This Week in Apps #115 - Not More of the Same

Ariel Ariel
7 minute read May. 27

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. Games Revenue Index (YTD)

App Store
283.65 -4.4%
Google Play
359.36 -0.7%

Insights

1. Wendy's Goes on Sale โ€“ Looking at Downloads, It's Obvious Why...

This week, my favorite fast-food chain hung a big "for sale" sign on its door. Wendy's announced it's ready to be acquired, citing rising costs and inflation. But if you ask me, there's more to this story.

A few weeks ago I looked at the growth of downloads of fast-food restaurants during the pandemic, including Wendy's. And although it was in the green in that comparison, a longer view shows growth has been pretty stale overall.

A tough market, you might say. Unless you're McDonald's...

To see how Wendy's compared to its most obvious rivals, McDonald's and Burger King, I looked at quarterly downloads for the trio in the US.

The good news is that Wendy's grew its downloads fairly steadily since 2019, and when comparing Q1 of 2019 to Q1 of 2022, downloads are up 50%. That's not a small number. But... McDonald's doubled in the same period.

And that's only half of the story. McDonald's ended Q1 of 2022 with around 5 million downloads, according to our estimates. Wendy's, after its 50% growth, ended Q1 of 2022 with a little over a million downloads. Just a fifth.

That means there's much more room for growth, but at the pace of the last few years, getting close will take what seems like a lifetime.

Restaurants that aren't focused on mobile growth are already a thousand steps behind in this race. Those who focus on usage are a little closer, but considering the last few years have taught most to order ahead via app, book a reservation via app, or order for delivery also via app, are still behind.

The game is growth, and the currency is downloads.

2. Planet Fitness Gets It โ€“ Muscles Ahead of TikTok and Instagram!

I'm always on the lookout for clever campaigns that come with a bang, and this week, I came across a great one that's been taking over the App Store.

Planet Fitness, a national chain of gyms, is giving free access to teens for the entire summer. Free has a nice ring to it, right? No catch. Just sign up and download the app, which serves as your gym pass, and you're in.

Umm, wait, download the app...

The campaign, which started on May 16th, helped skyrocket the app to the top of the US App Store almost instantly. It hasn't left since, sitting pretty ahead of popular teen destinations like TikTok and Instagram.

That translates into a lot of attention!

Our estimates show that in its first week, the campaign has resulted in 1.1 million downloads across the App Store and Google Play. However, most of them came from the App Store, where downloads grew by more than 600%. Downloads doubled on Google Play.

I don't expect this to end any time soon as the campaign lasts until the end of August.

Why is this clever? Most teens aren't likely to sign up for a gym membership, which means Planet Fitness isn't cannibalizing any revenue by offering this. And I did say most and not all, so I'm sure there's some loss, but overall it's the cost of free promotion.

Teens like to use their mobile devices, so a download isn't a hard ask. Many downloads = better rank, and a better rank = more visibility. The kind of visibility that will put Planet Fitness in front of its actual target demographic, which is slightly older.

See what's happening here? Kudos to whoever came up with that idea, and get ready to see rivals attempt their own versions.

3. Who's Going to Dominate Buy Now Pay Later?

Earlier in the week, Buy Now Pay Later leader Klarna announced it's letting go 10% of its workforce due to shifting market conditions. That led me to look at this, which was one of the hottest just six months ago.

Well, don't let the news bring you down because, looking at downloads, it hasn't cooled down just yet. And there's one clear winner.

Klarna's downloads actually grew a lot in 2022. In fact, they're now at the highest they've ever been for the off-season (aka. not Christmas).

Our estimates show that Klarna has seen more than 700,000 downloads every week for the last few weeks. The most for this time of the year, and not by a little. And to make things even nicer, that's an increase of more than 64% from January of this year.

Looking back even further, it's pretty clear that this level of growth is new for Klarna.

Side note: There are many who really dislike the BNPL concept. It's a common response I get when I talk about it. I'm not saying it's good (or bad) here; I'm just sharing interesting data._

Now, I don't think Klarna's decision to tighten expenses is a mistake. The downloads paint a nice picture but looking at Klarna's competitors, things aren't looking nearly as nice.

Affirm and Afterpay, Klarna's most popular rivals, have seen much less growth in 2022, and are both getting fewer downloads on a weekly basis, even when combined.

Like many other industries we've seen normalizing this year, BNPL is likely heading in that direction as well. An important component for success for these apps will be partnerships and not just direct downloads, but that's also the difference between an occasional user and a loyal one.


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4. Grubhub Fumbled a Big Campaign but Still Got Some Downloads

Have you ever heard the saying "there's no such thing as free lunch"?

Last week food delivery app Grubhub reiterated that to thousands of hangry New Yorkers in a campaign that could have been huge but ended up in more tears than cheers.

The campaign, which was supposed to feed everyone in New York on one happy Tuesday with a $15 discount, failed almost as soon as it started. Technical issues were an easy one to blame, but the real issue was the lack of communication between Grubhub and restaurants and delivery people, which puts so much stress on the platform that many simply didn't get their food at all.

But... that didn't stop the downloads.

On the day of the big promotion, downloads rose more than 1,100%, sending Grubhub's app to the top of the US App Store. That's right, a botched campaign in New York City led to visibility across the entire country!

We estimate that those few short hours of excitement gave Grubhub more than 133,000 new users. Users who are more likely to delete the app in frustration than use it again, but downloads nevertheless.

Downloads went back to their normal daily average of around 10,000 the next day, and don't even get me started on the reviews.

By the way, if you're curious why Grubhub picked Tuesday, I suspect it's because it's the weakest day of the week in terms of download. Smart!

With the growing competition in big metros, new downloads are critical for the sustainability of food delivery companies. Grubhub and Seamless, the platform that really started it all here in New York City and is now owned by Grubhub, are facing stiff competition from Uber Eats, Postmates, and DoorDash, which offer endless promotions to win returning customers.

A few weeks ago I looked at fast-food restaurants and their ability to drum up downloads directly, and if you recall, most just don't get it. This is just another example of that. And in 2022, after several years of experiments.

Not focusing on new downloads is a mistake most of these companies seem to be making. Except for McDonald's, which continues to win the race.

5. Googling in the Browser is So 2021...

Amid all the chaos, shortages, and market volatility, I found a rather simple trend that's still interesting.

Search giant, which I should really refer to as the search engine because no one uses any of the others, Google, is seeing downloads of its iOS app grow at an impressive rate.

Impressive, considering it's the search engine -everyone has in their browser!_

Just how many downloads are we talking?

1.9 million downloads in the last week, according to our estimates! It's an increase of 40% over January's weekly download average, and a whopping increase of 109% over downloads in 2020.

Google's app goes much deeper than what's available via the browser, but always felt like a power feature and not something many need. Yet, these downloads and that growth might mean it's more mainstream than expected.

The takeaway here is that even Google can grow its downloads. You should be too.

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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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