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Productivity apps here to stay as quarterly mobile app spending hits all-time high

Research from leading mobile data and analytics company App Annie finds $7bn jump in app spending year on year, suggesting the start of a global economic rebound

There is no stopping the mobile app industry, even as Covid restrictions started to ease in the leading economies over the course of the year. Research from App Annie has revealed a $2bn rise in global spending on mobile apps since the first quarter of 2021, itself a record-breaking quarter, totalling $34bn in the second quarter.

The App Annie Q2 worldwide market index report indicated strong mobile app performance in all sectors, including short-form video, entertainment, and health and fitness, all of which points to a deepening of habits formed during the pandemic. And as some markets begin reopening, App Annie said it had seen early indications of industries on the road to recovery and signals of what consumer behaviours seem here to stay.

The analysis looked at the mobile app categories experiencing the biggest growth in the second quarter of 2021, compared with pre-pandemic times (fourth quarter, 2019) by downloads, consumer spend and time spent in use, an indication of which apps are in demand, most used and most valued.

Overall, categories including sports and travel saw significant growth, indicating that sectors hurt most by the pandemic were on the verge of a strong recovery. Entertainment, finance and business rounded out the top categories of growth in download figures from pre-pandemic times.

Business apps set new records for usage time in the second quarter of 2021, with the average monthly time spent in use up by 30% from pre-pandemic times. Zoom and Google Meet continue to top the breakout charts.

Photo and video apps surged in average monthly time spent by 375% from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2021, driven by live streaming, short-form video, and photo and video editing apps.

Cryptocurrency fervour remained popular, with Binance and Coinbase seeing strong growth in usage time from the fourth quarter of 2019 to the second quarter of 2021 on Android phones. Binance was also the breakout finance app by time spent from the first quarter 2021 to the second quarter 2021.

Interestingly, given that a return to the office implies the decline of remote working, the study observed that hybrid and work-from-home models were still “truly the new norm”, with mobile connectivity more important than ever as employees and businesses embrace a hybrid or fully remote working model.

Time spent using business apps was found to be growing still, even as users headed into the sixth quarter of working from home. Time spent was up quarter on quarter, even in markets with strong vaccine rollouts, with the US up 55% on the first quarter of 2021 and the UK up 15% on the first quarter of 2021.

“The data shows that Covid-19 deeply influenced mobile behaviours, including spending and time spent, and that the mobile habits consumers picked up during global lockdowns are here to stay”
Lexi Sydow, App Annie

People were also found to have spent more time using business apps than ever before, even compared with 2020, at the height of the pandemic. In markets such as Australia and the US – where employees are going back into the office – consumers are still using business apps heavily to connect and collaborate.

“The data shows that Covid-19 deeply influenced mobile behaviours, including spending and time spent, and that the mobile habits consumers picked up during global lockdowns are here to stay,” observed Lexi Sydow, head of marketing insights at App Annie.

“As industries begin to recover from Covid, mobile usage is an early indicator of changing consumer demand and market sentiment. The many bright spots of mobile growth across multiple sectors and geographies point to the beginning of a global economic rebound.”

In video, TikTok continued its dominance, surpassing YouTube for per-user engagement, with the average user spending 24.5 hours a month in the app in the US and nearly 26 hours in the UK on Android phones. Demand for video streaming apps also climbed, with HBO Max reaching 18 million US monthly active users in May 2021.

The sports industry was also seen to be making a comeback. In Japan and Korea, time spent in sports apps in April 2021 rebounded from the fallout in 2020 and surpassed pre-pandemic levels in April 2019 by 20% and 10% respectively.

App Annie predicted that the Olympics could bring in a significant viewer base globally, while the UEFA Champions League and UEFA European Football Championship had helped bolster the European rebound, with time spent in sports apps in April 2021 up year over year by 10% in Germany, 10% in Spain, 20% in the UK and 55% in Italy. In fact, UEFA 2020 Official was the number one breakout sports app worldwide in the second quarter of 2021.

While the data showed that the US has bounded back since April 2020, time spent in sports apps showed US audiences were poised to see interest in sports apps resume as cities open up to live events and full stadiums as vaccines are rolled out. App Annie said the upcoming NFL season was likely to drive viewership and engagement in fantasy football apps.

At-home fitness remained in high demand, too, with users spending $673m globally in the second quarter. Connected devices such as Peloton and Fitbit were in the top breakout apps by consumer spend for the quarter, while global downloads of medical apps in the second quarter increased by 75% compared with pre-pandemic levels.

Booking.com emerged as a top 10 global breakout app in the second quarter of 2021 for time spent among travel and local apps on Android phones, showing that consumers are hungry to travel. Time in travel apps increased in markets such as the US and the UK, where vaccinations rates are high.

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