This Week in Apps - Drop Everything and Do This!
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. Lots of Money for the Chat GPT App That's in Command of the App Store
OpenAI is really missing out on lots of revenue by not publishing a native mobile app. Some of you might be thinking, "it's probably not that much money...".
But it is. It really is.
Developers have flocked to the App Store and Google Play to bring ChatGPT to mobile phones. And in most cases, the apps don't innovate or improve, just make it available on mobile.
And the rewards are grand.
Although 400 more apps mentioning "ChatGPT" were released to the App Store and Google Play in April, one has risen to the top of the charts.
Chat with Ask AI is the app, and if you've been looking at the top charts, you probably saw it up high. It's the #3 most downloaded app in the US App Store right now and 22nd on Google Play.
There are a handful of others all over the top charts, but I'm going to focus on this one because its trend is the strongest.
Launched a little over a month ago, Ask AI, which could do a slightly better job with its ASO, has already made its way into more than 5.1M iOS devices.
Those downloads were a direct result of the AI wave that's washing over pretty much everything right now, but also a result of heavy investment in Apple Search Ads.
According to our ASA Intelligence, the app is paying Apple for discovery in more than 1,800 keywords in the US. That's a lot of keywords!
This isn't what's grand - the real reason I brought up Ask AI is its revenue. The developers can't buy that.
The app started monetizing at the end of March, just about a month ago, and in that month, Ask AI has already earned $2.3M of net revenue from the App Store. And that's just from the App Store + after handing Apple its fees.
A crude calculation shows Ask AI is making about $0.45 from every download, probably enough to continue funding its ASA campaigns, which means this growth will continue.
Given the success of this trend, I really don't see any reason to not wrap ChatGPT into a mobile app and toss it into the mix with everyone else. It doesn't mean it'll succeed, but you'd have to do so little to ride this wave not doing it feels like a missed opportunity.
2. Bluesky is Mastodon's Newest Competitor
My Twitter feed was full of "do you have a Bluesky invite?" type tweets this week, reminding me of the latest Twitter alternative to join the race for social-media domination.
But, if we're being honest here, Bluesky is really an alternative to Mastodon, not Twitter...
Bluesky, which requires an invite to use, made its way into 360K iOS and Android devices since rolling out in February, according to our estimates. The majority of downloads, though, came from the App Store as the Android version just launched a little over a week ago.
In comparison, Mastodon's official app was downloaded 150K times in the same period, and I don't think it's fair to compare it to Twitter's downloads, so I won't do that.
I haven't used Bluesky but from its screenshots, it looks identical to Twitter, which is already a bit better than Mastodon. Not that I think it'll be easy to beat Twitter at being Twitter, but at least it reduces some confusion.
I've said this before but it's worth repeating, the only way I see to replace Twitter is to invent something different, not to copy and paste.
But from a totally different point of view, it's been a while since the App Store saw an exciting invite-only launch. The last I can think of is Clubhouse. Oddly enough, an attempt at something different. Clubhouse announced a bunch of changes this week, so I'd say a failed attempt.
If you have a solid argument for why a copy of Twitter can dethrone the original I'd really like to hear it.
3. CapCut Quietly Quadrupled Its Revenue in Q1
If you've been watching the top apps in the US you'd probably know about this trend but you may not know its magnitude (and impact on the competition).
The trend I'm talking about is the rise of CapCut, TikTok's standalone video editor. While the app has been out for a few years now, it only started monetizing recently. And that's moving very fast.
CapCut has been one of the most downloaded apps in the US for quite a while now. Right now, it's the #2 most downloaded app in the US App Store and the 5th most downloaded app on Google Play.
That translates to around a million downloads every day.
Downloads aren't necessarily a good proxy for growth for CapCut though, because a mention in the TikTok app is more than enough to net enough downloads that'd push it to the top. Plus, TikTok's parent ByteDance has enough to spend on external ads to get as many downloads as it wants.
A better proxy would be revenue.
CapCut recently rolled out an in-app purchase that unlocks new features.
In January, daily net revenue from the App Store started small at around $20K. And that's net meaning what ByteDance gets to keep after forking over fees to Apple.
By the beginning of February, that daily figure grew to $30K, and by April it was already at $56K.
You might be thinking, that's not that much money. But keep in mind, these are daily figures that keep growing every single day.
As of this Wednesday, daily net revenue was up to $82K!
At this rate, CapCut's revenue will outpace the leader, Facetune, by the summer, and there's no real reason for this growth to slow down as TikTok continues to grow.
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4. End of An Era for Zoom - Downloads Drop Below Pre-Pandemic Levels
Zoom, the app that made lockdowns slightly less depressing for many of us, has hit a new pace of downloads that wraps up three years of insanity.
Downloads are finally below where they started pre-pandemic.
And that's not a bad thing.
Everyone and their mother, aunt, and dog walker know what Zoom is at this point, an outcome the video conferencing app couldn't have predicted.
In downloads, that means more than a billion downloads since 2020. A billion. With a B.
At its peak, all the way back in Q2 of 2020, Zoom's mobile app was downloaded by more than 200M people worldwide. Three years later, Zoom saw just 38M downloads in Q1 of 2023.
Still a massive number, but nothing in comparison to its peak.
Now... that's not a bad thing.
Zoom was meant to be a business tool and that intent never really changed. It was hijacked to handle happy hours, trivia nights, and at-home raves, but at its core, it's a meeting tool.
The need for everything but the meeting tool is gone, and for a meeting tool, it's seeing the most downloads in its category. The next competitor on the list is Google Meet, and it made its way into less than half the devices Zoom did in March -- just 17M, according to our estimates.
Note - These numbers only reflect downloads of the mobile app, which isn't the primary way to use Zoom professionally, but is a proxy for casual use.
To me, the drop in downloads marks the end of an era. It's still winning.
5. Google Authenticator is Finally Useful, But Why Now?
Google finally made its Authenticator app useful by adding the ability to sync accounts across devices and also changing its icon in the process to look like a real member of the Google Family of apps.
Why do that after so many years of just coasting?
The most popular authenticator app in terms of downloads right now is Microsoft Authenticator. It made its way into 5.5M iOS and Android devices in March, according to our estimates.
Google's saw 4.2M downloads. Not that far off, but March was a good month for Google! In October of last year, Microsoft saw 6.7M downloads for its authenticator app while Google saw 3.6M. Nearly a half.
So far in 2023, Microsoft is leading with 19.1M downloads vs. 14.7M for Google. But when we zoom in on the App Store, where Google doesn't have a competitive advantage, Microsoft is winning nearly 2 to 1 with 10.4M downloads vs 5.9M.
Demand for authenticator apps is growing more rapidly now as more and more platforms start requiring 2-factor authentication to log in.
I expect that by the end of the year, most people who use online platforms will need an authenticator app to exist online. Even the less technical folks.
When looking at the trend of downloads and the choice between Microsoft and Google, it's clear Google hasn't lost the race but is close to losing it. And that's with it being the favorite on Android devices for obvious reasons.
It looks like Google got ahead of this just in time to not become irrelevant, but there's no guarantee this change can undo the neglect.
And that's all I have for you this week. I hope you've learned something new.
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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.