This Week in Apps - September in Review
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. Revenue Index (vs. 30 days ago)
1. Is Twitter's Rebrand Losing the Platform Money?
September is behind us which means it's time to check in on X's (aka Twitter's) revenue, and unlike most of my previous check-ins, this one is interesting because it's the second full month of Twitter being X.
I talked about how the rebrand has lost X downloads more than once, so now we can see if revenue is also following the trend.
September wasn't a strong month for X, which by now, is no longer Twitter.
Downloads continued to drop "thanks" to the rebrand and the lack of discoverability, crossing into the single-digit millions.
Downloads haven't been that low since 2017...
Downloads have dropped consecutively from 13M in July, rebrand month, to 11M in August, and 9M in September, according to our estimates. And those downloads include the App Store, Google Play, and Twitter Lite on Google Play, which has seen downloads rise sharply as it's still branded "Twitter".
Revenue isn't happy either.
Although August was X's biggest month of app revenue to date, September took a sharp turn in the opposite direction.
Our estimates show net revenue in September was $4.8M, nearly a million dollars less than August.
Even though the drop was steep, X's revenue is still nearly twice as high as where it started in January.
Less revenue is never good, but I can think of a few reasons for that, and not all are terrible for the platform, so I'm curious to see what happens in the coming months as Twitter's creator payments continue to roll in and as the elections in the US become more of a hot topic.
2. ChatGPT's Revenue is Growing but Growth is Slowing Down
The official ChatGPT app from OpenAI has been on the App Store since May and Google Play since July. And even though it's late to the game it created, the app's revenue has been growing double-digit month over month.
September managed to break two records for the app's revenue. Only one is good, though.
15.6M people downloaded OpenAI's ChatGPT app in September, according to our estimates. That's more people than the populations of Sweden and Denmark combined!
That's also ChatGPT's highest month of downloads so far, and revenue is following a similar trend.
Our estimates show ChatGPT earned $3.2M in September from the App Store and Google Play. And that's net which means what OpenAI gets to keep after Apple and Google take their fees.
The majority of this haul, $3M, came from iPhone users and the rest from Google Play. Not much of a surprise there.
So far, The US is ChatGPT's biggest consumer, contributing roughly 60% of the app's lifetime earnings.
That's the good news. The bad news is that growth seems to be slowing down.
Although September broke a record in absolute terms, the rate at which revenue grew is actually the lowest to date at just 20%. Don't get me wrong, 20% is amazing, especially when we're looking at millions, but it's lower than the previous months which were in the 30s.
I started with the downloads to show how big the opportunity is here, and even though the paid subscription is on the higher end of subscription costs, it's the lack of upsell that's resulting in growth slowing down.
With a few small tweaks OpenAI can easily increase that conversion rate and see much faster revenue growth.
Maybe this revenue is too small in the grand scheme of things. After all, running ChatGPT and the crazy amount of GPU power it requires is more expensive than what they're making here.
But... wouldn't you want to make more money with something you already have running by only tweaking a few little things?
I hope the answer is yes.
3. The Most Downloaded Apps in the World in September
Now that September is behind us I crunched the numbers and ranked the most downloaded apps in the world for the month.
If you just glance at the list you won't notice any changes when compared to August, but there's a pretty big one.
Let's start at the top.
TikTok was the most downloaded app in the world in September with 50M new downloads, according to our estimates. That's a smidge lower than August, where TikTok was also the most downloaded app in the world.
Meta's trio lands right below it. Instagram leads the way followed by Facebook and WhatsApp. Same as last month, but with fewer downloads overall.
That's a trend we see across the entire store in September.
Telegram rounds out the top 5, again, just like August.
Breaking into the top of the App Store happens fairly often, but only for a short term which isn't enough to break into the very top of our rankings.
But wait! Where's Threads?
Meta's X competitor didn't make the cut in September at all. It's still managed to make it into millions of devices, but not enough and the trend is sloping down.
Together, the most downloaded apps in the world made their way into 298M iOS and Android devices in September, according to our App Intelligence. This total is a bit short of August's, a downturn most apps have been seeing.
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4. The Highest Earning Apps in September
I crunched the numbers and ranked the highest-earning apps in the world in September. At a glance, things look identical to August but if you look a bit closer you'll see the difference.
TikTok was the highest-earning app in the world in September, adding $164M of net revenue to its bottom line from the App Store and Google Play.
YouTube was a distant second, ending September with $99M of net revenue, according to our estimates.
Tinder, Disney+, and Max round out the top 5 highest earners and if you're thinking this list matches August's you are correct.
But what's different between the months is the scale.
TikTok's revenue was down 10% when compared to August's. YouTube's was 9% lower. Third place Tinder dropped 11%, and the trend continued - Disney+ dropped 7% while Max dropped 12%.
Back to school really sealed up some pockets. But then again, August was an unusually high month across the board so this isn't a surprise.
As we get closer to the holiday season I expect revenue to come back,
Our App Intelligence shows that together, the top 10 highest-earning apps in the world in September hauled in $625M of net revenue from the App Store and Google Play. And keep in mind that's net which means what the publishers of those apps get to keep after Apple and Google take their share.
As you'd expect, this total is a bit lower than August's which fits the overall trend we saw with downloads.
5. Viral Features = Runaway Success for Epik Photo Editor
Another week and another viral success coming from the photo and video world. This one dethroned Lapse, which managed to stay up high far longer than I expected!
Epik is another AI photo editor with a gimmick. At this point in the game, if you launch a photo editor you must have a gimmick...
This week, the gimmick went viral, propelling the app to the top of the App Store in the US.
Epik, which launched in late December of 2022 when the market for AI photo apps was hot, started rising up the charts in late September.
Over the last two weeks, the app's downloads grew from a daily average of roughly 90K downloads, according to our estimates, to a whopping 600K this Wednesday. What's interesting is that downloads were actually on a slow decline before this sharp u-turn.
If you've been reading for long enough you know that downloads are nice but it's revenue I'm more interested in - did Epik's revenue also grow with this surge?
Our estimates show that Epik's daily net revenue from the App Store and Google Play ballooned over the last two weeks from a daily average of $15K to $340K on Wednesday. One day!
The lift was more pronounced on the App Store, which is Epik's bigger earner, where the country that's buying the most is not the US but rather South Korea! That also happens to be the case on Google Play.
In total, Epik saw 2.8M new downloads and $1.7M of net revenue in the last two weeks according to our App Intelligence. And that revenue is net which means what the publisher gets to keep after Apple and Google deduct their fees.
You're probably curious about the gimmick - Epik uses AI to give you photos a 90's yearbook look, and people can't stop publishing them to social media, keeping this loop going.
Features are continuing to play a major role on the App Store but the real lesson here is to have a revenue model before your app goes viral, so you can capitalize on it. Epik did that.
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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.