This Week in Apps #131 - China Takes Over the App Store

Ariel Ariel
7 minute read Sep. 16

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. Entertainment Download Index (30 Day)

App Store
153.19 +44.8%
Google Play
71.57 +3.3%

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Insights

1. iOS 16 Propells Widgets to the Top of the App Store

iOS 16 launched this week and much like two years ago, when iOS 14 rolled out, one type of app is getting a lot of love (aka. downloads) thanks to a new feature iPhone users can't have enough of.

That feature is, of course, widgets!

iOS 14 introduced widgets to the iPhone and iOS 16 brought them into your lock screen. Android users are laughing at how behind this is, but I'm going to ignore that for now and focus on the downloads.

And, there are a lot of downloads!

Three apps dedicated to creating custom widgets have seen ranks grow with the release of iOS 16 on Tuesday.

Top Widgets, Widgetsmith, and Color Widgets have been downloaded more than a million times on Tuesday alone, according to our estimates.

At least one of those should be familiar to you. Widgetsmith was the most popular choice back in 2020, and it's also one of the go-to solutions this time around. We estimate it saw 225 thousand new downloads on Tuesday, an increase of about 650% from its recent daily average.

But it isn't the most popular option.

Top Widgets, which is one of the many apps that use Chinese in their English names, a trend I started noticing recently, is currently the most downloaded app in the US. We estimate it saw more than 750 thousand new downloads on Tuesday, up a whopping 2,400% from its daily average.

Color Widgets was a distant third in the race, adding 35 thousand new downloads, up 169% from its daily average, according to our estimates.

Lock screen widgets are somewhat basic right now so I'm not sure how long this wave will go on for, but for now, I expect downloads for all three to grow even more until this wave ends.

And, I'm not sure what's going on with Chinese words in English names, but keep reading for a possible explanation.

2. Only 4% of iOS Apps Use App Tracking Transparency

Last week's insight into which apps use Apple Search Ads resulted in a few questions from readers about the connection between App Tracking Transparency and Apple Search Ads.

So this week I used our SDK Intelligence to look at how many apps use App Tracking Transparency and which categories those apps come from.

According to our intelligence, 58 thousand apps and games request access to track their users. While that may sound like a lot, when we put it in the context of all apps it ends up being just about 4%.

Where are those apps?

The games category has many of those, a little under 9 thousand games use App Tracking Transparency. Games need to track users so they can show them ads, something ATT hit hard and lowered ad revenue across the board. I expected games to lead the way.

Shopping, at second place with almost 7 thousand apps, was a bit of a surprise. Shopping apps don't advertise like games (in most cases) but rather need to track users so they can connect between mobile and web users to engage them better (aka. get them to buy more) and also to be able to track the impact of their ads.

Utilities, right behind Shopping, is using it for a mix of the three, and I'm pretty sure that's the case for the rest of the categories that make up the top 10, which include Lifestyle, Education, Entertainment, Finance, Food & Drink, and News.

Overall, these numbers feel very low to me, and considering how hard Apple made tracking users, I expect more apps to drop the ATT requirement and forgo internal analytics and attribution to reduce possible friction.

3. China Mints New Winners - The Most Downloaded Games in August

This week I rounded up the most downloaded games in the world, and let me skip the intro and dive right into the data because something's different this month and it could be a big one.

Starting at the top, Subway Surfers was the most downloaded game in the world in August with 30 million new downloads from the App Store and Google Play, according to our estimates. But!

If you take a closer look at the App Store list you'll see the Subway Surfers icon twice. That's not a mistake.

The "second" Subway Surfers is the local version available in China. I chose not to combine it into the US version of the game for the sheer scale of downloads that seems to have popped in August in China.

I should add that this isn't a new version that just rolled out but rather a 6-year-old app that only recently became popular in China.

It's not the only one, but we'll get to that in a second.

Hyper casual Stumble Guys came in second place, also adding 30 million downloads to its bottom line, according to our estimates. Stumble Guys outperformed Subway Surfers on the App Store but not on Google Play.

Candy Crush Saga, Roblox, and Save the Doge round out the top 5.

Back to China! Much like Subway Surfers, Survivor.io's China version also rose through the ranks quickly in August and I left it on its own so you can see the scale of success in China.

China is big for downloads, that's not news, but it looks like in a post-covid era, it's growing even faster. That could explain why we see more apps in the US with Chinese names. The developers aren't bothering with localization, using both English and Chinese, the two most relevant languages, for App Store Optimization.

I don't think it's a great strategy... If you want to get more downloads in China you should localize for China.

Together, the top 10 most downloaded games in the world in August raked in 172 million new downloads, according to our estimates. That's a bit lower than July's total, but considering school started in August in many places, not a real shocker.


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4. One of the Highest Earning Games Broke a Record in August

This week I ranked the highest-earning games in August, and while downloads decreased in August, revenue didn't. Well, for some games.

Candy Crush Saga was the highest-earning game in the US, raking in $140 million of net revenue, the most I've seen this game do in a single month. That's about 9% higher than the last month, which was already very high.

Way below it is Roblox, which came in second but with less than half the revenue, $60 million of net revenue according to our estimates, to be precise.

Pokemon Go, Coin Master, and Bingo Blitz round out the top 5 earners in the US. Each added just about the same to its bottom line in August as it did in July.

The lists look very similar to last month, but one change in August was Call of Duty's comeback after dropping out in July.

Together, the top 10 highest-earning games earned $436 million of net revenue in August from the US, according to our estimates. That's about 4% higher than July's total and 40% higher than January of this year. That's a lot of money!

5. TikTok Rolls Out a BeReal Clone Because it Must

BeReal is still the most downloaded app in the US App Store, beating not just Instagram but now also video king TikTok.

BeReal lost its top spot this week to widgets, which will likely continue to dominate for a few days, but is still ahead of both of its rivals.

TikTok isn't sitting by idly. This week TikTok released a new feature called TikTok Now, a direct copy of BeReal.

Why is TikTok spending resources on such a small feature? After all, it's already the leader in a category it created.

Easy answer: Downloads!

When you put BeReal and TikTok's downloads in the US side-by-side the sheer scale of BeReal becomes very obvious. And the alarming bit, for TikTok, is that the two trends are getting very very close.

According to our estimates, last week BeReal added a smidge over a million new users from the App Store and Google Play in the US. TikTok added 1.4 million users in the same week. More, yes, but not by that much...

BeReal is stronger on the App Store than on Google Play, and TikTok is strong on both, which is why there's still a gap. But if we zoom in on the App Store, downloads are even closer.

For TikTok to roll out a whole new feature, from scratch, in the span of just a month, is crazy. This means they see BeReal as more than just another threat.

If you've been reading for a while you may remember what I said about BeReal back when it just started taking off. If it can get enough traction it'll become a real threat to existing platforms. Well, it did, and now it is.

But it still doesn't have a real business model...

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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