This Week in Apps - Remember These Trends?
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)
Lots of App Store news this week to be excited about, both as an app developer and as an analyst. I'm going to give the new prices a little bit of time and will then start digging into who's using them and how, so stay tuned!
In this issue:
- AI art's moment
- Remember BeReal?
- Where's Wordle?
- Peloton's mobile revenue
- Etsy's best year of downloads
P.S. - I didn't get to publish the last two video episodes and one podcast episode. Traveling and editing is harder than I expected. If you know a good YouTube editor please send me a recommendation.
1. Lensa AI's Success Leads to AI Art Having a Big Moment Right Now!
Lensa AI is having a moment, a mega massive kind of moment. Last time I looked at it, the app, which dominated the US App Store, crossed $8M in net revenue. That was last week.
That total is already up to $25M. And that's net revenue, meaning after Apple and Google took their fees.
But that's not the end of the story.
Demand for Lensa AI expanded into demand for AI art apps, several of which climbed to the top of the App Store, where this trend began.
I started seeing AI art apps rise to the top of the App Store within days of Lensa taking over. Some of it was pushed with Apple Search Ads, of course, but that on its own wasn't enough to generate that much growth.
According to our App Intelligence, the five most popular AI art apps -- not including Lensa AI -- made their way into 11,000,000 devices since Lensa took off in late November.
In the same period before AI art became hot, downloads for the top 5, which include Wonder, Dawn, Prequel, AI Art, and Voi, saw just about a million downloads.
And it's not just an ad-fueled trend. Why do I say that? Because we can see growth on both the App Store and Google Play. Usually, ad-fueled trends tend to play out on the App Store, where there's more revenue to be made.
Comparing the sum of downloads for the group before and after Lensa got popular, the App Store saw demand exploding by 1,265%, adding 7 million new downloads. Google Play was a bit lower, growing just 759% and adding 3.7 million estimated downloads.
I expect this to be a phase, especially as ChatGPT is another trend that's hard to not hear about these days.
If you're a developer with an AI art app, what are you doing to make sure you grow as much as you can right now, while demand is still high? If the answer is no, hit me up on Twitter and I'll share some ideas.
2. Is BeReal Going to Be Gone Like Clubhouse?
One of the biggest trends this year was the rise of BeReal, a silly-simple togetherness app (for lack of a better word) where friends share a single picture, the candid kind, once a day.
The concept was really basic and there was no monetization strategy in place.
But there were downloads. Lots of downloads!
Where is BeReal Now?
BeReal launched all the way back in 2020. It got downloads before 2022, but not many. According to our estimates, BeReal saw about 1,000 downloads per week in January.
It got popular at the end of March, and downloads started growing quickly. It peaked in October with 3.6 million downloads per week, according to our estimates. That's an increase of 359,900%, in case you're into big numbers.
At the same time, BeReal raised a $60M round of funding.
Downloads started sloping down almost immediately after as the new teen sensation switched to Gas, which isn't competing on features but rather on target audience.
By mid-December, BeReal's weekly downloads were down more than 50% to 1.4M downloads.
Where is BeReal going?
Using (recent) history as a template, the answer is not very far...
Clubhouse followed almost the exact same path just a year earlier. Both apps exploded in popularity, raised a bunch of money while not focusing on monetization, and lost their popularity almost immediately as everyone moved on.
But there's a positive - Clubhouse introduced the world to communal podcasting. There's probably a better name for that, but that's how I see it. That feature made its way into most social platforms. BeReal did something similar. On-command picture-taking is now a feature of most competing apps, and even a whole separate app for TikTok.
I hope BeReal doesn't disappear and grows beyond a feature + develops a monetization strategy. We know it's possible because Gas did it.
3. Remember the Other Wordle? Here's Where it is Now
Another big trend that happened this year is Wordle, the word game that took off in late December of 2021 and turned everyone's Twitter feed into a scorecard. That Wordle was a website and not an app.
There was an app with the same name in the App Store that was a totally different game from 2016. That app quickly became a Wordle clone, the only clone allowed in the App Store because it had the name before, and had some success.
The web Wordle was acquired by the New York Times and its popularity disappeared almost overnight, but the mobile game is still getting downloads.
How many? Let's have a look at the numbers.
In the before days, when the solo developer who made the game for fun back in 2016 didn't do anything to ride the wave, downloads organically grew fairly quickly because of the name but didn't stick because the game was very different and also very old-looking.
In numbers, we estimate weekly downloads rose to more than a million, from virtually none, in under a month. They remained high, and that's when the game "transformed" and became nearly identical to the web game.
By April the game peaked again, which led to its acquisition by ad network AppLovin's game studio.
But... it's at that point that downloads sloped down a ton, and would never recover. Our estimates show weekly downloads averaging 300K fairly consistently since.
Why? I expect it's a combination of the web game being acquired by the New York Times and being added into its mobile app and App Tracking Transparency making it much harder to get in front of people.
It's still seeing quite a few downloads, so I wouldn't call this acquisition a total fail, but I expect to see a push coming from Lion Games this holiday season. We can see downloads sloping up over the last few weeks, and considering the app is owned by an ad network, I fully suspect someone turned the knob up a notch.
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4. Peloton's Mobile Revenue Grew 347% Since 2020
While we're on trends, we can't not talk about Peloton, the app that starred in the first This Week in Apps newsletter as it gained popularity during covid lockdowns.
For a quick trip down memory lane click here. The newsletter looked very different back then.
While Peloton's hardware business ran into trouble, its investment in digital fitness content is growing rather nicely.
Based on our estimates, it looks like Peloton's content will earn the most, ever, in 2022.
When Peloton first moved into digital content via subscription, I knew something great could happen. Pre-pandemic, it was Peloton's IRL setup that made the company so popular. Having that at home for a few bucks a month sounds like a no-brainer.
It indeed wasn't! Peloton's mobile apps earned $13.3M in net revenue in 2020, according to our estimates.
2021 was another good year for the bike maker, which semi-expanded into my favorite - rowers, and net revenue grew to $33.7M. 2022 isn't over yet, but in the first 11 months of the year Peloton's mobile net revenue is already sitting at $59.5M, as per our estimates. It'll break $60M easy by the end of December.
The growth is a combination of new subscribers, pricing tweaks (read increases), and a focus on retention, which is a double-edged sword for fitness apps that target the mainstream.
While mobile revenue is growing bike sales aren't, and considering the cost, I'm not at all surprised. I would even speculate that Peloton might split its fitness app and equipment sales in the future if bikes aren't the main driver for app downloads.
5. Etsy Crosses a New Milestone and Has its Best Year Ever
Speaking of big years, another app that got a boost during covid lockdowns is also having an amazing 2022 -- that app is (maybe) handmade goods marketplace Etsy.
If you've been using Etsy for long enough you know why I say "maybe".
Source of goods aside, Etsy's downloads have grown a lot since 2020. The first bump came as 20,000 sellers started selling hand-made masks weeks into lockdowns.
It then got into vintage shoes by acquiring Depop a year later, leading to weekly downloads more than doubling year-over-year.
As an Etsy user, I'm happy to report 2022 is going to be even bigger!
I went all the way back to 2018 to see where downloads started. Our estimates show weekly downloads in early 2018 of 100K. That's not a terrible number considering the market for handmade goods isn't really comparable to standard ecommerce.
Downloads remained similar for two whole years, or, until lockdowns started. That's when growth really started.
Etsy ended 2020 with 300K weekly downloads and 2021 with 400K downloads, according to our estimates. That's impressive considering the platform stayed pretty much the same throughout.
2022 hockeysticked - a made-up word to describe the change in speed of growth -- and one of the few instances where the chart actually looks like a hockey stick!
Etsy ended November with a million downloads in one week, its biggest week of downloads ever. Surely thanks to more in-person holiday celebrations and the desire to give something that didn't come from Amazon (or Temu), but also, a strong reminder of how much shopping has moved from the web to mobile and how important discovery on the App Store and Google Play is. The same exact reason Temu is spending heavily on Apple Search Ads.
I expect to see more marketplaces grow in 2023. If you run one of those, make sure you're investing in organic discovery (ASO) which takes a while to build but is free. Here's how.
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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.