This Week in Apps #124 - Was that a Mistake?
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. Game Revenue Index (YTD)
1. Instagram is Trying to Become TikTok, and Not Because It's Losing.
Instagram recently announced that it'll start turning all videos uploaded by users into Reels. A seemingly small but very significant change to how its platform operates.
So significant that everyone has been yelling at Instagram not to do it and remain Instagram and not a clone of TikTok.
Why would Instagram want to replace its feed with what feels like TikTok?
If you've been following the newsletter for a while, you know that Instagram has been beating TikTok in our monthly ranking of the most downloaded apps in the world for quite a while now. And that's exactly it.
Instagram has been keeping up with TikTok for quite a while now. And that required hard work. Back in 2020, TikTok was beating them mercilessly.
So far in 2022, the two are very close. Our estimates show TikTok added 352 million new users in the first half of 2022, while Instagram added 336 million. That's super close. For context, TikTok's downloads were double those of Instagram for the first half of 2020.
Then it got banned in India, and the growth slowed down...
But back to Instagram. Why would Instagram want to change now that they're able to keep up? Because that's the only reason they're even able to get close.
Attention spans have shrunk to the point where actual content is no longer engaging. TikTok's short videos, and Instagram's Reels, are the future for video. Or, that's at least what it looks like right now. The problem is that Instagram isn't a short video platform. Reels are bolted on.
Just like Facebook had all the kids at first and now has all the aunts, Instagram is stuck in the same boat, and Meta is trying to keep it relevant.
With apps like BeReal still in command of the App Store, I don't know if Instagram can make this shift. It's simply too heavy to pivot.
I've said it before, and it's worth bringing up again – If you have an app in the store right now, you have to figure out how to promote it on TikTok.
2. Paramount+ Hit New Revenue Highs
Streaming is still hot, and I'm not referring to HBO Max holding on to its top spot on the Top Grossing chart in the US.
While the battle between HBO Max and Disney+ has mostly ended (with the former winning), it's interesting to see how the other streamers are doing in terms of subscriptions.
Paramount+, one of the other (aka. smaller) streamers, has seen revenue growing steadily in the first half of 2022. I recently said the race for streaming is over, and that's mostly true when you look at HBO Max vs. Disney, there's still room for streamers that have more casual content.
Peacock wants to be that, but it's Paramount+ that's currently winning that race.
According to our estimates, Paramount+ has been outpacing Peacock for the last three months. So far in 2022, Peacock has earned $62 million in net revenue while Paramount+ earned $63 million. And this is net revenue, which means it's what they get to keep after Apple and Google take their fees.
Not a big deal in terms of money, but there are two things that make me say Paramount+ is winning here.
The first is the trend. Since launch, Paramount has mostly led in terms of revenue. With a few exceptions that had to do with exclusive content, NBC's bird was a bit behind. It has a nice trend going for it, but not as nice as Paramount's.
The second is the ratio of downloads to revenue. Although the two nearly match in revenue, the downloads are very different. Our estimates show Peacock gets nearly twice as many downloads. In absolute terms, we're looking at 25 million downloads for Peacock and 13 million for Paramount+.
That means Paramount+ is almost twice as good at turning visitors into paying subscribers, and that's a big deal. Really, that's the deal.
There aren't many battles left to fight in the streaming world, so this one's a good one to keep an eye on.
3. Is React Native Still a Hot Non-Native Option for App Development?
I've been seeing a lot of chatter about native vs. non-native app development on Twitter lately. Most people are curious if React Native is the solution to mobile app development, replacing the native alternatives. Others are downright cultish...
This isn't a new thing. Every year some tweet sparks a war about this topic.
We have the data to answer this question, so let's do that.
FYI - This is a single insight from a new report I'm putting together that looks at native vs. non-native. Make sure you're subscribed to the newsletter to get the full report when I publish it.
The simple answer is no. React Native hasn't taken over. Native development isn't dead. But it's not not popular. That wasn't a typo.
According to our SDK intelligence, in which we analyze all free apps and games available for download, 5.3% of all apps available on the App Store and Google Play right now are powered by React Native. Google Play has more of them overall, but Google Play also has far more apps available and is easier to ship apps on, so that isn't really a surprise.
But that's all apps. What about new ones?
Using Explorer, I narrowed my search to focus on apps released in 2022, and the results weren't far off. Of all new apps released to the App Store and Google Play this year, 4.4% use React Native. Again, Android apps released to Google Play outpaced iOS apps going into the App Store.
Want to analyze apps and SDKs? Check out Explorer](https://appfigures.com/explorer).
The one thing everyone gets wrong, in my opinion, is that both native and non-native have a place. Native development has lots of benefits, especially when it comes to performance. Non-native development has lots of benefits, especially when it comes to being able to release across multiple platforms with less effort.
It's not that one is categorically better, but rather that one is better for a specific implementation. That's how I see it.
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4. The Real Reason India Banned Battlegrounds Mobile India
Earlier in the week, the government of India forced Apple and Google to remove Battlegrounds Mobile India from their stores. Why would India want to remove an app that has "India" in its name? and what's Battlegrounds Mobile?
A few years ago, the government of India banned the massively popular battle royale game PUBG in the country. That ban was a part of a political move India was making at neighbor China. Tencent, a Chinese company, was involved with Krafton, the developer, and India didn't like that.
So Krafton created a local version of PUBG for India and named it Battlegrounds Mobile. It launched about a year ago and was doing pretty alright.
So, why would India ban a game made for India? There was no clear answer from the government, but the data might offer a clue.
And by data, I mean revenue estimates.
It's easy to attribute this ban to politics. The diplomatic relations between India and China are not great. But keep in mind, Battlegrounds Mobile is no longer affiliated with China in any way. Krafton is a Korean company. So that's only a loose reason.
The other possible reason is that the game does something the government doesn't like. But... considering the game was designed for India, I find that to be a loose reason at best.
So what's left? Money. India wants its money to stay within the country, and Battlegrounds Mobile is not an Indian company. Oh, and it's making a lot of money!
Enough to make it the #2 top grossing app in India
Battlegrounds Mobile's weekly revenue nearly doubled in the last few months. According to our estimates, revenue has been on the rise since the beginning of the year. In 2021, when the game launched, Krafton was earning around $150 thousand per week, and this is net revenue, which means the portion of the revenue they get to keep after store fees.
It had a slight peak in December, as to be expected, but it really started growing in 2022.
Over the last few weeks, weekly revenue hasn't dropped below $300 thousand.
We estimate the game has earned around $13 million in net revenue since being launched last year, and the trend continued to go up before it was pulled.
Something I'm trying to figure out is whether the government is really just hating on Krafton right now, or will more games see the same destiny in India? I'll let you know when I have an answer.
5. The Home Depot Hit a New All-Time High
Summer is a great time for some home improvement. Even I've already been to the Home Depot a few times, and I live in Manhattan. That's why I wasn't surprised when I saw that downloads of the Home Depot app and rival Lowes are up in June.
But... It wasn't just June. Downloads have been on the rise for most of 2022, and the numbers are bigger than in previous years.
According to our estimates, May was Home Depot's highest month of downloads this year and also ever. And that includes the spike that came during lockdowns back in 2020.
In numbers, we estimate that more than a million people downloaded Home Depot's app in May, up more than 100% vs. May of 2021. Coincidentally, Home Depot's last spike came in May of 2020 and resulted in 790 thousand downloads.
So far in 2022, our estimates show Home Depot making its way into 6 million iOS and Android devices. The same period in 2021 saw just 3 million new downloads.
Rival Lowes has also seen downloads go up in Q2, but not nearly as aggressively as the orange monster. Lowes had its best month of download in 2022 in May as well, adding roughly 540 thousand new users, according to our estimates. This comes close to the big spike it had in May of 2020 due to the lockdown, which was a bit higher.
I've talked about shopping moving to mobile a bunch in the last few episodes, and this is yet another fine example. But...
Unlike the real world, where customers can't be in two stores at the same time, it's very easy to look up an item in multiple apps, and it's not just about pricing. Experience has become an important part of the decision to buy, and frankly, not many shopping apps do it well right now. The Home Depot's included.
Except for Amazon, of course. Why can't they just copy it?
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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.