Global app downloads breached 200bn in 2020

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After a year that saw more app downloads than ever before, demand for new apps and games is expected to accelerate in 2021.

This is according to the App Annie State of Mobile Report 2021, which states consumers downloaded 218 billion apps in 2020 across iOS and Google Play, up 7% year-on-year (YOY).

The report provides an analysis of the performance of the mobile and app marketplace, and insights into mobile's expansive impact across industries and the global economy.

According to the App Annie research, mobile adoption boomed in 2020 − advancing the equivalent of two to three years in 12 months. Consumers migrated more of their physical needs onto mobile last year, partly influenced by the COVID-19 pandemic, resulting in mobile spend reaching new heights at $143 billion, indicating a 20% growth YOY.

During the COVID-19 lockdown, the normal time spent every day on cellphones expanded across the globe. Mobile took mindshare of 3.5 trillion hours on Android phones annually, shows the report. Mobile is the only channel with this reach and depth of engagement, it notes.

Other findings in the App Annie State of Mobile Report 2021 include:

E-commerce app boom: The report notes the pandemic led to a quick expansion in the e-commerce sector, making 2020 the biggest mobile shopping year yet. Global e-commerce spend between 1 November and 11 November 2020 reached $115 billion, with mobile driving the lion's share. This trend is forecast to continue this upward spiral, as more people become more habitual with online shopping.

More time spent online: In the US, Gen Z, millennials and Gen X / baby boomers spent 16%, 18% and 30% more time YOY, respectively, in their most-used apps. In the UK, this was 18%, 17% and 27%, respectively. In the US and UK, Gen Z had the highest affinity for Snapchat and Twitch, respectively.

App popularity: TikTok was the most used app of 2020 and was more popular among Generation Z, as it heads towards 1.2 billion active users in 2021. This was followed by WhatsApp at 600 million installs, followed by Facebook with 540 million installs, Instagram with 503 million, and Messenger with 404 million. This was followed by video-conferencing apps Zoom and Google Meet.

More advertising spend: Given the increasing amount of time spent indoors and in homes, mobile's growth means a shift in spending on advertising for corporate clients. Many countries saw the continuing demise of print, the shift to streaming entertainment, and the ongoing failure by news media to succeed with paywalls, leaving apps, games and social media platforms to pick up the marketing budget. Mobile held up the global advertising industry in 2020 and saw placements grow 95% YOY, growing to $240 billion in mobile advertising spend and forecast to top $290 billion in 2021.

Surge in online food delivery services: Mobile orders of fast food and food delivery surged 105% YOY. For most markets analysed, food delivery services for the year ramped up in Q2 and Q3, reaching record highs in Q4 2020 as consumers stayed home amid COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing policies.

Commenting on these research findings, Karam Malhotra, partner and global VP at SHAREit, says. “The last 10 months saw the seismic and radical shift to work from home, thus translating into a dramatic surge in time spent online and on mobile, as users sought tools to facilitate business, content discovery and games to entertain and escape, and social media to connect with the outside world.

“This resulted in the meteoric rise in app downloads, time spent on mobile and consumer spending. A significant 25% jump from 2019 to top 3.5 trillion hours on Android, and key 'at-home' categories are expected to top 1.3 trillion hours on Android phones alone in 2021.”

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