This Week in Apps - China's Domination

Ariel Ariel
9 minute read 11/17/23

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. Revenue Index (vs 30 days ago)

App Store
441.72 +3.1%
Google Play
232.26 -0.6%


1. October Delivers for TikTok and YouTube - The Highest Earning Apps in the World

I crunched the numbers and ranked the highest-earning apps in the world, and let me just tell you, October scored big for the top players!

TikTok was the highest-earning app in the world in October. We estimate TikTok earned $177M of net revenue for the month across the App Store and Google Play, and including the international and China-only versions.

YouTube took second place with $109M, a 10% increase when compared to September.

Tinder, Disney+, and Max round out the top 5 highest-earners in the world in October, which happens to be the same set and the same ranks as September.

I expect Disney+ to rise up the ranks when it merges with Hulu, ranked 9th in this list with $33M of net revenue in October.

Much like games, China-only apps are making their way up the ranks as well. On the App Store, Tencent Video and iQIYI - two video apps - have earned a combined $55M in net revenue, with (Tencent Video) also making it into the combined list.

And one more, Duolingo finally made the list. The language learning app has seen revenue grow drastically in the last few months, enough to bring it into the rankings in October.

According to our App Intelligence, the top 10 highest-earning apps in the world saw $680M of net revenue - which is what the publishers keep after store fees - in October from the App Store and Google Play. A decent increase of 9% when compared to September.

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2. China's Dominance is On Display - The Highest Earning Mobile Games in the World

I crunched the numbers and ranked the highest-earning mobile games in the world in October and September's trend seems to continue! And we don't have to go further than the highest-earning game.

王者荣耀 (King of Glory) was the highest-earning mobile game in the world in October. Our estimates show the China-only title bringing in a massive $120M of net revenue (after store fees) from the App Store and Google Play. Up 15% from September, when the game took the top spot.

And like last month, King of Glory wasn't the only China-only title to make it into the ranks. We'll get back to this trend in a moment.

Monopoly Go was the second highest-earning game in the world in October. Net revenue rose 9% to $102, according to our estimates. And that's all after store fees.

Royal Match, 和平精英 (Peace Elite), and Candy Crush round out the top five. And if you're comparing lists to last month, the top five are identical. Even though the ranks are the same at the top, revenue grew for all but one - Candy Crush.

Candy Crush has been on the decline for a few months now. Both downloads and revenue have been slowly dropping after a looooong period of growth.

China's Dominance is On Display

Let's get back to talking about China. Seeing China-only titles rank in the overall chart is a big deal. Why? Because Google Play isn't available in China, so they need more revenue from the App Store to outrank the combined totals for other titles.

Looking at just the App Store, there are four China-only titles that made this month's top 10. The same set as last month, which happen to be the top earners in China, and include 王者荣耀 (King of Glory), 和平精英 (Peace Elite), 逆水寒 (Justice Online), and 梦幻西游 (Fantasy Westward Journey).

Together, the four earned more than a quarter of a billion dollars - after store fees - in October. Given the growth and how China is closing up to outsiders, I expect to see growth continuing.

According to our App Intelligence, The top 10 highest-earning games in the world earned $677M in October. A small but welcome increase of 8% when compared to September. And in case you skipped right to the end, this total is after store fees.

3. Disney and Hulu's Upcoming Merger Will Create a Streaming Giant

Disney+ and Hulu are planning to merge into a single streaming service and that's a really big deal because Hulu, which started streaming before streaming was cool, is a pretty decent money-maker.

This merger comes just a few months after the other mega streamer, HBO, merged its streaming service Max with discovery+.

Why is Disney+ merging with Hulu and how will the team up perform against the new Max?

There's a pretty easy way to tell. It's all about the money!

Disney+ is one of the highest-earning streaming apps in the world. Our estimates show that in January, Disney+ brought in $47M of net revenue.

But, it'd go on to earn less and less every single month this year with the single exception of March, where revenue rose a tiny bit up to $48M, according to our estimates. And this is not including store fees.

September was the lowest month of revenue with $36M, and while October's revenue grew a bit to $39M, that's still significantly lower than January. A decrease of 17% from January.

It's clear that Disney+ can't continue to grow on its own and it wants something new. Content is King, so more content should help with growth. That's pretty much the same reason HBO Max merged with discovery+ back in May.

That merger didn't really increase revenue, but Hulu isn't discovery+.

Hulu started this year with $28M of net revenue, according to our estimates. Although revenue fluctuated a bit, Hulu brought in $33M of net revenue in October. That's a healthy increase of 18% from January.

See where I'm going with this?

Max, HBO's merger with discovery+, earned $50M in October, according to our estimates. That's lower than where it started back in June, with $59M, but still higher than Disney+ and Hulu.

The way Disney+ is merging with Hulu is purely technical, which means viewers will still need to pay for both services separately but through a single app.

Looking at the numbers, a Hulisney/Disnulu merger would easily out-earn Max instantly. In October, our estimates show the pair earned a combined $72M, and that's net which means what Disney keeps after store fees.

But like Disney, the trend this year isn't great.

I think that will change once a single app has both because Hulu is one of the most consistent TV streamers out there. With Hulu, Disney+ will become the destination for an amazing amount of content that goes beyond the Disney brand. I'm bullish on this combo.

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4. TikTok's Video Editor has Taken Over and the Competition is Feeling the Pain

CapCut, the video editor from TikTok, has officially taken the lead in its category and is now earning more than any other competitor. Including the one that led the way for years!

And the trend is clear - CapCut's revenue is going up while the competition is dropping.

I've been following CapCut ever since it launched quietly in 2019. For many months, downloads were rising consistently, and when CapCut started monetizing in 2022, the race heated up quickly.

I compared CapCut's revenue to other apps that offer video editing including Facetune, Lightroom, VSCO, and Slice.

Back in January, CapCut earned the least when compared to the rest. Just $3.3M of net revenue from the App Store and Google Play. The leader, Facetune, brought in $8.3M of net revenue in the same month. The rest earned between $3.8M and $4.6M.

By April CapCut's revenue rose to $5.2M, easily leaping over every other app but Facetune, which saw revenue grow to $9.2M in April, according to our estimates.

The rest also rose a bit, but not enough to overtake CapCut.

CapCut continued to grow while the rest continued to drop. CapCut's threat became a reality, stunting growth of apps that have been around for ages. But not Facetune.

But CapCut's rise didn't stop and Facetune's did... In September, CapCut's net revenue grew to $9.6M while Facetune's dropped to $8.7M.

That could have been a fluke, right?


October was CapCut's biggest month of revenue ever at $11.5M of net revenue. That's what Bytedance gets to keep after giving Apple and Google their fees. That's a 20% month-over-month increase and a whopping 249% increase from January.

And here's the thing, I really can't see this trend slowing down any time soon.

5. Lapse Loses Momentum as Downloads Drop 70%

Over the last few years, multiple apps have tried to take on Instagram by offering a "new" way to social media. Apps like Dispo, BeReal, and Poparazzi came up with novel ways of sharing pictures with friends and all rose to the top of the App Store for a short amount of time and then disappered.

Lapse is the latest app to join the list with its disposable camera-like strategy where you take a picture and can't see it right away but rather when the app decides it's "developed". The app also offers no filters.

And since September, Lapse was mostly in command of the App Store, ranking in the top 5 every day.

Like some of its predecessors, Lapse committed some cardinal sins when it came to growth by being only available on the App Store, being in private beta, and not having any way to monetize.

Roughly two months after it started rising, Lapse is starting to drop. And fast.

Lapse's growth engine, disguised by a beta, required users to invite friends in order to use the app. That's a pretty good way to grow, but it's also pretty extreme and feels like a dark pattern that inevitably turned off users and likely stunted growth.

In early September, Lapse was seeing 8K downloads per day on average, according to our estimates. After leaving "stealth" mode downloads started rising fast and before the month ended, daily downloads peaked at 210K as the app also became the most downloaded app in the US App Store.

Downloads continued to grow, and in October Lapse hit 218K downloads in one day. Just one day!

That, unfortunately, was also the beginning of its slide.

Downloads started dropping after that day and have been dropping almost consistently throughout October and November.

This week, downloads dropped to the lowest since that peak. Our estimates show downloads dropping to 63K, down 70% from October's peak.

This should come as no surprise to anyone who's seen its predecessors come and go. BeReal is the only one that's still seeing some downloads, but growth ended a long time ago and soon the downloads will too.

Getting to the top of the App Store is nice, but at this point, it should be seen as just the beginning. I think some apps forget that.

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.

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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.

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