This Week in Apps - Millions and Billions

Ariel Ariel
8 minute read 6/30/23

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.

U.S. Downloads Index (Last 30 Days)

App Store
70.29 +2.3%
Google Play
52.20 -0.2%

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1. Unpacking the App Store's Million-Dollar Monthly Club

How many apps and games do you think make more than a million dollars on the App Store? And for the sake of consistency, let's go with net revenue, so what they get to keep after Apple takes its share.

Maybe 50? 100? 200?


I rounded up every mobile app and game that our App Intelligence shows as having earned a million or more in the last month using Explorer, and the list included 503 results.

More than I expected, and a good reminder that there's a lot of money in the App Store, and as we've seen almost across the board, it's growing.

Let's dig into this club and see who's earning more than a million dollars of net revenue on the App Store. Every. Month.

Let's start at the very top - TikTok and YouTube!

The two lead the list with YouTube in front and TikTok immediately behind it. Both also sit in a small club of their own - the $100,000,000 club. A club of two.

FYI - Net means after Apple takes its cut.

50 of the remaining apps earn between $10M and $100M monthly, and that group includes familiar names like Tinder, 3rd on our list of highest earners, all the way down to Call of Duty and Clash Royale, 36th and 44th on the list, respectively.

The remaining 453 apps and games have net revenue in the single-digit millions, and include a variety of games such as PUBG and Toon Blast, ranked 46th and 50th, respectively, and dips all the way down to Street Fighter Duel in 496th place, just a few spots from the bottom.

OfferUp, a marketplace for used goods, sits in last place.

Overall, games accounted for a little more than half of the entire list - 271 or 54%. The non-games span 20 categories led by Entertainment, Social Networking, and Photo & Video.

And of all apps and games, only one is paid. Just one, and that's Minecraft. All other apps are free with in-app purchases.

That's the App Store. Google Play is a whole other beast. Let me know if you want me to run this analysis for Google Play as well.

What's better than a million? Yes, a whole billion!

2. TikTok's Billion Dollar Year

TikTok's revenue growth is an interesting trend to look at.

While the trend has almost always been curving up the way every business wants to see its revenue evolve, there were periods of more (and less) growth.

Going back to the early days, we see App Store revenue rose from a little under $2M in January of 2020 to $8M in January of 2021, to a whopping $97M in January of 2022. And all of that is net, which means what ByteDance gets to keep after Apple takes its share.

And no, I didn't add an extra 0 by accident. Revenue really grew more than 10x in 2021.

Early 2022 was a big one for TikTok. The first quarter was its biggest by far and totaled $272M of net revenue. It didn't last too long though. Revenue declined in May to $59M.

Consider that a hurdle, because revenue continued to grow, and guess what? Q1 of 2023 is even bigger at $298M of net revenue, according to our estimates.

And this doesn't includes TikTok's China revenue which comes from a different app.

That's a lot of money, and here's why this is relevant - this money isn't going to TikTok but rather to creators on the platform.

TikTok's in-app purchases are coins that users buy and then use to reward creators. By far the most thriving ecosystem (on mobile) for creators on any social platform.

Elon is trying to push Twitter in this direction using subscriptions, and possible rev share from ads, but TikTok already has Twitter beat.

A Cool Billion

But that's not all!

In addition to breaking revenue records almost every month, TikTok's revenue has hit a new milestone - the Big one. I capitalized that B on purpose.

In the last 12 months, TikTok's net revenue from the App Store hit a billion. And a friendly reminder, that's net, meaning after Apple's share. As these in-app purchases aren't subscriptions and TikTok doesn't qualify for Apple's Small Business Program, we can guess Apple's share was around $430M.

TikTok sits second in our list of highest-earning apps and games in the world, right below YouTube. The two have completely different business models but one important thing in common - video.

3. Audible Is in a League of Its Own!

Does anyone read books anymore?

That might sound like a silly thing to ask, but when you look at Audible's App Store revenue and its month over month growth, it stops being silly.

Let me show you what I mean.

The last time I checked in on Audible was earlier in the year when New Year's resolutions and Audible's convenience paired up to help people check off "read more books" from their list, ballooning Audible's revenue in the process.

In numbers, January was the highest month of revenue for Audible at that point, earning a whopping $27M of net revenue from the App Store, according to our App Intelligence.

It didn't remain the highest though!

In May, Audible's App Store net revenue grew 22% month-over-month to $33M. And that's net meaning what Amazon, Audible's owner, gets to keep after Apple takes its share.

Unlike many other apps I've covered recently that saw revenue grow while downloads slumped, Audible's downloads didn't slump! They're not growing as fast as revenue is, but are pretty consistent which is great.

What's also great, for Audible at least, is that there isn't really all that much competition. Not on the App Store at least.

I added up the downloads and revenue for top results for the keyword "audiobook" in Keyword Inspector and their downloads are barely similar to Audible's. All together! Their revenue isn't even close.

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4. Here's What Investor Fraud Looks Like IRL

News broke earlier this week that event discovery app IRL (which stands for In Real Life) is shutting down immediately after its own board discovered most of its users are fake.

A founder faking a few users to show off isn't really all that important, right?

Well, this time it wasn't a few...

From the outside, IRL looked like a model company. A popular product, a large team of 100+, and a charismatic founder that compares building the app to competing in the olympics.

Oh, and let's not forget over $200M raised and a valuation of over a billion dollars.

But, the app didn't really have any users!

According to our download estimates, IRL was "downloaded" 26 million times, which aligns with every article I've seen about this mentioning 20M active users. That download to active user ratio, on its own, should have been a red flag to investors...

Looking at the downloads for IRL something's odd. The growth is too fast, the jumps are too high, and the peaks don't align with any real event.

This isn't an easy one to spot though. I say this after having looked at thousands of apps and their growth, and even to me this wasn't super obvious at first. But! There's another way to look at this that could indicate fraud more clearly - ratings.

Real downloads usually translate into ratings on both the App Store and Google Play. There's no magic number for how many, but 26M downloads should yield more than 60K ratings.

For context, Twitter had 11M downloads and 430K new ratings in the last month. Pandora had 736K new downloads and 58K new ratings in the last 30 days, and the list goes on.

Want to take it a step further? Look at reviews and compare the positive reviews to the negative. In the case of IRL, the positive reviews are all very generic and the negative ones are from the few users that were real.

Analysts who aren't doing these very easy tasks before investing are just asking for trouble. I hope IRL's board gives whatever money they still have in their bank account back to the investors.

5. iOS 17 Sherlocks an Entire Category - Erasing Millions in Revenue

With its latest update to iOS, Apple will release its own version of apps currently available from 3rd party developers -- essentially eating their lunch. This might seem harsh, but this isn't a new occurrence.

Apple has been doing that for years, enough that it has a name: Sherlocking.

This year Apple sherlocked quite a few apps. Journaling was the obvious one, but a more interesting one, in my opinion, is stickers!

You might think stickers is a tiny category, which is exactly what I was thinking when I watched the keynote, but the numbers are different than I expected!

I looked up the highest earning stickers apps on the App Store and was surprised to find not one but two apps with net revenue in the millions over the last year.

Millions! For stickers!

That couple is Sticker Maker + and WhatSticker.

Since the beginning of 2022, our estimates show the pair has earned a total of $4M globally. And that's net, so what the publishers get to keep after giving Apple its share.

With iOS 17 that figure is likely gone, or at least reduced drastically.

But that's not all. I went deeper and rounded up every other stickers app I could find on the App Store we have an estimate for - 40 more apps - about 35 more than I expected.

Together, the group earned more than $650K of net revenue every month over the last three months.

Between January and May of this year, our estimates show the group earned more than $3.1M in net revenue globally.

I can no longer call this category small. Sure, it wont rival TikTok and isn't a monthly millionaire. But then again, it's just stickers.

Will these apps transform into something that beats what's built into iOS 17 or will they disappear? If you're the developer of one of those, I really hope for option one.

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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