This Week in Apps - Is Blue the New Black?
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.
1. Bluesky is Open to All - Will it Dethrone X?
About a year ago, a new competitor to X launched in private beta. On Tuesday, this competitor emerged out of beta and is trying to become the new alternative to X but with a twist - it's decentralized, which means you can own your handle.
That new competitor is Bluesky, and what's interesting here is that Bluesky was developed by Twitter when Jack Dorsey was at the helm.
Now, Bluesky is its own entity, and after a year of being invite-only, the app is now letting everyone join.
Here's the question - does anyone care? Let's start by looking at Bluesky's downloads before it opened up.
According to our estimates, Bluesky's mobile apps saw a total of 3.6M downloads from the App Store and Google Play since it was launched back in February of 2023.
Most of the downloads, 40%, came from the US with Japan, Germany, Brazil, and the UK rounding out the top 5 biggest countries for Bluesky. The four were responsible for 28% of its downloads.
And I was a bit surprised to see the distribution between the App Store and Google Play leaned more towards the App Store but not too much - 64%.
On Tuesday, the first day of being open to the public, Bluesky saw 31K downloads, according to our estimates. The majority coming from the App Store. That's not a lot but it's about 10 times higher than the daily downloads in January.
The news must have taken some time to spread because by Wednesday, downloads rose to 104K, with Japan taking the lead and the US behind it. This might seem like a surprise but Japan happens to be a very big market for Twitter as well.
The best way to answer my original question is to compare these download figures to X's. This year, X is getting 280K new downloads per day on average, according to our estimates. Bluesky is a bit behind at this point...
Web vs. Mobile
I have a strong suspicion that users who joined during the private beta and those joining now that it's open are very very different. I say that because I looked for numbers from Bluesky regarding users and their beta numbers seem to align with our download estimates as expected. Post-beta, however, they start varying, likely due to more users only using the website and not the mobile app.
A post from the official Bluesky account announced the service added a million new users since it opened up. If all of those users came through its apps Bluesky would be the most downloaded app in the world right now - but it isn't.
Bluesky is currently ranked 228th on the App Store and 97th on Google Play.
That adds up to 139K downloads in the first two days, making it clear those new users are coming from the web and not through the app.
I suspect that means more readers and fewer writers, and those won't stick around for too long without more content streaming through their feeds.
2. How Are App Developers Making Money on the Vision Pro?
The Apple Vision Pro is out, and it's clear this is the beginning of something big.
For developers, the Apple Vision Pro presents a potential opportunity, which is why there are nearly 700 apps optimized for the Apple Vision Pro already available in its App Store. And most were there before developers even saw the device.
You'd be surprised to know not all of those apps are free with in-app purchases. So, how are developers making money on the Apple Vision Pro right now?
You'd expect the answer to this rather simple question to be subscriptions, but that isn't exactly the case.
I analyzed all apps optimized for the Apple Vision Pro. That includes iOS apps that added a native Vision Pro experience and apps only available on the Vision Pro. There are about 1.2M iOS apps that will work on the Vision Pro but weren't modified by their developers for it. Those aren't included in this analysis for obvious reasons.
52% of all Vision-only apps are a paid download. This is not a drill. I'm not joking. 35% of the remaining apps don't monetize through the App Store, leaving 13%, which monetize with subscriptions.
This is not at all what I expected because on the App Store, paid apps barely make up 5% of apps.
Switching to apps that are available for iPhone/iPad but also have a native Vision experience, the numbers are a whole lot different.
Only 17% of iPhone apps optimized for the Vision are paid to download. That's higher than I expected, but not by much. 25% are not monetizing on the App Store, and the rest, a whopping 58%, monetize with subscriptions.
What's the Right Strategy?
When it comes to pricing, one size definitely doesn't fit all, but if we look at how the App Store is, we can see the number of paid apps has decreased drastically over the years to the point of near extinction. I expect that to happen on Vision as well as it matures.
The pay upfront model is simple and reliable, and in some cases the only option, but it makes it hard to run a real business which is why more and more apps switch to a subscription model. I expect to see that happening for Vision as well as it matures.
3. Reddit Wants to IPO - But Is Reddit Still Relevant?
News emerged last week that forum platform Reddit is seeking a public offering.
If you've been following the news about Reddit in the last year, this shouldn't be that big of a surprise. Between its investment in NFTs and closing up its ecosystem, it's clear Reddit wants to cash out.
But here's the real question - is Reddit still relevant?
Let's have a look at downloads over the years.
Reddit has been growing steadily for quite a while now but 2023 hasn't been all that great. In fact, downloads actually shrunk in 2023 for the firm time - and not by a little.
In more absolute terms, we estimate Reddit's mobile apps were downloaded 38M times in 2023, down from 54M in 2022. That's quite the drop!
The last time Reddit was in the 30s was in 2020 after growing more than 37% year over year.
You could say that Reddit is more of a website than a mobile app making this trend less alarming. And searching on Google, you're very likely to come across a top result that's on Reddit, further enhancing that point.
But just like Bluesky, web users are very different than mobile users when it comes to communities, making this decline very significant.
I'm no financial advisor but I expect Reddit's IPO to be rocky. I do like Reddit though so I hope I'm wrong.
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4. ChatGPT's Revenue Climbs as Downloads Continue to Slide
ChatGPT has been all the rage online for more than a year now, and its introduction on mobile back in May brought the rage to the App Store and Google Play - and by rage I mean downloads and revenue. Lots of them!
Maybe too many because in November, OpenAI couldn't handle all the growth and suspended new signups for its premium tier, causing monthly revenue to tank and downloads to slow down.
The suspension didn't last too long and revenue continued to grow, but downloads didn't.
I thought it would just be a matter of time but after two months it's pretty clear it isn't.
So, what's going on?
According to our estimates, ChatGPT's revenue started to climb immediately after subscriptions resumed. In October, ChatGPT earned $5.6M in net revenue (after store fees). That rose to $6.7 in November and $7.8M in December.
So while OpenAI definitely lost money during the pause its velocity didn't. This means ChatGPT's premium features remain popular.
Very popular, because revenue in January rose sharply and brought ChatGPT into single-digit revenue with $11.2M. And that's all net which is what OpenAI gets to keep after Apple and Google take their fees.
That's the good news. On to the bad news...
Downloads Drop as Competitors Take on ChatGPT
ChatGPT's downloads have been on the rise since it was released last year, growing steadily month after month. Even as competitors emerged.
It took ChatGPT 7 months to reach its peak - 19M downloads - in November. That's the month the subscription was paused, and also the beginning of the drop.
Our estimates show ChatGPT was downloaded 17.9M times in December and 15.1M times in January. That's a 21% drop.
This drop may not have an immediate impact on revenue as ChatGPT's conversion rate is still high for those who know they need it, but it puts future revenue growth in jeopardy. Especially as rivals Google and X are catching up.
5. Remember Medium? Well, You Won't Believe How Much Its App Is Making
Remember Medium? If you've been around long enough, you might remember it as the platform that changed the writing experience with its write-in-place editor, replacing the more traditional write-then-preview experience every WordPress blog had.
If you don't go back that long, you might know Medium as a place with some blog posts with a paywall.
I don't go on Medium much these days but every time I do I'm presented with a paywall and I wanted to see if that's generating more revenue than frustration.
Our App Intelligence answered my question very quickly, and the answer is pretty simple - yes, it's working.
It's working so well that since 2017, Medium's mobile revenue rose a whopping 6,968%.
In more absolute terms, we estimate that Medium's net revenue rose 14% year over year to $9.4M in 2023. And that's what Medium gets to keep after Apple's and Google's fees.
2023 wasn't Medium's fastest year of revenue growth, but it was the year with the most revenue. Medium's biggest year was 2018, where 1,061% growth led to its first million dollars from mobile, followed by 173% in 2019.
The US is Medium's biggest supporter by far, contributing more than 57% of the total. The UK, India, Canada, and Australia round out the top 5, each with a single-digit piece of the pie.
At a time when more publications are reversing course away from subscriptions, it's interesting to see a crowdsource publication able to monetize.
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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.