iOS 11’s new App Store boosts downloads by 800% for featured apps

When Apple launched its new App Store in iOS 11 back in September, it aimed to offer app developers better exposure, as well as a better app discovery experience for consumers. A new study from Sensor Tower out today takes a look at how well that’s been working in the months since. According to its findings, getting a featured spot on the new App Store can increase downloads by as much as 800 percent, with the “App of the Day” or “Game of the Day” spots offering the most impact.

The app store intelligence firm examined data from September 2017 to present day to come to its conclusions, it says.

During this time, median U.S. iPhone downloads for apps that snagged the “Game of the Day” spot increased by 802 percent for the week following the feature, compared to the week prior to being featured.

“App of the Day” apps saw a boost of 685 percent.

Being featured in other ways — like in one of the new App Store Stories or in an App List — also drove downloads higher, by 222 percent and 240 percent, respectively.

The numbers seem to indicate that Apple is achieving the results it wanted with the release of its redesigned App Store.

Over the years, Apple’s app marketplace had grown so large that finding new apps had become challenging. And developers sometimes found ways to bump their apps higher in the top charts for exposure, leaving iPhone owners wondering if a new app was really that popular, or if it was some sort of paid promotion.

The iOS 11 App Store, on the other hand, has taken more of an editorial viewpoint to its app recommendations. While the top charts haven’t gone away, the focus these days is on what Apple thinks is best — not the wisdom of the masses. Apple has applied its editorial eye to things like timely round-ups of apps; curated, thematic collections; as well as articles about apps and interviews with developers. Apple also picks an app and game to feature daily, so the App Store always has fresh content and a reason for users to return.

The end result is something that’s more akin to a publication about apps, instead of a just an app marketplace.

What’s most interesting, then, in Sensor Tower’s report, are what sort of app publishers Apple has chosen to feature.

Apple had touted the App Store changes would be a way to give smaller developers more exposure. But if you’ve popped into the App Store from time to time, you may have noticed that big publishers — not indies — were having their apps featured.

In fact, an early report about the App Store revamp criticized Apple for giving big publishers too much attention. It said that apps from brands like Starbucks and CBS, or game makers like EA and Glu, weren’t exactly hurting for downloads.

But Apple’s favoring of big publishers is only true to a point, says Sensor Tower.

It found that 13 of the top 15 featured publishers (by number of features) had at least one million U.S. iPhone downloads since the launch of the new App Store last September. It’s not surprising that Apple wants to highlight these publishers. Many of them, and particularly the game publishers, have multiple popular apps. So when their apps get an update or they have a new release, consumers pay attention.

Apple, of course, wants to capitalize on that consumer interest because it shares in the revenue app publishers generate through things like paid downloads, in-app purchases and subscriptions.

However, Apple isn’t only giving the limelight to large publishers, says Sensor Tower.

It also found that 29 percent of the apps it has featured since the launch of the revamped App Store were from publishers who had fewer than 10,000 downloads during that time.

“While it’s clearly the case that big publishers are more likely to receive the largest number of features, small publishers still very much have their chance to benefit from a feature on the App Store,” said Sensor Tower’s Mobile Insights Analyst, Jonathan Briskman.

Though Sensor Tower’s published report focused only on the iOS App Store, it’s worth noting how it compares with Google Play.

Getting a featured spot on Google’s app store isn’t as impactful, the firm tells TechCrunch. The largest week-over-week increase to the median it saw there was only around 200 percent.

Image credits, all: Sensor Tower 

U.S. iPhone users spent 23% more in apps in 2017, have an average of 45 apps installed

Games, dating apps and streaming services contributed to a rise in consumer spending in iPhone apps last year, according to new data from app store intelligence firm, Sensor Tower. The firm found that U.S. iPhone users spent 23 percent more on in-app purchases in 2017 than they did the year prior – or, an average of $58 per active user was spent on in-app purchases, up from $47 in 2016.

To be clear, this is only on purchases made within an app using Apple’s in-app purchase or subscription mechanisms. It’s not tracking e-commerce purchases – like things users bought in Amazon – or payments made to service providers in an app like Uber or Lyft.

Games were the largest category of consumers spending in 2017, accounting for roughly $36 of the $58 spent per device; or 62 percent of the spending. That’s a 13 percent increase over 2016’s $32 spent.

It’s no surprise that the biggest driver of iPhone spending is games.

The category typically outweighs all others in terms of revenue, not only for paid downloads, but for the ongoing purchases of things like virtual goods, unlocking levels, in-app currency, and the other extra features that mobile games offer. And because people play some types of games for long periods of time – like MMORPGs – they have many opportunities to spend on in-game items.

So while it’s notable that in-app spending in games is up by a few dollars, year-over-year, the more interesting trend is the rise in in-app spending generated by Lifestyle apps and subscription-based streaming services.

Specifically, outside of games, Entertainment apps – which includes streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, HBO NOW, etc. – grew 57 percent year-over-year to reach $4.40 in consumer spending per device. That makes it the largest category of spending outside games.

Music is also another big category for spending, up 8 percent year-over-year to $4.10. Much of what people are paying for in a music app is a subscription for the premium tier of the service, as with Pandora or Spotify. If this category was combined with Entertainment – which is also growing thanks to subscriptions – you’d see that streaming services are now a big factor contributing to the overall rise in U.S. consumer spending in iPhone apps.

But subscriptions to other types of services are growing, too.

Lifestyle apps, led by dating apps like Tinder and Bumble, grew 110 percent from 2016 to 2017 to reach $2.10 in iPhone consumer spending per device.

Spending in social media apps was up by 38 percent, to $3.60 thanks to things like in-app tipping (e.g., Periscope, YouTube Gaming), subscriptions (e.g. LinkedIn memberships), and other activity (e.g. call credits in Skype).

Twitch has oddly categorized itself as a “Photo & Video” app, in case you’re wondering where it fits in.

While Sensor Tower’s published report focused on iPhone consumer spending, the company tells TechCrunch that Android spending on Google Play was much lower last year.

“We estimate that for each active Android device in the U.S. last year, approximately $38 was spent on Google Play – on and in apps – so about $20 less than iOS,” said Sensor Tower’s head of mobile insights, Randy Nelson. “That tracks with the disparity in revenue generation we see between the stores outside the per-device level,” he added. “Android users generally spend less on or in apps, Google Play generated about 60 percent of the App Store’s revenue last year in the U.S.”

However, he pointed that Android users have more than one official store to buy from – like the Amazon Appstore or Samsung Store, for example. Some apps also choose not to monetize directly through Google Play, which is an option not permitted on Apple’s App Store.

The increase in consumer spending isn’t the only significant trend Sensor Tower spotted.

iPhone app installs in the U.S. were up nearly 10 percent from 2016 to 2017, with users installing an average of 4 more apps in 2017 compared with the prior year.

Games, again, were a big source for installs, followed by Photo & Video apps, Entertainment apps, Social Networking and Utilities.

In total, users had an average of 45 apps on their iPhone apps in 2017, the firm found.

Self-care apps are booming

Millennials may be a bit obsessed with self-care – and it’s beginning to pay off for the makers of self-care and digital wellness apps. According to data from multiple app store intelligence firms, the category is now seeing notable growth. In the first quarter of 2018, the top 10 grossing self-care apps in the U.S. earned $15 million in combined iOS and Android revenue, and $27 million in worldwide revenue, according to Sensor Tower.

The firm also found that the top 10 wellness apps (e.g. mindfulness and meditation) made about 170 percent more revenue worldwide in Q1 2018 than the top 10 wellness apps did in Q1 2017 across both the App Store and Google Play. In the U.S., they made about 167 percent more.

However, a big chunk of self-care apps’ revenue is being claimed by just two apps – Calm and Headspace, both of which focus on mindfulness and meditation. Calm, the top grosser, earned about half the total revenue in the U.S. and worldwide, equating to roughly $8 million in the U.S. and $13.5 million worldwide. Combined with Headspace, the two generated more than 90 percent of the top 10 apps’ revenue last quarter.

Apptopia is also reporting a surge in self-care app revenues and installs, but its numbers don’t agree with Sensor Tower data. (Sensor Tower believes its data is within a couple of percentage points of actual, on the underestimating side.)

Both firms agreed on the top three, however: Calm, followed by Headspace, then 10% Happier: Meditation Daily. Other mindfulness apps appeared on both charts, including The Mindfulness App and Stop, Breathe & Think.

The discrepancies may be attributed to how the companies define “self-care”  as it’s not a specific app store category – as well as data quality.

Apptopia also claimed self-care app installs are up percent year-over-year, with more new self-care apps arriving every year.

Regardless of which firm is closer to actual, the trend is clear: self-care app adoption is booming.


Apple, for example, pegged self-care as one of its top four breakout trends for 2017 saying “never before have we seen such a surge in apps focused specifically on mental health, mindfulness and stress reduction.”

As to why self-care apps are the latest craze, that’s a bit more complicated.

Some experts say millennials’ use of the informational resources on the internet increased awareness about self-care in general; others would say the always-on news cycle of the web combined with the depressing nature of social media led to a growing need for self-care tools. And of course cynics would argue it’s simply because millennials are more self-absorbed than other generations, and this trendy focus on self-care is the proof.

But there are plenty of other factors beyond that. Millennials married later and were slower to buy homes as a result- that may have led them to have more time to remained self-focused, as they may not have had the same set of distracting responsibilities their parents. (Or the related drains on their extraneous funds!)

Meanwhile, the stigma around mental illness is also on the decline, which aids a self-care app surge.

However, not all self-care apps are a replacement for traditional mental health care, when it comes to more serious matters. Some of the talk therapy apps were found to be ineffective, expensive, inconsistent in the quality of care provided, and, at worst, potentially dangerous.

For those problems that can’t be meditated away, please still call a doctor or an emergency hotline.

ARKit-only apps top 13 million installs, nearly half from games

Over 13 million augmented reality apps built using Apple’s ARKit have been downloaded since the release of iOS 11 on September 19, 2017, according to new data from app intelligence firm, Sensor Tower, which took a look at the state of the AR app ecosystem, now that it’s had time to become more established. It found that – as with many new developments in the app world – games have been seeing the most traction, in terms of ARKit adoption.

Nearly half (47%) of the ARKit-only app downloads worldwide during the first six months were games, which has been leading the ARKit-only app installs since launch.

A month after iOS 11’s release, ARKit-only apps had then surpassed three million downloads, with games accounting for 35 percent of downloads. Six months later, games have grown to 47 percent of the now 13 million ARKit-only app downloads.

Games, of course, helped to popularize augmented reality before ARKit’s launch. Thanks to the worldwide craze that was Pokémon Go, mobile users became familiar with AR’s potential to enhance gaming as they tried to catch the animated Pokémon appearing in the real world, visible only through their smartphone camera’s viewfinder.

The app seeing the most free downloads is the virtual pet simulator AR Dragon from Australia’s PlaySide Studios. The top paid and top grossing ARKit-only app is CamToPlan Pro, a paid AR measuring tape app from Tasmanic Editions.

If you’re wondering why the top app isn’t Pokémon Go, it’s because Sensor Tower’s analysis focused on ARKit-only apps, not ARKit-compatible apps that added some AR functionality over the past six months. Pokémon Go is part of that latter group.

But if you were to combine all AR apps, including ARKit-only apps and those that added new AR functionality when ARKit was released, then there would be well over 2,000 AR apps on the App Store today, says Sensor Tower. This matches up with Apple’s officially released figures, too.

Other popular ARKit-only app categories include utilities (like AR measuring tapes or eBay’s tool for finding the right shipping box), entertainment apps (like the AR children’s book, My Very Hungry Caterpillar), lifestyle apps (like the now numerous apps for helping consumers shop furniture by placing items in their own rooms via AR), photo and video apps (like Holo), and educational apps.

In addition to games, ARKit-only lifestyle apps have seen sizable download growth, as well, more than doubling their share of AR app installs from 5 percent to 11 percent on the heels of releases from IKEA, Houzz, Wayfair, and others. Meanwhile, utilities have seen their share of downloads decline from 19 percent to 15 percent.

The ARKit-only gaming chart has remained largely the same as it was six months ago, however, save for a few additions like Shadows Remain from Halfbrick, the gaming studio behind Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride. Other news entries include AR Smash Tanks!, Playground AR, and Orbu, all of which have benefited from Apple’s promotion.

AR Dragon has been at the top of the top free game chart for months, while The Machines has been the number one top paid and top grossing game.

In non-games, kid-friendly ARKit apps dominate. The number one free app is LEGO AR Studio, which is followed by Dr. Panda AR Christmas Tree (#3), Meow! (#4), Math Ninja AR (#9), and Follow Me Dragon (#10).

Other top apps include IKEA Place (#2) and GIPHY World (#5). The top paid and grossing app charts are instead cluttered with utilities, generally AR rulers and measuring tapes.

Apple has played a big role in pushing ARKit adoption, with everything from on-stage demos to App Store features, and even integration into Apple’s learn-to-code app for kids, Swift Playgrounds, as of late.

But the AR app industry is still in its early days, and as ARKit itself develops, there’s room for more types of AR apps to emerge, too.

One potentially interesting upgrade to ARKit 1.5, which rolled out in beta to developers back in January, is the added support for wall detection. With this feature, ARKit can now recognize vertical surfaces, and place objects on those surfaces. The kit was also improved with better horizontal plotting, 1080p video, and computer vision-based image recognition – meaning ARKit apps can now “see” things like 2D objects, such as posters or art on a wall, then place related objects nearby.

Apple is not alone in giving AR apps a boost. Google also released its answer to ARKit with ARCore earlier this year. In the months since, a number of the ARKit-only apps have rushed to make their Android versions ARCore-compatible as well. Last week, Google said there are now over 60 ARCore apps on the Play Store, many of them games.


YouTube just became the Top Grossing iPhone app for the first time

YouTube just became the Top Grossing iPhone app in the U.S. for the first time on Tuesday, after flirting with the top spot a number of times over the years, but never reaching higher than No. 3. The milestone was first spotted by the app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower, which notes that the U.S. is the only country where YouTube’s iPhone app has ever hit number one.

The app has been climbing up the Top Grossing charts for years, however, thanks to the launch of YouTube Red in-app subscriptions in fall 2015. In fact, YouTube Red’s arrival almost immediately pushed the app into the Top Grossing charts. The month after Red’s launch, the YouTube iPhone app jumped all the way up to No. 6, we noted at the time. It was then estimated to be bringing in over $100,000 per day – and perhaps as high as $300,000, excluding iPad.

YouTube’s iOS revenue has grown remarkably since then, of course, as YouTube Red itself grew in popularity, combined with other trends, like the rise of cord-cutting, YouTube’s youngest users finally getting their own phones, streaming plans from mobile carriers that don’t count YouTube’s data or those offering cheap unlimited data, the growth of live streaming, and the launch of other features to engage YouTube viewers – like messaging, Community, Reels, and more.

It’s unclear what may have pushed YouTube to No. 1, though. And it may have not been anything remarkable, just a steady climb upwards finally being rewarded, or maybe even a small tweak to Apple’s ranking algorithm.

According to Sensor Tower, gross user spending to date is more than $200 million worldwide on iOS since the start of YouTube’s in-app monetization in 2015. Last month it grossed approximately $14 million, a 133 percent year-over-year increase from February 2017. Though this month has not yet ended, YouTube’s worldwide iOS revenue is up 150 percent year-over-year to more than $12 million.

YouTube’s revenue comes largely from YouTube Red subscriptions, but it now includes Super Chat purchases as well – YouTube’s virtual tipping mechanism.

Although it’s obvious, we should point out that this revenue figure doesn’t include other sources, like YouTube Music or YouTube Gaming, which both also include in-app purchases. It also doesn’t Google Play, nor does it take into account the money YouTube makes in other ways, like rentals, purchases, and, of course, advertising.

The Top Grossing chart was removed from Apple’s App Store with its big makeover in iOS 11, but app store intelligence firms like App Annie and Sensor Tower still have access to this data. 

YouTube has not commented on Sensor Tower’s data. We’ll update if that changes.

Netflix was 2017’s top non-game app by revenue

 Netflix was the top earning app of 2017 that wasn’t a mobile game, according to Sensor Tower’s new year-end report on the most successful apps and publishers across Apple’s App Store and Google Play. In previous years, the top spot had gone to Spotify, and before that, LINE. But this was Netflix’s year to shine. The service saw gross subscriber revenue of approximately… Read More

App revenue climbed 35 percent to $60 billion in 2017

 Global app revenue climbed 35 percent in 2017 to reach nearly $60 billion, according to a new report today from app intelligence firm Sensor Tower, which measured paid apps, subscriptions, and in-app purchases across both Apple’s App Store and Google Play. However, Apple is the one pulling n the most revenue, the report found – at nearly double that of Google Play. Specifically,… Read More