This Week in Apps - Can You See It?

Ariel Ariel
11 minute read Jan. 26

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 (30 Day)

App Store
319.95 +13.1%
Google Play
326.01 +1.6%

Insights

1. The Vision Will Ship With +1M Apps - But Only a Handful are "Native"

Apple's newest device is coming in just a few days and to succeed where others have not (yet?), Apple not only had to make a superior device but also ensure there's a big ecosystem around it to make it useful.

Naturally, the Vision Pro needs apps built for it that take advantage of its immersive capabilities. According to our data, which we collect directly from the App Store, there are a little over 300 apps that have done that either as a standalone app or as an update to an existing app.

The biggest category by number of apps is currently Utilities, followed by Productivity, Entertainment, Education, and Health & Fitness. Together, the top five categories are responsible for roughly 50% of all new apps made for the Vision Pro.

The list includes some of my favorite apps like Fantastical, Fruit Ninja, Streaks, Waterminder, a slew of Apple's own apps, and, of course, Zoom.

It's a nice list, but obviously not enough to make a device "no one needs at a price most can't afford" into a best seller. For that, Apple tapped into one of its best assets - the App Store.

It did that by making visionOS, the operating system for the Vision Pro, run iOS and iPadOS apps right out of the box with minimal/no changes needed from the developers.

Doing that grew the number of available apps several orders of magnitude to over a million!

But... Apple also lets developers opt out of having their iOS and iPadOS apps available in the Vision App Store.

I expected the number of opt-outs to be minimal. After all, why would anyone say no to free exposure?

Well... you'd be surprised.

According to our data, 305K apps and games have opted out of being available on the Vision App Store.

More than I expected, and there's no one specific category that's doing this. It's relatively well distributed across the entire store.

Education apps are leading the charge and make up 12% of apps that won't launch with the Vision Pro. Business and Utilities follow with 9% each, Lifestyle with 8%, and Health & Fitness, arguably one of the most suitable categories for the Vision, with a 6% share.

And the list includes many names you might recognize, like Amazon Kindle, Pandora, Spotify, Netflix, Google Docs, and even Walmart. Shopping apps choosing to opt out makes little sense to me considering the target audience for the Vision Pro.

Helped by my Twitter followers, here are three reasons why an app would opt out:

  1. Some apps can't run on visionOS without substantial modifications. Apps that rely heavily on the iPhone's capabilities tend to be in that group and their developers may want to release a separate app instead of updating their iOS version which takes time.
  2. Because testing on an actual device is nearly impossible for most developers, some prefer to wait until a device is available and test natively before giving their users a broken experience.
  3. And lastly, several companies are in a constant battle with Apple over the business side of things. Naturally, they wouldn't want to help Apple launch a new device as a form of protest. There aren't many, but they're big.

Some bigger companies are also really slow to adopt new technologies "thanks" to layers of bureaucracy, but I didn't have that as a reason because I think it's a lousy excuse.

Bottom line: Apple's ecosystem is massive and day-one Vision Pro users will have lots of apps and games to play with.

2. Apple Music Classical Launches in Asia

Apple wants the world to know its music. Last week, Apple brought Apple Music's little sibling, Apple Music Classical, to Asia for the first time.

The initial reception for Apple Music Classical, which launched back in March, was pretty good with a million downloads in the first few days. But daily downloads dropped into the single-digit thousands pretty quickly, and releasing an Android version didn't help that much.

Will Asia save Apple Music Classical?

Last Wednesday, Apple released Apple Music Classical in 6 new countries: China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Macao.

According to our estimates, the app was downloaded a little over 280K times between Wednesday and Friday.

Not nearly as big as the initial launch, but big enough to matter.

China led the way with 47% of the downloads, which surprised me a tiny bit. China's app consumption has grown drastically in the last year and the trend isn't slowing down any time soon.

Japan, which I expected to lead the way, had a 33% share, and South Korea added 12%. Taiwan and Hong Kong were responsible for a handful of the downloads in the first three days - 5% and 2%, respectively.

(We don't provide estimates for Macao at this time because its App Store is very small)

Oh, and these numbers are coming from the App Store and Google Play, but the vast majority came from the App Store. And when I say vast I mean 98%.

You'll need a subscription to Apple Music to use Apple Music Classical which begs the question - why not use one app?

3. Is Evernote Past Its Prime?

Last week I looked at the sale of a portfolio of apps for $100M by Bending Spoons, an Italian app publisher that took over the OG notes app Evernote last year.

While Evernote wasn't a part of the recent trade it got me curious about where Evernote is now.

If you've been around apps long enough you remember Evernote as the first 3rd party notes app available for the iPhone. If you haven't you probably don't know about it at all because it lost a lot of momentum fairly early and never managed to claw its way back.

Here's my question - was acquiring Evernote a good idea?

Let's have a look at its revenue before and after to answer that.

The easy answer is... Maybe, but not quite.

See, Evernote's revenue has been generally growing - and that's a good thing. Growth has been fairly consistent between 2017 and 2021, going from $6M of net revenue in 2017 to $10M in 2021.

But then something happened in the middle of 2022 and net revenue, what Evernote gets to keep after Apple and Google take their fees, rose to $16M. That translates into a 60% increase year over year.

Bending Spoons took over Evernote in 2023 and increased the subscription price a few months later.

According to our estimates, Evernote's revenue rose to $18M. Just 13% more than 2022...

And that's the maybe.

When a company with a massive user base, the kind that's been around forever gets a price increase by new management they usually revolt. From the acquirer standpoint though, if the app provides sufficient value new users will come to replace the churn.

Looking at the trend we see that. Growth as the prices increased and stagnation since.

Is Revenue Stagnation Okay?

Revenue stagnation is tough. In some cases it's recoverable, but for most apps it isn't because it means the product is no longer competitive enough.

Considering the additional churn caused by increasing the price, it's going to be hard to recover without big product changes that additional paid user acquisition can't solve.

Bending Spoons seems to be making those big product changes where they matter most, introducing AI and better collaboration tools to fight off competition with Notion and Paper, and giving Evernote's interface a much-needed makeover.

So, maybe.

What About Downloads?

But there's more - and this is both a positive and a negative all rolled into one.

Evernote's downloads have been on a steep decline in the last few years. And when I say steep I mean steep.

According to our estimates, Evernote's yearly downloads dropped from 9.6M in 2017 to just 1.7M in 2023. And guess which year was its worst? 2023 - with a massive drop of 43%.

The good news is that revenue continuing to grow at any rate when downloads are dropping so low means those who download the app are much more likely to pay. You want that.

But the bad news is that without additional price increases, as time goes on it'll be harder to replace churned users with new users and revenue will drop. Price increases will help in the short term but add more churn, which can't be replaced easily, and you can see where this is going.

In my opinion, the only way to rebuild the momentum Evernote once had is to find that 10x feature no one else has and make it super accessible. I don't think AI is the answer but I hope the new owners can figure it out.


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4. Meta's Threads is Making a Run for It - The Most Downloaded Apps in the World

December was a good month for Threads as daily downloads nearly tripled! Was that enough to make it the most downloaded app in the world?

Let's have a look at our rankings for December:

It wasn't.

Instagram was the most downloaded app in the world in December. We estimate it saw 54M new downloads from the App Store and Google Play - mostly from Google Play - as it overtook TikTok for first place.

TikTok came in second in December adding 47M new downloads. Unlike Instagram, which got 80% of its downloads from Google Play, TikTok's downloads were more balanced with 60% from Google Play and 40% from the App Store.

A small but significant signal that TikTok is more in demand.

Facebook, WhatApp, and... CapCut round out the top 5. Facebook and WhatsApp have been glued to those spots for most of 2023 with a few blips where they shifted down a bit, and it makes sense considering Facebook's brand and WhatsApp being the most used communication tool outside of the US.

CapCut isn't. Well, not recently.

Earlier in 2023, CapCut was in the top 5 nearly every month but that ended in June and it dropped to the bottom of the chart. I wonder if this will become a seasonal trend for TikTok's video editor.

Wait, Where's Threads?

Threads did manage to rank in December's charts on the App Store, Google Play, and combined! Just not high enough to make the top 5.

Our estimates show that on the App Store, Threads ranked 4th with 12M new downloads. It got a bit more, 16M from Google Play, but that only got it to the 8th spot. On the combined list, Threads made it to 6th place.

I explored the trend a bit more in-depth and it's clear this was a holiday special. I say that because you can see downloads ramp up and then down, though downloads in January are still a bit higher than November, so maybe the push helped.

Together, the top 10 most downloaded apps saw 334M new downloads in December, according to our estimates. A modest 7% increase over November's total, which might seem weird considering the holidays, but we're talking apps and not games here so it's expected.

5. Demand for Mobile Games Rose 15% in December - The Most Downloaded Mobile Games in the World

Last month I hinted that demand for mobile games, which has been inching up in the last few months, should be growing in December thanks to the holidays.

We now have all the data we need to see if that's the case and who's leading.

Demand for mobile games rose 15% in December and you'll never guess what was the most downloaded mobile game in December. Well, if you've been following the series you can definitely guess - it was no other than reigning champion Subway Surfers.

Our estimates show Subway Surfers added 21M new downloads in December from the App Store and Google Play. A whopping 31% higher than November's haul.

Roblox came in second with 17M downloads - a modest 13% increase from the previous month, but for Roblox that's great. Downloads have fluctuated a lot this year.

Block Blast! rose two spots to rank third in December with 17M downloads as well, just a few downloads shy of second place.

Outlets Rush and 8 Ball Pool round out the top 5.

China's Continued Dominance

Like the last few months, China's dominance was again on display in December.

Two China-only titles made it into the top 10 list on the App Store in December - 元梦之星 (Fall Guys), the most downloaded game on the App Store in December with 6M estimated downloads, and 蛋仔派对 (Eggy Party), which came in 4th, also with 6M downloads (when rounded).

The reason these stand out is because both titles are only available for download in China and they're getting more downloads than rivals that are available for download worldwide.

Netflix Finally Found Success

Another highlight for December is the Netflix version of GTA: San Andreas, which managed to snag 3rd place in our App Store ranking.

GTA is a well-recognized brand and Netflix did a good job revamping the game for mobile. That success can be the springboard Netflix needs to get more eyes on its Apple Arcade-like games collection which includes nearly 100 titles.

Check out my breakdown of Netflix's game portfolio.

Together, our estimates show the top 10 most downloaded games in the world saw 144M downloads in December from the App Store and Google Play. And as per usual, Google Play gave developers more than double the number of downloads than the App Store.

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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