This Week in Apps #130 - What a Mess!

Ariel Ariel
8 minute read 9/9/22

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.

US Business Download Index (30 Day)

App Store
316.49 +5.6%
Google Play
338.14 +7.6%

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1. 61% of the highest Earning iOS Apps Use Apple Search Ads

Apple Search Ads have become much more popular in the last year, and many big companies have shifted their ad budgets towards spending right in the App Store. What App Tracking Transparency did to all other ad networks probably helped, too.

The obvious question is, "how many apps actually use Apple Search Ads?". Using a new suite of tools we're working on, I can now answer that question, and what my analysis uncovered surprised me a bit.

The short answer is "a lot!".

Using data from our Apple Search Ad Intelligence -- a suite of reports we'll be rolling out soon to offer insight into who's spending and where -- I analyzed the top 100 highest earning apps in every category on the App Store and ranked the categories by how many top apps run Search Ads.

Starting at the top, 61% of the top 100 grossing apps use Apple Search Ads.


The category that's currently most "invested" in Apple Search Ads is education, with 70% of the top 100 grossing apps running campaigns. That makes perfect sense considering it's back-to-school season and apps in the category are in demand.

Photo & video and Health & Fitness are right behind, 67% of the top apps in both categories leverage Apple Search Ads.

Business, Games, Productivity, Graphics & Design, Music, Utilities, and Navigation make up the rest of the top 10 in my list.

Chicken or the egg? Does this mean that you need to use Apple Search Ads to make money in the App Store, or is it that apps that make money spend it on Apple Search Ads?

A bit of both...

Some apps have risen in popularity thanks to Apple Search Ads, while those already popular use ads to remain competitive. Which is exactly what ads are good for, and even better for when running right within search results.

Apple has an amazing leg up on any other ad network with these placements and also with its ability to target users. Advertisers don't get access to many targeting features, but I believe Apple has a lot more details under the hood than it's exposing, and we may see some of them in the future.

The reason I suspect they do is because their new placements don't require user interaction and are "magical" in who they show up for. Another name for "magical" is data-based.

There's an entire debate going on around whether it's fair that Apple took away the ability for 3rd parties to target but gave itself full access. Which side of the debate are you on?

2. The FTC is Suing One of the Largest Mobile Attribution Networks

I came across a piece of news that barely got any visibility but is incredibly important to our industry. The Federal Trade Commission is suing Kochava, a mobile measurement company, for allegedly selling location data that can track and identify individuals and their behavior patterns.

If you're not familiar, Kochava started as an attribution tracker and later added more features to help advertisers optimize their campaigns. Some of those features include precise location data the FTC claims is so precise it can be easily used to turn random IDs into real names and addresses.

Why Kochava, and why now?

The now part is easy - the lawsuit lists specific things the FTC doesn't like about Kochava's ability to pinpoint individuals, including tracking those who visit abortion clinics, a big political issue in the US right now. They didn't say they sold such data, but allege they can.

To answer the other question, I used Explorer -- our market intelligence platform and home to our SDK Intelligence data -- to see how many apps use Kochava's mobile SDK and who those apps are.

A single glance at the list gave me the answer! Kochava is installed in nearly 5,000 mobile apps across the App Store and Google Play.

And that's not all. Those apps include very popular apps. So popular I'm sure you have at least one app that uses Kochava on your phone right now. The list includes McDonald's, ESPN Fantasy Sports, one of the most downloaded apps in the US, Peacock, Audible, NFL, Quora, DAZN, CNN, and even Epic, a popular reading app for kids.

In the last month, apps and games that have Kochava's SDK installed were downloaded more than 28 million times in the US.

But wait! According to an open letter from Kochava's CEO, the platform does not do any data collection from its SDK nor does it make easily identifiable data easy to consume. You'd imagine the FTC would know this, right? Well, maybe... or maybe they understand it but continued anyway. What do you think?

Politics as usual? The FTC is probably trying to make an example out of Kochava because suing individual providers doesn't sound like an efficient strategy to me. If it doesn't succeed, and given the amounts of money location data is selling for these days, it probably won't, I expect the FTC to knock on Apple's door in an attempt to ban location trackers at the platform level.

It's hard to tell how Apple and Google will respond to such a request, but given enough pressure from the government, and to some extent users, I think there's a chance it would happen.

FYI - Appfigures does not collect or use data from user devices.

3. BeReal Made the List โ€“ The Most Downloaded Apps in August

This month I crunched the numbers and ranked the most downloaded apps in the world in August, and BeReal, the latest sensation to take over the App Store, made the list. Kind of...

BeReal wasn't the most downloaded app in the world in August. The crown goes to TikTok, which maintained its lead over rival Instagram, who's copying BeReal right now, with 57 million new downloads in August, according to our estimates.

BeReal, the #1 app in the App Store since the end of July, came in at #8 with 10 million new downloads, but only on the App Store side. Although popular, BeReal isn't nearly as popular on Google Play as it is on the App Store.

Speaking of Google Play, an unknown QR scanner snuck into the last place on the Google Play list. Keep in mind most, if not all, Android devices can read QR codes natively, so this is an interesting one to see making the list.

The combined list has the same icons you're used to from Meta, TikTok, and Google.

Other than those, the lists are fairly similar to July, which isn't surprising considering both months are technically still the same summer.

Together, we estimate the top 10 most downloaded apps in the world to have added 348 million new users to their respective user pools. A smidge lower than July.

Now that summer is over I expect to see some changes.

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4. HBO Max Breaks Ahead of Disney+ โ€“ The Highest Earning Apps in August

This month I crunched the numbers and ranked the highest earning apps in the US, where most of the money is on the App Store. The good news is that there's more money in aggregate. The bad news is that the list is almost identical to July...

Tinder wasn't the highest-earning app in August. HBO Max was, bringing in $51 million of net revenue in August from the App Store and Google Play, according to our estimates. That was the only significant change from July.

YouTube, Tinder, TikTok, and Bumble complete the top 5, all earning more in August than they did in July, though nothing too too high.

I'm surprised to see LinkedIn continuing to hold on. LinkedIn came in #10 in August, and in July, and in June, and in May, and I don't think I need to keep going.

Disney+, HBO Max's main competitor, made the list but not the top 5. Disney+ has fallen behind in its race with HBO Max. Or maybe it's HBO Max that broke ahead? At the end of August, HBO Max was earning roughly twice as much as Disney+.

Our estimates show that together, the top 10 highest earning apps in the US ended August with $323M of net revenue, a tad higher than July. Not high enough to party, but enough to know August was a good month for the top earners.

5. Telegram Reaches $1,000,000 MRR After 3 Months

Recently several apps that have been free for a long time started offering paid tiers in order to create a revenue stream that's more aligned with users and relies less on ads.

Twitter was one of the first ones to do it almost a year ago. Snapchat joined a couple of months ago, and so did Telegram.

In its first three months, Telegram's revenue has grown exponentially, doubling every month.

We estimate that in August, monthly gross revenue reached $1.2 million across the App Store and Google Play. That's $812,000 of net revenue that Telegram gets to keep after giving Apple and Google their fees.

In case you're curious, about 83% of that total came from the App Store, where Russia has the most paying subscribers.

And speaking of paying subscribers, knowing the subscription price, we estimate Telegram's paying subscriber base to be around 257,000 at the end of August, up from 154,000 at the end of July.

Twitter launched its paid tier about a year ago and I expected it to become the poster child for monetization given its massive userbase. But if you remember the newsletter from two weeks ago, where I looked at Twitter's MRR in August, you know that it's nowhere near these numbers. It's about a half.

Yes, Twitter's monthly revenue from its app is around half of what Telegram made in August. And Telegram's paid tier has only been around for three months.

This means Telegram is doing something right, and that Twitter isn't...

Well done, Telegram!

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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