This Week in Apps #103 - The Downloads Don't Stop

Ariel Ariel
5 minute read 3/6/22

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. Revenue Index (30 Day)

App Store
366.51 +5.9%
Google Play
288.26 +14.3%

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1. Reface Takes a Stand and Gets a Standing Ovation

This week Reface, an app that shapeshifts faces using AI to look like celebrities, went viral after taking a stand to show the invasion into Ukraine, the company's home country.

The app compiled actual videos of local attacks and pushed them to their users in Russia, who aren't able to see independent news coverage, as well as users all over the world.

They managed to not just get the word out to users, but also acquire a lot of news users in the process.

Downloads, which average 40K on a normal day, nearly doubled to 75K on Thursday and continued to grow into the weekend, peaking at more than 200K on Sunday.

In total, our estimates show that Reface added more than a million new downloads since last week.

It's interesting to see how an app that's used for entertainment was able to create such awareness, essentially offering news. This isn't something we see often, but in times like these, it's great to see how developers are leveraging what they have to bring changes.

2. VPNs Top Russia's App Store

Edit: We've updated the numbers and added more details in a new article. Check it out →

While most of the attention is focused on Ukraine right now, there's something else that's going on rather quietly that's also of importance. The government of Russia, which is invading Ukraine, is also making it hard for its citizens to access information about the events that are unfolding.

As of right now, and for most of this week, VPN apps have risen to the top of both the App Store and Google Play in Russia.

In case you're not familiar, VPNs provide a secure tunnel to the internet through servers in other countries, which allows those who use them to circumvent local limits in most cases.

As of this Tuesday, the most popular VPN apps in Russia saw an increase in downloads of more than 1,200%.

According to our App Intelligence, daily downloads, which average 10K in Russia across the App Store and Google Play, rose to more than half a million on Tuesday. Just Tuesday!

Since the invasion began, the top VPN apps, which mostly seem generic but also include Cloudflare's app, were downloaded more than 1.3 million times in Russia alone.

I wonder how long that will last...

3. Demand for News Apps Quadrupled Last Week - CNN, Al Jazeera, and Newsmax In the Lead

News is obviously hot right now, and I already showed that it's channels and not aggregators that are in demand last week. That was using ranks.

This week I have numbers to back it up and show which news channel is most in demand right now. And it's not what I was expecting.

For this analysis, I compared the downloads of the most popular news apps before and after the invasion began.

I focused on apps that are only used for news and didn't include Twitter and Reddit. They're great sources for news, and if you recall from last week's analysis, have increased in popularity a lot recently. But news isn't the only use for them, so a spike isn't only because of that.

On to numbers!

In relative terms, Al Jazeera saw the most growth in downloads, going from about 5K estimated weekly downloads earlier in February to more than 160K last week. An increase of 2,880%.

In absolute terms, CNN was the most in demand news app last week, adding 270K new downloads last week, according to our estimates. CNN gets more downloads normally, so in terms of growth, it's only 493%.

Newsmax, Fox News, and BBC News also grew triple-digit percentages last week. But aggregators NewsBreak and Google News both lost downloads, -6% and -13%, respectively.

We estimate that last week brought roughly 580K new downloads, meaning in addition to what's expected, for top news apps around the world.

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4. Microsoft Word Was One of the Most Downloaded Apps in the World in February

I'm early again this week with our monthly analysis of the most downloaded apps and games in the world for February. If you've been following the newsletter for a while, you know these don't change all that much from month to month.

February wasn't much different...

TikTok was, again, the most downloaded app in the world in February. It brought in 41M downloads according to our estimates, showing a strong front in the App Store while letting rival Instagram beat it on Google Play. Oh, Instagram was the second most downloaded app in the world, with 39M estimated downloads.

I can continue and point out the obvious, but I have to stop and point your attention to Microsoft Word... What's it doing there?

Word snuck into the top list, again, but this time it made it into the overall list and not just the Google Play list like last month. It added 18M downloads in February, eclipsing CapCut, TikTok's video editor, which seems to always find a way to come in last in this list.

Meta's Trio™, Zoom, Telegram, and Snapchat were the other most downloaded apps in the world in February. And if you compare this list to last month's, you'll see the only thing that's changed is Spotify for Word and Snapchat and Telegram swapped. It's time for something new. Are you working on it?

According to our estimates, the top 10 most downloaded apps in the world added 265M new downloads in February. That's a lot lower than January, but February is a short month, so this isn't bad.

5. Hyper Casuals Make a Comeback

I've analyzed the most downloaded games in February (early, again!) this week, and hey, it's Wordle up top! Kind of.

Subway Surfers was the most downloaded game in the world in February, adding 20M new users to its base, according to our estimates. Roblox, which was the second most downloaded game in January, finished February in fifth place with 12M estimated downloads.

Two hyper-casual titles, Merge Master and Twerk Race–I don't make these names, just cover them–took second and third place in our overall chart with strong downloads on Google Play. We estimate they added 19M and 15M new downloads, respectively.

Garena Free Fire, which was banned in India in February, and sibling Free Fire Max, both made the top list in February. They added 11M and 10M estimated downloads, respectively. While lower than January, this isn't as bad as I expected.

Together, we estimate that the top 10 most downloaded games in the world made their way into 132M new devices in February. Only a touch lower than January's total, but then again, February is a short month, so this is good news.

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.

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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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