- WhatsApp last year eclipsed Facebook as the social network's most popular app by monthly active users on smartphones, according to an App Annie state of mobile report today shared with Mobile Marketer. WhatsApp surpassed Facebook due to high usage in emerging markets, such as Singapore, Russia, Hong Kong and Malaysia, where the cost of using a mobile device is high compared with average income, per the report. In the U.S., the Facebook and Messenger apps took top spots, while WhatsApp didn't appear in the top 10.
- App store spending by users is forecast to grow at least 19% — at least $120 billion worldwide — this year from 2018, per App Annie. Consumer spending in app stores surged 75% to $101 billion globally from 2016 to 2018, and that figure that doesn't include in-app ad sales or transactions, such as payments for Amazon, DoorDash, Starbucks or Uber.
- Games made up 74% of app store spending in 2018, while non-gaming apps boosted their share of spending to 26% last year from 18% in 2016 with the growth of in-app subscriptions. Meanwhile, time spent in shopping apps rose 45% to 18 billion hours last year from two years earlier, with November 2018 setting a record for total time spent. The number of shopping app sessions, which are akin to foot traffic, rose 65% during that period. Mobile shopping in the U.S. was particularly strong with a 70% jump in app sessions for retail apps, App Annie found.
WhatsApp's status as Facebook's most popular app came during a year when the social networking giant faced greater criticism for its user data-sharing practices. WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption of its messages, which limits what the company can see inside messages, but Facebook is developing a monetization strategy that connects business with customers and this year will introduce ad sales. WhatsApp has fewer than 20 million U.S. users among its global base of about 1.5 billion. The app has gained popularity in emerging markets by providing a range of services that SMS texting doesn't support, including voice calls, video calls and the sending of images.
Facebook owns four of the top five most-used apps, including its main social network, WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram. WeChat, the messaging app made by Chinese tech giant Tencent, also was in the top five.
App Annie's report highlights several key trends in the app economy, especially the greater adoption of mobile shopping in the U.S. Last year marked a turning point for U.S. consumers and retailers in boosting digital sales, which have a strong correlation with mobile engagement. Brick-and-mortar retailers like Target, Walmart and Nordstrom were among the retailers that used mobile platforms for loyalty programs, point-of-sale payments, in-store navigation, product information and more, according to App Annie. The researcher anticipates mobile platforms will make up 75% of total e-commerce transactions by 2021 as consumers grow increasingly comfortable with mobile tech and retailers inject more value into their apps.
Apps this year are set to become increasingly dependent on advertising as a monetization strategy. About 60% more apps will make money from in-app ads as more viewers choose a smartphone as their "first screen," per the report.
Video streaming proved to be a key driver of app downloads in 2018. Total time spent in video streaming apps is forecast to rise 110% this year from 2016, while global consumer spending on entertainment apps will surge 460% as more major media companies roll out over-the-top video apps, App Annie predicts. Disney will disrupt the market with the introduction of its Disney+ streaming service, adding to its EPSN+, Hulu and ABC app offering. App Annie forecast that 10 minutes of every hour spent consuming media among TV and the internet will come from streaming video on mobile in 2019.