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Mobile business and productivity apps see 7.1 billion downloads in 2020

App Annie research finds stay-at-home orders and lockdowns drive uptake of business productivity applications such as Zoom Cloud Meetings, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams, growing 35% annually

Almost exactly a year ago, as the Covid-19 pandemic first drove workers to their homes, fears persisted as to the productivity of a remote workforce outside of normal office procedures, but usage data from App Annie has shown that such employees were actually very busy downloading and using productivity applications on their devices.

A study from the leading mobile data and analytics company revealed that mobile that consumers across the world installed business and productivity apps 7.1 billion times in 2020 – up 35% from 2019. The biggest surge in installations began in mid-March 2020 when shelter-in-place became the norm across regions. While there was a surge in the spring, App Annie found business and productivity app downloads remained high, adding that they were a consistent area of focus for the rest of the year and beyond.

The research also revealed that work-from-home orders didn’t just impact the volume of downloads, they also changed the type of apps people installed. In 2019, the chart was dominated by perennial products such as WhatsApp Business, Gmail, Chrome and Microsoft Word. However, the top three apps of 2020 – Zoom Cloud Meetings, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams – all enabled video calling. Not one of these three appeared in the top 20 business or productivity apps by downloads in 2019.

Drilling deeper into Zoom, the breakout application of the year, App Annie found in January 2020, Zoom was hosting 10 million video meeting participants a day. By March, it was up to 200 million daily meeting participants. It added that Zoom did well to remain in the leadership slot, given that Google decided to make all meetings free in April, even though its Meet product was already adding more than two million new users a day before this decision.

The study also found that while top publishers mirrored the leading apps – Zoom Cloud Meetings, Google Meet and Microsoft Teams – Adobe rounded out the top four publishers with the largest download footprint of business and productivity apps in 2020 due to longstanding success in its desktop-turned-mobile document cloud apps. App Annie observed that Adobe reached number 14 in the 2020 chart with its Adobe Acrobat Reader app, while Cisco's big success was Cisco WebEx Meetings.

The analyst observed that Cisco and Adobe were incumbent companies in the productivity space prior to smartphones that made good progress modifying their historic products for the mobile channel. It said the importance of mobile to Adobe’s long-term strategy was unveiled in September when Adobe announced “the first step in a multi-year vision for PDF”. The update introduced new tech that landed first in the free Adobe Acrobat Reader mobile app.

In a December 2020 study looking at the leading apps of 2020 of all types by downloads and app store consumer spend through to 14 November 2020, along with average monthly active users throughout October, App Annie found that across iOS and Google Play, total spend in mobile apps and games set a new annual record.

At the height of the pandemic, mobile usage sky-rocketed, with the company calculating that Covid-19 had accelerated normal mobile adoption by two to three years. The biggest categories of growth globally were games, business and finance apps on Google Play, and games, business and utilities apps on iOS.

Further research, The state of mobile 2021, found that consumers spent £105bn on mobile apps in 2020, an increase of 20% compared with 2019. Top markets driving this spend included China, the US, Japan, South Korea and the UK.

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