This Week in Apps - Not the Best Time for That...
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.
1. Need an Authenticator App? Here are the Most Popular Options
Twitter recently made a security change that forced its non-paying users who use 2-factor authentication to start using an authenticator app to log into their account instead of more problematic text messages.
Even though the announcement could have been smoother and more descriptive, this is a great move from a security standpoint.
Which app should you trust and which apps are even competing?
The easy answer is Microsoft Authenticator, but to get a better idea of what's going on in the authenticator space I rounded up the top 10 most downloaded authenticator apps in 2022, and the results are... Interesting.
Microsoft and Google lead the way. The pair saw more than 105 million new downloads in 2022 from the App Store and Google Play, according to our estimates. Microsoft was responsible for about 58% of that total.
An unexpected name came in third -- Twilio. Did you know Twilio had an authenticator app? Well, it does, and in 2022 it made its way into about 5 million iOS and Android devices, according to our estimates.
That's an order of magnitude lower than the bigs, which means it's not nearly as popular, and when I looked through Inspector, which runs a search on the App Store directly, the results matched. Microsoft and Google are the top search results.
Other than Salesforce, which also has an authenticator app, the rest of the names are pretty generic and obviously made for ASO. One even uses a very old trick to rank higher...
Between those generic ones is another name some of you might know. LastPass, the password manager that recently had a serious leak.
I added up the downloads of all of the generic names, Twilio, Salesforce, and LastPass and they don't even come close to Microsoft or Google. So, how do they even compete?
Search! Apple Search Ads and App Store Optimization, to be more specific. All but one of the generic apps pay for ads in the App Store, most using names of competitors from this list as their keywords. Those apps are also very optimized to be discovered organically in the store.
Much more than apps like LastPass or even Twilio Authy.
What's your favorite?
2. ChatGPT Delivered Another (Small) Win for Microsoft
Microsoft has been riding the ChatGPT wave for a few weeks now. Last week I looked at downloads of the official Bing app, which rose a lot when the integration with ChatGPT went live, but it wasn't the only app to gain momentum from this rollout.
Edge, Microsoft's web browser that competes with Chrome and Firefox, also saw a nice nudge. And when I say nice, I mean the highest day of downloads this year.
Edge has been averaging a little under 50K downloads per day so far this year. On the 15th, downloads in the App Store jumped to 170K and the next day they rose a bit more to 180K. Nearly 350% higher than the daily average.
The trend declined right after, much like the trend Bing saw, but is still higher than average.
Edge has been on a big growth spurt over the last few years. When I analyzed mobile browsers in 2021 it was waaaay behind. All the way behind, pretty much. But in 2022 that changed and Edge jumped to the top of the list, skipping ahead of Firefox, Brave, and Opera.
There are many reasons to switch away from native Safari and AI is certainly a good one to add to the list. I haven't found those yet so I'm sticking with native, but I believe we'll see demand for 3rd party browsers on the rise in 2023 as search morphs beyond links and paid ads.
3. How Did a Prayer App Get to the Top of the App Store?
It's always exciting to see a new icon making it to the top of the App Store. I have nothing against Temu and TikTok being the top duo for months but I like some variety.
New icon of the week is Hallow, a prayer and meditation app that rose in popularity over the span of a couple of days thanks to the beginning of lent, a prayer challenge, celebrity backing, and... Apple Search Ads!
Hallow, which was released back in 2018, has been growing steadily. But also very slowly. Hallow averaged 2K downloads per day in 2022 and a little less this year.
It saw a few peaks in the past, especially around this time, but none nearly as serious as the spike it's seeing right now.
As Hallow climbed to the #4 position in the App Store this week it managed to accumulate 300K new downloads from the App Store. Though, most of those came in on Wednesday, as Hallow made its way into 100K new iOS devices. In one day.
Will Hallow stick to the top?
I think that's really a question of budget and not demand.
Why do I say that? Because according to our Apple Search Ads Intelligence (which is coming soon, really), Hallow is currently paying for visibility in 4,500 keywords!
That's a massive ad campaign -- even if it's a simple broad-match campaign -- which doesn't seem to be the case from my analysis.
Getting to the top of the App Store is much easier with a big ASA ad campaign, something super-sticky Temu knows very well, and likely the reason it's been glued to the top for months now.
PSA: Please don't use broad-match campaigns or Apple Search Ads Basic. They're terrible for a variety of keywords I will go over in my next live stream about Apple Search Ads.
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4. Demand for News Aggregation Apps Drops to its Lowest Since 2018
The last few years have been... busy. The kind of busy you'd read about in the news, which is why demand for new aggregation apps like Google News has been very high for a few years now.
Aggregators, such as Apple News and unlike news outlets like CNN or Fox, bring news from multiple outlets together into a single feed, and have become very popular in part thanks to politics.
But the trend is changing. Looking at the downloads, it's safe to say news fatigue is real and it's fully settled in at this point!
Rewinding time back to 2018, the top news aggregators saw an average of 4.5M downloads per month. And when I say top I'm talking about Google News, Smart News, and News Break.
2019 was a slower news year so downloads dropped, but then covid struck and downloads exploded for a short bit. At its peak, the trend grazed 9M downloads in one month. Pandemic and politics couldn't maintain the downloads and they started sloping down.
2021 saw a bit more excitement, but by the end of 2022 all of that excitement was gone and the drop intensified.
The group ended 2022 with 1.5M downloads, according to our estimates. That's a drop of more than 60% from where they started!
Now's probably not the best time to launch a new news aggregator...
5. Just How Big is the Apple TV App Store in 2023?
When the Apple TV App Store opened up in 2015 it had a lot of promise. Knowing how hard it is to develop for big game consoles, I expected this to mean a flood of games for Apple's new "game console" masquerading as a streaming device.
Nearly eight years later and... that's not the case. At all.
Games aren't the biggest category, or even second or third.
If not games, what are the biggest categories on the Apple TV App Store?
The largest category of apps for the Apple TV is education. Surprised? me too!
Of the roughly 15K apps available for downloads through the Apple TV App Store right now, about 25% are in the education category. That wasn't what I expected.
Entertainment and Lifestyle, the two other categories I expected to dominate, do in fact dominate. There are more than 5,000 apps between the two categories, which makes sense considering that's where most of the apps you'd expect to live in a TV to exist.
Games ranked 4th, and as a casual gamer, the TV never really attracted me as a gaming device, so I'm not surprised. The Apple TV remote is a terrible controller, and even with a dedicated controller, most games just don't feel right to me.
I think it's a huge missed opportunity though. The Apple TV is a powerful device that can easily serve good games, but beyond hardware, it's Apple's lack of promotion that makes it hard to be successful with an Apple TV game. Much like developing for the Mac...
Music, News, and Sports all have more than 500 apps each while Health & Fitness, Utilities, and Photo & Video dip below.
What is interesting is the trend of new releases. While the numbers are small -- the Apple TV App Store saw the same number of new releases in 2022 as the iOS App Store sees in about 48 hours -- they are growing, and 2022 saw the biggest increase in recent years.
The Apple TV will be a gold mine for developers once Apple figures out how to make it easier to get new apps. I say will and not could because it's just a matter of time until that happens.
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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.