This Week in Apps - Did You See It?

Ariel Ariel
7 minute read Apr. 19

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
430.37 +1.3%
Google Play
295.52 +1.6%


1. WhatsApp, Telegram, Signal Are Out! China Bans Messaging Apps as Demand for VPNs Skyrockets

China is waging war on messaging apps. Not all, but the most popular ones.

Late Thursday night, China asked Apple to remove WhatsApp, Threads, Signal, and Telegram from the Chinese App Store. And when I said "asked" I really meant forced. And Apple complied.

Was this a result of demand for these apps growing in China?

Looking at the downloads of the four in the last year the easy answer is not really...

Of the four, Signal barely gets any downloads. Just under a thousand a week, on average, and 60K since the beginning of 2023, according to our App Intelligence. That represents about 0.5% of Signal's total downloads globally. I wouldn't call this a threat in any way.

Threads had a good launch week, but downloads dropped fairly quickly, averaging around 5K downloads a week. Threads has picked up momentum over the last few weeks, which might be why it's on this list even though it's not technically a messaging app.

WhatApps, the second largest in downloads, and Telegram which leads the pack, added 2M and 4.2M new users in China since the beginning of 2023, according to our estimates. Neither is "exploding" right now though, so I don't think it's demand that caused this.

Bypassing the Great Firewall

Here's an interesting thing you may not know. Most messaging apps are technically not supposed to work in China even before this ban. They have been blocked by China's firewall, rendering those apps useless.


Users in China have been using VPN apps to get around China's blocks.

So I looked at the downloads of all VPN apps in China and the trend explains the ban a lot more.

In the two years, downloads of VPN apps in China rose 310% to the highest they've ever been. Downloads of VPN apps in March of 2022 hovered around 470K. Fast forward to March of 2024 and that number is now at 1.9M, according to our estimates.

Without VPNs, messaging apps like Telegram and WhatsApp wouldn't be very useful so I'd expect VPNs to get banned first, but without access to messaging apps the Chinese government gets the same result.

I'm sure there's more at play here but looking at the downloads tells the story. And now the real question is what's going to happen to TikTok in the US.

2. This New Streaming Trend is Earning Millions Right Now

Short drama streaming apps are one of the latest and biggest trends in apps right now that no one's talking about!

In the last year, the revenue earned by short drama apps has grown more than 13,000% - from hundreds of thousands to tens of millions.

Our newest insights extraordinaire Randy published a report on that last week, and here are my highlights. Read the full report here.

In the last year, the number of short drama streaming apps has tripled.

According to Explorer, there are now more than 30 apps available for download on the App Store and Google Play that are generating revenue.

Together, the group generated more than $65M in consumer spending worldwide in March, according to our estimates. That's up from just under $500K in January of 2023 - Up 13,000% in just a year.

ReelShort, DramaBox, and ShortTV lead the way. In Q1, viewers spent $71M in those three apps. That's gross revenue - the publishers get to keep 70% of that.

Unlike popular streaming apps like Netflix or Disney+ that charge a subscription for access to their catalog, most short drama apps require purchasing coins and then using coins to watch content. It's an interesting system that scales with the size of their catalogs.

Some of these apps have huge catalogs, and while the content isn't exactly Netflix quality, it's also not homemade. I wonder how long this trend will last.

Check out the full report to see where most downloads are coming from, which other apps are earning money, and more.

3. Why is Paramount+ Shutting Down the Showtime Streaming App?

Success for a streaming app isn't a matter of luck but rather content (and looooots of marketing). That's why Max (HBO's streaming app) recently swallowed Discovery+ last year and Disney+ now includes content from Hulu.

Paramount+ wanted in on this trend and brought Showtime into the app while shutting down its standalone app.

But, is that going to help Paramount+'s growth?

The short answer is probably not...

Using our App Intelligence, I looked at Showtime's revenue estimates over the last few years and the trend is not great. And that's me being nice.

According to our estimates, all the way back in Q1 of 2017, Showtime earned $2.6M of net revenue. At that time, Paramount+ (which was called CBS All Access back then) earned just $1.6M. And that's net which means what Paramount, which owns both apps, took after store fees.

That changed by late 2018 as Paramount+'s revenue started rising while Showtime's didn't. And by 2020, Paramount+ was earning twice as much as Showtime, while Showtime's revenue remained pretty much the same.

Showtime's revenue finally started rising as the streaming wars of 2020 heated up, but not high enough to matter.

Showtime's net revenue peaked at $13M in Q2 of 2023 but its content was then merged into Paramount+ and as of Q1 20204, net revenue dropped below its starting point in 2017 to just $1.9M.

While Showtime was flailing, Paramount+ grew its revenue by more than 5,000%.

More content is more better for Paramount+ and may help it remain in the race against rival Peacock in the long term, but in the short term, I don't expect any revenue bumps. Just like what happened when Max merged Discovery+ and when Disney+ included Hulu content.

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4. Brawl Stars Takes March - The Most Downloaded Games in the World

March is behind us which means it's time to crunch the numbers and rank the most downloaded mobile games in the world for the month.

March was a busy month for mobile games with lots of shuffling on the App Store and overall.

The most downloaded game on the App Store in March was Brawl Stars, with 4M new downloads globally, according to our estimates. Brawl Stars is a pretty popular game that hasn't made it into our charts in a long time.

Unfortunately for Brawl Stars, it didn't make it into the overall charts which requires massive success on Google Play.

The most downloaded game in our combined charts was none other than Subway Surfers, with 19M estimated downloads. Just like February. Roblox rose a post since last month to claim the second spot in the combined ranking with 16M estimated downloads.

Two hypercasual titles and Free Fire round out the top five most downloaded games in the world in March.

It's worth noting that every spot on the App Store has a different game in it when compared to February. Give on Google Play and seven in the combined chart. More movement means more opportunities for new titles, and that's good.

Together, the top 10 most downloaded games in March made their way into 136M new devices, according to our estimates. The same as in February.

5. How High Will Monopoly Go? The Highest Earning Games in the World

March was a mega month for game revenue! I crunched the numbers and ranked the biggest winners.

Unlike with downloads, most incumbents were able to hold on to their spots in March - and earn more money!

Monopoly Go was the highest-earning mobile game in the world, again, in March. Our estimates show it earned $127M in net revenue from the App Store and Google Play. App Store net revenue, what Scopely takes after paying Apple its fees, rose above $100M for the first time.

China's King of Glory was right behind it with $119M in estimated net revenue. Keep in mind, this title is only available in China.

Royal Match, Peace Elite, and Candy Crush round out the top 5 highest-earning games in March, and if you compare it to February's list you'll notice it's identical but with each title earning a bit more.

Even though we saw a lot of shuffling in the downloads list revenue is much harder to advance. Until the next Monopoly Go comes out, of course.

Brawl Stars, which made its way into the downloads chart in March, is even more present on the revenue chart in March taking the 8th spot in the App Store and 10th spot overall. And, for the first time, earned more than Supercell's flagship earner Clash of Clans.

It's not that Clash of Clans dropped or anything, Brawl Stars' revenue has been growing rapidly this year. Let's see if it'll stick.

Together, the top 10 highest-earning games in March earned an estimated $759M in net revenue from the App Store and Google Play. A massive increase over February (which was a short month) and also over January. I expect the top 10 games to cross the billion mark later this year.

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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