This Week in Apps - Lots of Opportunities
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.
In This Edition
- ChatGPT + Bing = Downloads
- Super Bowl betting via app?
- A big tax season for TurboTax ahead
- This game is all the rage right now
- More than 30% of apps are abandoned
1. ChatGPT Pushes Bing's Downloads to All-Time High
A few weeks ago Microsoft and OpenAI announced ChatGPT, which has and is currently all the rage in the tech world, will be getting native support in Bing, Microsoft's search engine.
Some called the move revolutionary and a Google killer while others seem to think this kind of functionality isn't what users expect from a search engine.
I can see both arguments but those aside, anything to do with ChatGPT is going to get lots of interest (like my last live stream) so I was curious to see if Bing's app is now soaring.
The quick answer is yes and no.
Let's have a look at the data.
In early 2022, Bing was seeing about 50K downloads per month from the App Store, according to our estimates. Downloads on the App Store grew a bunch in 2022 peaking at 127K in October but sloped down after.
In total, we estimate that Bing was downloaded a little over 800K times from the App Store in all of 2022, and that's across all countries.
A little over a week ago, the integration with ChatGPT launched into Bing's mobile app and downloads rose sharply. A combination of a waiting list many signed up for (devs, if you're not using this trick you're missing out), general curiosity about ChatGPT, and lots of ads, pushed Bing to its highest day of downloads!
Bing's App Store downloads peaked last Wednesday at more than 150K downloads in a single day, according to our estimates. They, again, sloped down right after, but continue to be higher than its average -- and not by a little.
So far, Bing was downloaded more than 700K times from the App Store since the new integration rolled out. That's almost the same as all downloads in 2021. Wow!
I'm not at all surprised by this. There's lots of excitement around ChatGPT right now and while it is free to access, it's almost always unavailable unless you have a premium account.
The real question still remains - is search better with a smart answering service?
We've seen the panic Google is in which led to a rushed announcement of Bard, Google's competitor. The rushed announcement promoted an incorrect answer. It wasn't an easy one to detect but some did and it became news instantly, dropping Google's stock by billions.
This panic could be an exaggeration but could also bring on real competition for Google, which is something Google isn't really used to.
2. Betting on the Super Bowl Scores Big Downloads
I noticed Draft Kings rose to (almost) the top of the App Store on Sunday, Super Bowl day. Considering this isn't betting for real money (depending on states, I think) I was surprised to see it up top.
But the spike was short-lived.
Looking at Draft Kings' downloads before and after Super Bowl weekend, the difference isn't as high as I had expected.
Downloads normally spike during the weekends, when more events take place, where Drafts Kings average about 40K downloads from the App Store, according to our estimates.
This Sunday, downloads were higher. Our estimates show a little over 71K downloads for the app from the App Store. That's almost double when compared to the average, but overall, not as many as I'd expect if we consider many of these were driven by big ad campaigns incentivizing a download by offering "free money".
The rules around advertising gambling apps are much stricter than other apps and games, making this a not-so-cheap push, and the resulting downloads don't feel high for what that is, in my opinion.
I usually show experiences that moved in-app from the real world. Betting isn't one of them.
3. This Tax Season is the Biggest for TurboTax
Changes to tax filing rules + improvements (and lots of ads) have made TurboTax one of the main go-to apps for filing taxes in here the states.
Looking over the last few years, downloads in January and February have been going up and down year after year, but the trend isn't crazy-high. But in 2023 they're going to reach a new milestone.
According to our estimates + my forecast, TurboTax will see more than a million new downloads from the App Store in February. That's the first time the app will cross the million mark.
According to our estimates, TurboTax has already seen an increase of 27% in January, bringing in nearly 900K new downloads from the App Store alone. We expect downloads to grow to 1.2M in February. The highest for the app.
Of the many things that moved in-app in the last few years, this is one of the most relevant to most people. In the US, at least.
It's interesting to see how quickly downloads slop down after February even though the deadline for filing taxes isn't until April. As if late filers don't do it by app (yet).
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4. The Game that's Quietly Taken Over the App Store
I noticed an unfamiliar icon was hovering all over the top apps list in the App Store over the last few weeks and had to track it down.
The app, or rather game, in this case, is Dumb Ways to Die, a set of minigames described by the developer in a super self-deprecating tone that uses the word "dumb" 5 times.
Normally this type of stuff doesn't phase me, but look at the downloads.
According to our estimates, since starting a big push in early February, the game has been downloaded more than 1.3M times. That's "Million", or 6 zeros. More times than Bing even after it added support for ChatGPT.
That's a lot.
What's more interesting is that these downloads weren't generated using Apple Search Ads. I couldn't find one keyword this game was advertising in!
If not Apple Search Ads, where are these downloads coming from?
For that we have to zoom out a bit.
See, This game isn't coming from some clever studio that spits out hyper-casual titles. At all.
It comes from Metro Trains, a public transit operator in Australia. Metro Trains created a music video by the same name in 2012. It became popular and a game around it was born in 2013.
The video became mega popular on TikTok over the years, but recently became even more popular after a user turned the title into a jingle which is now used in many videos, including some promotional videos from big companies. The downloads follow.
The game is no longer owned by the train company though, now it's owned by the game studio that developed it, PlaySide.
TikTok fame isn't easy to achieve but is great if you can get it.
5. Opportunity Time - More than 30% of Apps on the App Store & Google Play are Abandoned
There are millions of apps and games on the App Store and Google Play, but just how many are being developed actively?
Knowing the numbers could be the key to finding opportunities for development. I'll show you how after looking at the data.
I used Explorer to group all apps and games available for download on the App Store and Google Play by when they were last updated. I used percentages instead of absolute numbers because the stores are very different in terms of the number of available apps.
Looking at the groups, it's clear most apps, 34%, across both stores haven't been updated in over two years, which is what Apple calls abandoned.
The same holds true when looking at each store individually.
On the App Store, 30% of apps and games haven't been updated in more than 2 years and on Google Play that figure jumps to a whopping 37%.
Looking at the category breakdown of abandoned apps and omitting games, it's Education, Utilities, and Business that take the cake across both stores. Education may not be an easy one to develop for, but Utilities and Business certainly are.
I went through the popular ones and many are still getting many new downloads and ratings, meaning they're still in use today. The list has many games, but also apps from big developers including Apple, Instagram, and even the USPS which hasn't updated its app since 2021.
If you're a developer, here's the opportunity and how to capture it.
Abandoned apps that are still getting downloads just beg to be replaced by newer and better ones. Or at the least, ones that continue to get more features.
All you have to do is find an abandoned app that's still popular, brownie points if it's also ranking well in some relevant keywords, and build a better version by taking all the feature suggestions and complaints from the app's reviews and building them or fixing them.
Here's how I'd do it:
- Using Explorer, set the update date filter's "to" field to "2 years ago" - this will give you a list of all apps that haven't been updated.
- Sort by the number of ratings in descending order - this will give showcase apps that are still popular.
- Optional: Use the category filter to zoom in on categories you want to build for. You can also use the "not" modifier to exclude categories you aren't interested in (like games).
- Once you identify a candidate app to replace, track it in your Appfigures account as a competitor. You can use the Basic option if you don't care about its downloads.
- Visit the App Keywords report to see which keywords it's already ranked in. You want to see some ranks for relevant keywords. They don't have to be high, but high ones are even better.
- Then, head into the Reviews section to read all of its reviews to identify what it's missing.
If you want me to demonstrate these steps in a video let me know.
FYI - Some of this can be done with the free plan but I'd recommend the Monitor plan to get access to ASO data or Grow plan to have all results in Explorer.
Back to the numbers for a moment.
These figures aren't surprising overall and as development becomes easier thanks to improvements in Swift and Kotlin which make native development easier and non-native frameworks like React Native and Flutter, I expect more apps to flood both stores and get abandoned more often.
Again, a great opportunity for developers who are paying attention.
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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.