This Week in Apps - Up and Up and Up
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. The #1 App in the US Hasn't Been Updated in 7 Years!
The most downloaded app in the US App Store right now is a coloring book that hasn't been updated in 7 years. And it looks like it.
According to our estimates, over the last two weeks, the free coloring book went from about 15 downloads a day to more than 200,000!
Let's take a closer look at this strange burst.
My Coloring Book Free is a 13-year-old app published by an indie dev by the name of Jeff. Its last update was 7 whole years ago and the release notes don't make too much sense.
It's safe to say this app hasn't been loved in a looooong time. One of the benefits of not updating in years is that it can have "free" in its name, which is no longer allowed. You'll see why that's helpful in a moment.
Since the beginning of November, when this trend started, the app saw 924K downloads, more than half from the US and 219K on Saturday alone, according to our App Intelligence.
How does this happen?
If you've been reading for long enough you might have a guess - TikTok!
A viral TikTok had a coloring book app and sent lots of TikTokers to the App Store to find a coloring book app. The category isn't too competitive on the iPhone so it's not too hard to rank in search results, and this app had the advantage of having "Free" in its name.
Overall, the app's name is pretty good for App Store Optimization, so combined, it became the top result and enjoyed much of the traffic.
It wasn't the only one, though!
At least 10 other coloring book apps have also seen downloads rise as a result of this trend. None were as big as this app, but together, the other apps saw downloads more than double with one seeing downloads triple.
Adult Coloring Book - Pigment saw downloads climb from just a few hundreds to more than 15K last Monday. And, it's not that kind of adult coloring book. It's just not as simple as the one made for kids.
Being in the right place at the right time is important as is making sure you're always on top of ASO, but one thing is missing - revenue.
The app doesn't monetize directly but is showing ads, so if Jeff's AdMob's account is still open there will be some revenue there. Not as much as the app could earn with in-app purchases, but something is better than nothing.
2. Wrapped - Was the Most Downloaded App in the US Just a Scam?
An app catapulted to the top of the App Store last week and then disappeared abruptly. Fast risers aren't new, but abrupt disappearances are.
The app is Wrapped for Instagram and it claims to show you a variety of juicy stats about your IG account like your top friends, the number of hours you spent on IG, and more.
How many people want that? Well, let's have a look at the downloads:
According to our App Intelligence, Wrapped saw 2.9M downloads from the App Store, the only store it was available on, since launching in September.
The majority of those downloads - almost all of them - came between Thursday and Wednesday.
Wrapped's business model was to show some stats for free and charge for more granular data as a subscription.
Our estimates show Wrapped earned a total of $80K of net revenue in its time on the App Store. That's around $0.03/download, which is very little for an app that's so attractive and with so many downloads.
How can that be? And, why did it disappear?
A few things seem off about Wrapped. The first is that the data it's presenting isn't data you can get from Instagram directly. As Wrapped wasn't a Meta-owned app, there's really no way it could access such data. Users of the app have complained about the numbers not aligning with reality and even changing between uses.
The app's disappearance confirmed all of the concerns - Meta had Apple pull the app because it violated IG's terms, and judging by the speed that happened, I'm sure it was something serious.
I think it's safe to call this one a scam. I hope you didn't fall for it.
3. Downloads Continue to Grow in October - The Most Downloaded Apps in the World
October is over which means it's time to crunch the numbers and rank the most downloaded apps in the world across the App Store, Google Play, and combined.
There aren't (m)any surprises, but downloads are up!
TikTok was, again, the most downloaded app in the world in October. It managed to slide into 51M devices according to our App Intelligence, most of which are in China with the US coming in second place.
Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp took the second, third, and fourth place this month just like last month, but with more downloads.
Temu dethroned Telegram and went from #6 in September to #5 in October to round out the top 5 for this month. There isn't much that can stop Temu and with the holiday season just inches away I expect to see it continue to rise, just like #10 SHEIN.
The only notable change I could find with these ranks is ChatGPT making its way into the list on the App Store. It's not its first time, but it's the only time since launch month.
The top 10 most downloaded apps in the world saw 317M in October from the App Store and Google Play, according to our estimates. A modest 6% increase from September, but an increase is an increase!
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4. Going After the Money - The Most Downloaded Games in the World
October is over which means it's time to crunch the numbers and rank the most downloaded games in the world across the App Store, Google Play, and combined.
October's charts include a good mix of changes.
Let's start with the incumbents.
Subway Surfers continued domination, taking the crown again with 17M downloads across the App Store and Google Play. Subway Surfers has been the most downloaded game in the world for a looooong time now.
My Perfect Hotel came in second in October, just like September, but downloads dropped a bit from 16M to 14M new downloads.
Then we have Roblox, which normally fluctuates but not this time. Roblox made its way into 14M devices in October to be the 3rd most downloaded game in the world.
Real Car Driving, which wasn't ranked last month, and 8 Ball Pool, which ranked 9th in September, ranked 4th and 5th, respectively, in October and round out the top 5 for the month.
All other games below also changed, or at least moved, when compared to September's list.
On the App Store, almost every game moved and new ones that weren't ranked last month cracked the list. One of the apps missing is China-only High-Energy Heros, which didn't make the charts at all in October.
Together, the top 10 most downloaded games in the world made their way into 122M devices in October, according to our estimates. This is a bit lower than September, but not by much.
5. ReelShort is a Streaming App That's a Solution Without a Problem
ReelShort is seeing a download surge right now and that's pushing it up the charts - #3 overall in the US App Store and #16 on Google Play.
Looking at its description, which mentions streaming bite-sized content, and its name, I immediately remembered I've seen an app like this before - Quibi.
Don't remember Quibi? I don't blame you...
Quibi was a new streaming app that launched right as lockdowns started in 2020 with a "novel" idea of short videos. The really well-produced kind though, not the TikTok kind. A lot of big names ran it and raised over a billion dollars for it.
It failed veeeeeery quickly. Is ReelShort a newer Quibi?
Quibi 2, I mean ReelShort, launched in August of 2022 and is, for all intents and purposes, a competitor to all other streamers. What it offers is very short episodes and a combination of premium and free (ad-supported) content.
ReelShort has managed to collect 11M downloads across the App Store and Google Play since launching, according to our App Intelligence.
The app has seen its highest spike in daily downloads over the last few weeks with Saturday being its biggest day of downloads. Our estimates show ReelShort made its way into 326K iPhones and Android devices on Saturday and 1.9M downloads since the beginning of November.
I did notice something important. When looking at the downloads by store, the App Store and Google Play had an almost even contribution to the total. This is normally a sign that the downloads are the result of increased demand but rather a paid ad campaign, and that's the case here.
Considering this is somewhat new and novel, it makes sense. The real question is - will it stick?
One way to answer this is to look at revenue.
ReelShort uses coins, its own in-app currency, to pay for premium content. This is pretty clever because once purchased, most users won't feel like they're really "paying" for content, making it easier to spend more money in the app.
That's not common for streaming apps.
Since its release, ReelShort brought in $22M of net revenue from the App Store and Google Play. Unlike downloads, most revenue is coming from the App Store. Like downloads, Saturday was also the highest day of revenue for ReelShort with $459K of net revenue from the App Store and Google Play, according to our estimates.
And this is all net which is what ReelShort gets to take home after Apple and Google's fees.
It seems that the ads are working and people are actually engaging with the app enough to want the premium content. Compared to Quibi's numbers, ReelShort is monetizing much better at $2/downloads vs Quibi's $0.73/download.
Revenue per download isn't a good measure for stickiness at all, but more revenue makes it easier to produce more content, which is what's necessary to succeed these days. Even larger streamers are struggling with 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.