This Week in Apps - Nothing but Growth!
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. 'Tis the Season and Small Businesses Are Winning
Shopify had a massive Black Friday this year, with purchases peaking at $4.2M per minute. Yes, minute. That's insane!
Some of that shopping happened on Shop, Shopify's package tracker that was rebranded as a small-business discovery app back in 2020.
In terms of downloads, this year was big. Bigger than all previous years.
Shop added 2M new downloads during the two weeks between 11/20 and 12/3 (aka. Black Friday weeks) and 3M downloads in all of November. That's a 153% increase from November of last year.
As you'd expect, the majority of downloads in November, roughly 76%, came from the App Store and the rest from Google Play. Shop's popularity has declined on Google Play over the years as it turned from a utility to a shopping app. Quite the opposite of what's happening on the App Store.
The big surge is great for small businesses that utilize Shopify's platform for their website and are getting a mobile shopping experience and discovery for free.
As a user of Shop and a supporter of small businesses and buying as direct as I can, I can tell you many of those businesses who are getting free discovery aren't really harnessing it or utilizing it very well. But that's a great opportunity for both those businesses and Shop, and I'm sure we'll see more of that happening before next year's shopping season.
2. X's Mobile Revenue Grew 261% in 2023
2023 has been nothing less than chaos for Twitter, which goes by X now but all the old-timers like me just can't not call it Twitter.
Unlike most other chaotic episodes on the internet though, this one is as extreme on the positive end as it is on the negative and isn't likely to stop any time soon.
Chaos aside, what I'm most interested in is Twitter's ability to monetize its users. It was the first social platform to do that and it didn't do it well pre-Elon.
The tl;dr - November was Twitter's month of revenue from mobile ever!
X, which is what I should really be using, earned $6.2M of net revenue from the App Store and Google Play in November, according to our estimates. That's a 16% increase from October and also an 8% increase over X's previous all-time high, which was in August.
The growth came primarily from the App Store, which is to be expected, but growth on the Google Play side almost matched.
X's App Store revenue rose 16.4%, while revenue from Google Play rose 14.6% in November. That's pretty good!
In last month's check-in, I mentioned the new subscription tiers X launched at the end of October and how I expect them to drive new revenue.
Given these numbers, I think they didn't take off very quickly. Not in November at least. But that isn't necessarily a bad sign.
Premium Plus is expensive. At $22/mo., it's the kind of subscription most need to think about more than once before purchasing, and just removing ads may not be the killer feature. Grok might be, especially when you compare its pricing to ChatGPT, but that didn't go live for all until December, so we'd only see its impact in the next check-in.
I expect a lot more growth here. The only question is how.
3. Snapchat's Mobile Revenue Crossed a Big Milestone
When Snapchat's paid subscription went live I said no one would pay to be a beta tester. More than a year later, Snapchat+ just had its highest month of revenue ever and managed to cross a milestone.
The secret to its success is evolution.
Let's have a look at the latest numbers.
Snapchat ended November with $22M of net revenue from the App Store and Google Play, according to our estimates. That's a 23% increase from October and 216% higher than January.
Looking back at all of 2023, growth was fairly consistent with a single weirdness in September.
The App Store contributed most of Snapchat's revenue, roughly 89% in 2023 and 86% in November indicating revenue on Google Play is growing in share.
While the US contributed the majority of revenue, there are now four countries where net revenue is higher than $1M vs. just two in October.
Our estimates also show that in November, revenue in 81 countries rose double-digits. That includes small wins like revenue rising 75% in Egypt to $15K, slightly larger wins like revenue doubling in Argentina to $90K, to more substantial wins like revenue growing 58% in France to $1.2M.
So why are people doing what I thought they wouldn't and pay to be beta testers?!?!
Well... They're not!
Snapchat's paid subscription evolved a lot since inception. Early on it was very similar to Twitter Blue, which launched with a very boring set of features. Like Twitter Blue, growth was hard. But it evolved.
Today's version of the subscription actually offers useful things along with the one killer feature, which is... a badge. If you like pricing strategies as much as I do, there's a lot to learn from this one.
Snap wasn't the first to monetize its users but so far it's ahead of the rest showing how important the kind of user you have is. Twitter's audience is "everyone" which makes them very hard to monetize. It's not impossible, clearly, but it's much harder and if I had to guess I'd say most of Twitter's revenue growth is coming from new users who fit the new X.
Although this revenue isn't going to replace Snapchat's ad revenue which is in the billions, it's heading in the right direction to align the company with its users and not just see them as the product. I like that.
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4. I Can't Believe How Much This Paid Game Is Making
I keep a close watch on the top app lists, and when a newcomer shows up, I immediately try to figure out what's going on and also share it with you.
This one I'm about to share is... interesting!
There's a high-priced game that was the #2 most downloaded in the US across both apps and games for a few days. And what's even more interesting is that there's no big brand behind this one and it looks like a game for the PS1. Take a look at the screenshots.
American Farming is a farm simulator game full of tractors, farm animals, crops, and "realistic AI workers". It's also a paid game that costs $7.99 to download.
There are only two other apps more expensive ranking in the top 50!
According to our estimates, the game has earned $362K of net revenue, which is what SquadBuilt, its publisher, gets to keep, since its release roughly three weeks ago. That's more than 53K downloads!
The majority of the revenue, roughly 75%, came from the App Store and the remaining 25% from Google Play. The distribution is pretty normal but given that it's paid and that it's high I'd call this haul from Google Play impressive.
Is this category a sleeper? Is the use of the word "American" and the icon looking like an American flag to thank for this?
There's another paid farm simulator charging the same price ranking 49th in the same chart + most of the game's revenue is coming from the US, so it's a double maybe.
What's clear is that even a $7.99 game with antiquated graphics can make money in 2023.
5. Gmail's iOS Revenue Is at an All-Time High!
Something most people don't know is that Gmail, the inbox everyone is using, offers in-app purchases on the App Store.
Google making money isn't really a surprise, but how fast it's growing and where the money is coming from are very interesting.
In November, Google's iOS app earned $8.9M of net revenue, according to our estimates. Net means what Google gets to keep after Apple takes it fee, and we're only looking at Apple because Google doesn't use a standard in-app purchase on Google Play.
Our estimates show November was Gmail's highest month of revenue ever. October was its previous high, and August before that.
Gmail's revenue has been growing consistently since the in-app purchase rolled out in 2021 with only a single decline in September.
What's Gmail charging for? Space! 100MB is Gmail's best earner with 200MB and 2TBs below it.
I fully expect to see Gmail climbing up the Top Grossing chart going into 2024.
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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.