This Week in Apps - Reddit's Regrettable Blunder
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.
U.S. Downloads Index (30 Day)
1. App Downloads Grow 10% in May - The Most Downloaded Apps
Happy June, which means, it's time to crunch the numbers and rank the most downloaded mobile apps in the world. The whole world!
While the list remains fairly similar to April's, there are a few interesting moves, so let's dive right in:
Instagram was the most downloaded app in the world in May, adding 49M new users from the App Store and Google Play, according to our App Intelligence. Downloads grew 12% month over month giving Instagram it's second highest month of downloads this year, and the third month in first place.
Right below it is rival TikTok, which has been on the losing end of the rivalry with Instagram since March after leading for many many many months. It ended May with 43M downloads, which is a whopping 19% increase from April. Increase and all, it's still behind Instagram and that's because it's still not available in India.
It is beating Instagram on the App Store, but that difference is very small in comparison and isn't enough to get ahead in the combined chart.
In general, May has been higher across the board and every app on our combined list saw an increase except for Meta's Messenger which stayed the same. Probably why Meta is working on a Twitter clone...
Facebook, WhatsApp, and CapCut round out the top 5 for May. If you're thinking this is the exact same top 5 from April you're correct. One pair flipped (Facebook and TikTok), but the rest are the same.
I've talked about CapCut, TikTok's video editor, last week as it's now very clear its presence is dominating the category. With 29M estimated downloads in May, up a couple millions from April, I don't see this trend slowing down.
Our App Intelligence is showing that together, the most downloaded apps in the world in May, made their way into 298M iOS and Android devices. That's a decent 10% jump when compared to April's total, and with summer starting, June's total can be even higher.
2. Monopoly Go! Took Over the App Store in May - The Most Downloaded Games
Monopoly Go! has been sitting pretty at the top of the App Store's most downloaded chart ever since it was released back in April. I ranked the most downloaded mobile games in the world for May using our App Intelligence and guess who's winning on the App Store?
Subway Surfers was the most downloaded app in the world, according to our App Intelligence, across all the downloads on the App Store and Google Play worldwide. That was the case in April and in March, so I'm happy to report May is no different.
Subway Surfers ended the month with 21M new downloads combined, a cool 17% higher than April.
Right behind it was last month's second place winner, India's Dream11, a fantasy cricket app that's only available in India. Yes, only. Crazy Dream11 saw downloads drop a bit in May.
Roblox, Candy Crush, and Royal Match round off the top 5 for May, adding more downloads in May than in April.
Oh yes, and Royal Match is new to this list!
Royal Match is more of a money maker than it is a top download, and we've seen it in our highest-earning games charts many times. But its downloads sprouted in late 2022 and have been on a very growth trend since.
According to our estimates, downloads rose 235% since the beginning of 2022.
But, back to Monopoly Go! which ranked 8th in our combined chart and 1st on the App Store. The new game managed to make its way into 12M more devices in May, according to our estimates, and as of right now, has 22M downloads since release and raking in more than $500K of net revenue from the App Store every day.
Scopely is pushing this one very strongly which explains the downloads, but the game's simplicity and social features are what's earning all that money. I'll leave you on that note.
Together, the top 10 most downloaded games in the world brought in a total of 136M downloads in May, according to our App Intelligence. That's a much needed 9.6% increase over April's total, which didn't feel right at all. With summer coming, June's total should be even higher.
- 100,675 new iOS and Android apps and games were released in May.
- There are 965 apps for scanning documents on the App Store, a feature that's native on iPhone.
- The EPA's AIRNOW app was downloaded more than 60K times this week as NYC turned orange. More than all of 2022's downloads.
3. Twitter's Mobile Revenue Dropped by 15% in May
Last week I looked at Snapchat's revenue and this way I'm continuing my monthly tradition and looking at the revenue for the first social platform to monetize its users directly - Twitter.
The last few months, since Elon took over, have seen very positive growth for the company's Blue subscription and more recently the addition of subscriptions. But May was a bit different...
Twitter ended May with $3M in net revenue from the App Store, according to our App Intelligence. And that's net meaning what Twitter gets to keep after forking over a big chunk to Apple.
For the first time in a long time, that's lower than the previous month. And this time it's a hefty drop - 15% when comparing App Store revenue to April. And that's after subscriptions were out and in use, which means, that growth wasn't enough to help with the total.
Twitter isn't really obeying market forces right now, so increases and decreases are less about the general trends with apps and more about Twitter and Elon Musk, and a bit of politics, so I'm not going to try and reason this drop too much.
But I will remind that Twitter, for some odd reason, is allowed to do what no other app is allowed to do, which is to price the same subscription lower on its website. A bet that has something to do with the drop, which is focused on mobile revenue.
What do you think is happening here?
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4. AMC Theaters Just Had Its Best Week in Downloads
Last week I looked at how demand for streaming content seems to be shifting from movies to TV and how that's helping TV-first streamers like Peacock and Paramount+ grow, which is why I bring up AMC's app this week.
See, the shift to TV content isn't just on the demand side but also a result of big streamers like HBO and Disney going back to releasing new movies to theaters first and streaming second, which wasn't the case when the two launched.
With movies going to back to theaters, and blockbusters being released like it's 2019, people are... going back to theaters! And much like everything else, there's an app for that.
The AMC Theaters app saw its best week of downloads last week, ever, with 154K of downloads from the App Store and Google Play. Not just best post-pandemic, but best overall.
Overall, the app has seen downloads grow since the pandemic put downloads on pause. 2021 was pretty strong, 2022 was pretty consistent, and so far, 2023 is better than both.
While AMC hasn't fully recovered to its pre-pandemic downloads, it's on the right track and is getting very close. The trend isn't consistent and seems to be driven by releases unlike the steady stream of 2019, but that could just be how things will be from now on.
Content is (still) king!
5. Apollo, the Biggest 3rd Party App for Reddit is Shutting Down
I don't normally do opinions in this newsletter and prefer to let the data speak for itself, but I find what's going on with Reddit and 3rd party apps right now to be very interesting, and relevant for anyone making an app that uses someone else's API, so I wanted to share my thoughts.
In case you're not up to speed - Reddit has recently announced it'll start charging developers to use its API. Several companies, like Twitter, have done this recently citing cost and also trying to protect (aka monetize) their content from harvesters like AI trainers. This is important for later.
But that's not the issue. The issue is that 3rd party Reddit clients, which rely on its API, are now being required to pay to use the API, and for most (if not all), the cost is simply too high.
The app that's driving the news this week is Apollo, a 3rd party client for Reddit that's run by an indie developer and loved by many in the Reddit community. It was also used by Apple in the WWDC keynote last week. So it's a big one.
Christian, the app's developer, is very open about everything that's going on and ultimately his decision to shut down the app at the end of the month. I highly recommend giving his post a read.
Long story short - Reddit wants to charge Apollo more than it can afford, in the double digit millions, to continue using its API while limiting the API, forbidding API users from monetizing with ads, and giving Christian 30 days to decide what to do.
As if this wasn't enough, in addition to all of that, it sounds like the team communicating with 3rd parties is not playing nice. And it's not just the team, The CEO is doing the same.
Now you're mostly caught up!
As an entrepreneur this raises questions. Lots of questions. The most obvious is simply "why"?.
In the last 24(ish) hours since Christian announced Apollo will shut down, there's been so much public outcry that many subreddits are now going offline in protest next week as many Redditors are deleting their accounts. That's some serious backlash.
Is Reddit really threatened by Apollo?
And it's not just Apollo, several other apps have announced they'll be shutting down at the end of the month as well.
If Reddit is truly after those who take its data away – and that isn't exactly its data but rather content owned by its users – why not work with 3rd party clients who don't do that to help them keep their apps alive? After all, those help Reddit get more content into its platform, and clearly, content is king here.
Or, is Reddit threatened by the lack of control they have over "their" content outside of their native experience? Really, the number of users who won't see ads?
To give this threat some context let's have a look at downloads. In May, Apollo saw 62K new downloads, according to our estimates. That's a lot, but then you compare it to Reddit's own app which saw 1.5M new downloads and everything changes. Apollo is getting roughly 4% of the official app.
And that's only on the App Store because Apollo is not on Android. According to our App Intelligence, Reddit saw 1.7M new downloads from Google Play in May. Throw that into the mix and Apollo's share dips even lower.
I don't think it's the users and I don't think it's really even the content. I think Reddit and its leadership has lost the connection they once had to their platform so now it's just an ad network.
John Gruber's take on this is a bit different than mine but very valid:
"Reddit already gave all its data to large companies for free. Huffman is trying to charge now for horses that were let out of the barn years ago. And he obviously doesn’t care about Apollo or other third-party Reddit clients, or what these moves do to Reddit’s reputation as a platform vendor. He’s just trapped in a fantasy where investors are going to somehow see Reddit as a player in the current moment of AI hype."
You can read John's take here.
I waited to write this portion until after the AMA with Reddit's CEO was over (or at least on its way) in case he'll show my take on it was wrong and possibly make a gesture that would undo all of this as a "big misunderstanding". Unfortunately that didn't happen, instead he just proved my point.
Many are saying that as developers we shouldn't build for platforms anymore, especially as this isn't the first app to meet its end in the last few months (RIP TWeetbot), but I don't think that's good advice.
Build what you want to have and be ready to adjust as necessary. It's not a promise that you'll always be successful, so make sure you hedge your bets and continue building.
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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.