, are not very happy about.

Our estimates show that together, the top 10 most downloaded apps in the world in December were downloaded 363M times. About 10% higher than November but with pretty much all the same players.


2. The Highest-Earning Apps in the U.S. this December

What's more interesting than downloads these days? Revenue! In addition to looking at downloads, I also rounded up the highest-earning apps in the U.S. (not games, that's next week) to see if it's any different than November's.

Yes and no and a small maybe...

YouTube was the highest-earning app in the U.S., earning $88M of net revenue, according to our estimates. And that's only from the App Store because it's charging directly on Android. Massive!

It regained the top position after Tinder took over for a couple of months, pushing Tinder into second place with a massive haul of $75M net revenue, according to our estimates.

TikTok was right below it, but I expect this is the last month we'll be seeing it that low in the list. More on that below.

Streamers took the 4th and 5th places, which I found a little surprising. But box office revenue has gone way up which may signal a shift in the trend I talked about a few weeks ago and the need for even more attention to user acquisition.

Together, we estimate that the 10 highest-earning apps in the U.S. brought in $414M of net revenue from the App Store and Google Play, and that's after they paid Apple and Google their dues in December.


3. What's Wrong with This Wordle?

Last week I shared download estimates for Wordle!, an old game that has the same name as a web game that gained popularity in the last month. And no, I'm not talking about the clone Apple took down.

Normally, I don't talk about the same app (or game) for two weeks in a row, but the numbers I shared last week, which were pretty big for then, have been dwarfed this week and I just had to share an update.

Wordle! has reached new highs this week, hitting 80K downloads on Wednesday in a journey that doesn't seem to be slowing down any time soon. In total, the game was downloaded more than 500,000 times in the last couple of weeks.

The developer of the game committed to donating all of the new revenue to charity, which is very noble and surprising. But we can't let those big download numbers fool us.

I talk about "intent" often in the context of App Store Optimization, and say that if you are lucky enough to show up for something that isn't relevant for your app odds are those downloads won't turn into anything. That's mainly what's happening here...

Although Wordle! is a word game it's nothing like the Wordle people are looking for right now, so after they download it they get confused and leave, leading to enormous churn and no real revenue.

The game doesn't do a great job at keeping those new users or converting them either, which means the donation amount isn't all that high.

I urge the developer behind it to ride the wave and explain what's going on, make it easier to play the game and to pay for it. Why? Because it's a great opportunity to earn for a good cause.


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4. TikTok is Getting Ready for an App Store Takeover

2022 will be the year of TikTok. A few months ago I made a prediction that TikTok will become the top-grossing app in the U.S. App Store in early 2022. And, guess what happened this morning!

If you look at the top-grossing list, the one that includes apps and games, you'll see TikTok is the leader. They took the lead away from YouTube, which enjoyed the top position most consistently for quite a long time.

It's possible, and likely, that we'll see the two go back and forth for a bit, but I still think TikTok will outpace YouTube consistently to become the highest earner in a way that YouTube won't be able to come back from very soon.

It's not that YouTube is doing anything wrong, and I don't have anything against YouTube at all. In fact, I'm investing a lot of time and effort into our YouTube channel. But TikTok's ability to monetize its user base is second to none.

And because all that revenue we're tracking is users paying creators, you know we'll see even more creators going TikTok to earn money which will be making it even stronger.


5. Five Nights at Freddy's Earns Five Top Spots

The top paid app list in the App Store is fairly static, and if you remember episode #92 where I compared the highest-earning paid apps and free apps, there's not that much money there to begin with.

Which is why I was a bit surprised to see a single franchise take over most of the top paid app list last week. And it continued into this week so I just had to do some digging.

Five Nights at Freddy's is a series of horror games that take place in a haunted pizzeria that was released in 2014 and went viral outside of the App Store and Google Play.

A few weeks ago, Five Nights at Freddy's 1-4 + SL, all paid games that cost $2.99 (in the U.S. App Store) took over the top paid app list. As of right now, they're still in command ranking just below Minecraft.

We estimate that together, the 5 games that are at the top of the chart, have earned more than $1.2M of net revenue in the U.S. across the App Store and Google Play. That's an amazing haul for a collection that's nearly 7 year old and hasn't been updated in more than a year.


App Intelligence for Everyone!

The insights in this report come right out of our App Intelligence platform, which offers access to download and revenue estimates, installed SDKs, and more! Learn more about the tools or schedule a demo with our team to get started.

Are you a Journalist? You can get access to our app and market intelligence for free through the Appfigures for Journalists program. Contact us for more details.

All figures included in this report are estimated. Unless specified otherwise, estimated revenue is always net, meaning it's the amount the developer earned after Apple and Google took their fee.

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