This Week in Apps - Time for Something New

Ariel Ariel
7 minute read 5/12/23

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. Is frfr the New Gas? Here Are the Numbers

A new app rose to the top of the charts this week, if only for a brief moment. But that brief moment reminded me of another app that isn't similar in features but is in business essence.

frfr, all lowercase for some reason, is an anonymous voice messaging app. Yes, anonymous + voice. A perfect combo?

Its simple icon, basic essence, screenshots, and overall tone reminded me a lot of Gas.

Remember Gas? The app that took the top charts by storm last year using growth tactics some would consider "black hat", accumulated millions of downloads, and then got sold to Discord and disappeared almost as quickly as it appeared? That's the one.

I think the only winners there were the founders...

For real!

The app officially launched in April and hasn't seen any real traction until the beginning of May, when downloads started rising. A little at first - 7K up from just a few hundred the day before - and then fast, peaking at 170K on Saturday, according to our App Intelligence.

Like most other fly-by hits, and unlike Gas, frfr's downloads dropped right after they peaked but are still trending high.

As of Wednesday, frfr already had 729K downloads across the App Store and Google Play. The majority of those, 85% to be more precise, came from the App Store, and the majority of those, 77%, came from the US. No real surprises there.

Does anyone really want anonymous voice messages though? I definitely don't, but I'm probably not their target demographic.

By the way, "fr" in frfr stands for "for real". I think. I only know that because there's another app called fr (or Frog, depending on where you look), that's trying to get some traction right now.

2. Demand for Discord Slides a Whopping 37% Since 2021

Demand for Discord, much like demand for most digital ways to communicate, grew sharply in 2020 and continued steadily into the pandemic.

For Discord, that meant downloads rising from roughly 6M downloads in January to 20M in October, according to our estimates. That was the peak for downloads for Discord, which refused to take $10B from Microsoft so it can go it alone.

That peak however was the end of growth for Discord...

After hitting peak in 2020, downloads started sloping down every month. November dropped to 13M, and by March of 2022, downloads we at half - 10M, according to our estimates. By the end of 2022 downloads dropped to 8.7M, and as of April of 2023, are down to 7.2M, almost where they started.

Considering Discord is a gamer tool that's more likely to run on a desktop than a mobile device, this does make some sense. But the real question is, does Discord really need to be a gamer app?

Tools like AI art generator Midjourney are exclusively running on Discord and don't have any other interface. That plus the amazing amount of moderation tools Discord has built-in, and that it's free to use for communities unlike Slack, should make it into a more mainstream tool.

At least that's what I hope to see.

If you ask me, its main challenge to getting there is its dark theme and confusing UI. Fix that and goodbye Slack for communities.

Question: Are you more or less likely to join a non-gamer community, say for app marketing, if it's on Discord? Asking for a friend.

3. The App Store Ushers "Cheap" Apps - How Many Apps for Cost Under $0.99?

The App Store is about to turn 15 in a few months and while it's changed drastically since launching in 2008, one thing remained constant - prices. Apple's tier system has been the same, for the most part, since inception.

That meant the minimum price for anything in the App Store was $0.99 (USD in the US).

Recently, Apple changed that with the introduction of what feels like a set-your-own-price system even though it really isn't.

That got me curious to see how many apps will drop below $0.99, and the answer is...

220 paid apps cost under $0.99 right now. Yes, just 220...

That's 0.28% of all paid apps in the store, and roughly 5% of all apps are paid to begin with, so it's a very small number.

That makes sense. Paid apps are pretty much dead in 2023.

And yet, there are 77 apps that dropped their price to $0.29 and 97 apps priced at $0.49, the two largest groups under $0.99.

I asked a few developers why they chose this strategy over in-app purchases and the answer surprised me a bit. International markets. Apparently, some users in countries like India prefer low-cost paid-upfront apps over subscriptions or in-app purchases. And by prefer I mean enough to pay vs. skip.

Overall, this represents just a tiny portion of potential users so I don't expect to see paid pricing return thanks to these new tiers. But I do expect to see more usage coming from in-app purchases and subscriptions, where more flexibility in pricing could mean huge gains across the globe.

I'll be looking at in-app purchases in the near future, so make sure you're subscribed to the newsletter

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4. Snapchat's Subscription Revenue Grew the Most in April

April is behind us which means it's time to check in on Snapchat's mobile revenue. I like to do that with big platforms that are predominantly monetizing with ads and recently started experimenting with in-app purchases.

That's why I've been following Twitter as well.

Although Snapchat's revenue growth is best described as "slow and steady", when I checked the numbers I noticed April was a good month for Snapchat.

And by "good" I mean the month with the most month-over-month growth since rolling out the in-app purchase.

According to our estimates, Snapchat ended April with $8.7M of net revenue from the App Store. That's what Snap gets to keep after giving Apple its share. And I'm focusing on Apple here because Google Play isn't contributing much yet.

Comparing this to March's total it's an increase of 13.7%. I wouldn't call it fast, but when we start looking back, revenue grew 11.7% in March and 11% in February, so I'm sure Snap is happy about that.

I keep coming back to this, but Snap is selling early access to features here and not anything exclusive or different so they're essentially selling status. It's nice, but in the current economic climate they need to offer more to grow faster.

5. Why is Disney+ Bringing Hulu Into Its Flagship App?

Disney announced this week that it'll bring content from Hulu into the flagship Disney+ app later this year.

On the surface, this seems like a negligible change. Disney already bundles Disney+ and Hulu subscriptions and has been doing that for quite some time. But when we focus on the mobile side it really isn't.

This consolidation, especially after HBO Max announced a similar consolidation with Discovery+, means the equation for success has changed for streaming platforms.

The pandemic made it clear that streaming platforms can become very successful if they have the right content. That's why HBO and Disney brought their best movies to streaming as quickly as possible, and that's what turned them into the top-grossing apps in the US.

But content isn't easy, and both slowed down a bit. And as the content slowed so did the downloads.

This year alone, Disney+'s downloads are down 28% from a little over 9M to under 7M, according to our estimates. HBO Max is down even more...

But revenue isn't, and that's the key to all of this.

According to our estimates, Disney+'s App Store revenue grew nearly 4x since 2020. In more absolute terms, the streamer ended April with $72M in net revenue from the App Store, its biggest month of revenue to date! And that's net meaning what Disney gets to keep after giving Apple its share.

Hulu's revenue growth isn't far behind, it grew to $28M as of April, a 2.5x increase when compared to January of 2020.

Fewer downloads yet more revenue. Both services have increased their prices over time, but that's not it. The increase in revenue comes directly from the services learning how to monetize on mobile, and that's the golden ticket.

Now all they need is more downloads to monetize, which is what Disney hopes will happen when it brings Hulu's catalog, including TV shows, which Disney+ doesn't have, into the flagship app, making it a true destination for everyone and not just hardcore Disney fans.

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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