This Week in Apps - Lots of Upside Down

Ariel Ariel
7 minute read 1/20/23

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.

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1. Fewer Apps Built with React Native Shipped in 2022

The debate between native and non-native development has been raging for years. Some believe native development is the only way to develop, others prefer non-native for the convenience and the ability to ship across platforms quickly.

I personally fall somewhere in between, but what I have to share isn't my opinion here but rather numbers, which paint an interesting picture.

And I say interesting because things changed in 2022...

React Native is one of the most popular solutions for true non-native development. Using our SDK Intelligence (available in Explorer) I looked at the number of new iOS and Android apps and games built with React Native* released by year

The popularity of React Native grew a lot in 2018. The number of apps and games built with React Native grew 111% in 2018. The rate slowed down, but popularity continued to grow, up double-digits every year since.

Except for 2022...

In 2022, the number of apps built with React Native dropped by 43%. In more absolute terms, 2021 saw 79K new apps and games with React Native while 2022 saw just 45K. And the downward trend was pretty consistent across both iOS and Android apps.

If you read last week's newsletter you might remember that app releases dropped in 2022 across both platforms. That's certainly a part of why non-native app releases dropped. But, if you recall, releases dropped by about 12% while React Native releases dropped by more than 5x that.

I think the drop isn't a coincidence. Both Apple and Google are hard at work to simplify native development. A trend I don't expect to stop any time soon.

There's a lot more to dig into with this data so if you have any specific questions you want to see me cover in a future report please let me know.

Note: The number of apps reflects apps that have the React Native framework in their code but doesn't necessarily mean it's powering the entire app.

2. Six Months and $7,000,000 Later, Discord Acquires Gas.

Earlier this week, gamer-chat Discord announced it's acquiring Gas, an app for teens that exploded in popularity a few months ago but dropped nearly as quickly as it rose.

While high, the downloads don't paint a trend that's that exciting for an acquisition, but unlike other overnight successes we've seen come and go last year, Gas did something others didn't.

Gas actually made money. Lots of money!

Since launching last August, Gas managed to make its way into nearly 8 million iOS devices and earn $7M of net revenue in the process, according to our estimates. And that's what the small team behind the teen sensation got to keep after giving Apple their share.

The downloads are nice, the up and down trend is pretty standard for a viral success, being iOS only is a strange limitation that shouldn't exist at this point, but there are a couple of remarkable parts to this story that I believe led to the acquisition.

The first is how Gas rose to the top of the App Store, which wasn't luck but rather several clever marketing campaigns that I consider to be borderline black-hat, yet worked amazingly, both on teens and also on Apple's algorithms.

The second is the app's ability to monetize. Most of the overnight successes we've seen in the last year got a lot of downloads but most of those downloads didn't turn into paying users. Some apps didn't have a revenue model to begin with, others didn't have a good revenue model. In both cases, being the top app for a little while didn't do much for the bottom line.

Gas was different. The app had exactly what kids wanted and made that very easy to purchase.

I think Discord acquired Gas' outspoken founder Nikita Bier. It's not that discord needs a borderline black-hat marketer, or a limited social platform for teens, but at least one of those could be useful for growth, something Discord didn't have too much of in 2022.

3. Meta Quest Holiday Sales Set a New Record

Christmas day is an interesting day in the App Store (and on Google Play). In addition to a bunch of Santa apps that rise to the top of the charts for a short period, we also get a glimpse into the popularity of tech gadgets that require an app to operate.

Quest, Meta's virtual reality headset, has been one of the hottest gifts in recent years, and using app downloads as a proxy for unit sales, we can get an idea for just how popular VR was this holiday season.

Hint: It beat last year, but...

According to our estimates, Meta Quest, the app necessary to set up a new VR headset, crossed 2M downloads in December. That's the first year downloads crossed the 2M mark.

This should be good news for VR, especially for Meta which suffered a lot in 2022. But it isn't exactly.

While high, well, highest, those downloads are just a teeny tiny higher than 2021's figures, which our estimates put at 1.97M, just a few hundreds shy of this new total. This means demand hasn't really grown. Maybe a bit, but when compared to the more than 100% growth Meta saw between 2020 and 2021, this new record seems more like bad news.

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4. Is This the End of Crypto? Top Crypto App Downloads Dropped 65% in 2022

The end of crypto is here. Well, I'm not exactly sure about that. After all, Bitcoin did rise above 20K this week.

But while some are still interested in crypto, the masses seem to have lost interest.

That's very clearly visible when looking at demand for the top crypto-buying apps.

According to our estimates, collective downloads of the top crypto apps which include Coinbase, Binance, Trust, and, dropped more than 65% between January and December of 2022.

Coming off of a very strong 2021, apps in the collection made their way into more than 10M devices in January of 2022, according to our estimates. Binance led the way with Trust behind it.

By the summer, new downloads dropped by nearly half, and in December, downloads reached a low point, dipping below 4M for the first time this year.

Binance saw the steepest decline but every app in this collection dipped throughout the year.

To those in crypto this should make perfect sense, but that's exactly it. What apps like Coinbase almost managed to do -- bring crypto to the masses -- just almost happened and then didn't. And that's not something I see changing in crypto's favor any time soon.

NFTs aren't popular enough to meet this end, and I don't expect that to happen any time soon either, but it's a trend I'm watching.

5. Snapchat Hits New App Revenue Milestone in December

I looked at the revenue of Snapchat+, the in-app purchase Snap is using to (finally) monetize its app by offering early access to features + some customization options.

I still see this whole offering as a glorified way to pay to become a beta tester for Snapchat, but regardless of what I think, it seems to be working!

In its first month, Snapchat+ earned more than $6M of net revenue. Revenue dropped when renewal time came around, which is fairly normal for most apps, but has been climbing steadily since.

According to our estimates, December continued to see growth for Snapchat+, which has been on a positive trend since its first (and only) drop back in August.

In December, Snapchat+ posted its highest revenue in a single month and also the highest growth in a single month. In more absolute terms, December brought in more than $6.8M of net revenue and month-over-month growth of 22%. Last month, growth was 12%, and in months before it, the average was just 2%.

Clearly, Snapchat+ is working out for Snap, and given this trend, will probably be working even better in the future.

I see it as a great sign for app makers - if Snapchat can get its free users to pay, so can you!

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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