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2021 a blockbuster year for mobile apps

Research from App Annie reveals most mobile-first environment ever seen, with more time than ever before spent in mobile apps, reaching 4.8 hours a day in the top mobile-first markets

Mobile adoption boomed in 2021, with growth across downloads, usage and app store spending, and consumers whiling away a record 3.8 trillion hours on mobile devices, according to mobile data and analytics company App Annie.

In its State of Mobile 2022 report, the analyst company revealed several trends in how the world continues to move toward mobile apps. It found 2021 to be record-breaking as consumers continued to embrace a mobile lifestyle, with users spending a staggering 4.8 hours a day on mobile devices in the top 10 mobile markets, expending $170bn on apps, up 19% from last year, and downloads growing by 5% to reach 230 billion.

Developers released two million new apps and games in 2021, bringing the total number of apps and games ever released on iOS and Google Play to over 21 million.

Google Play accounted for 77% of all apps and games releases in 2021. Across both iOS and Google Play, games represented 15% of all new releases in 2021. The remaining 85% of new apps spanned all categories of the app stores, from mobile-first movers like social to mobile-forced industries such as insurance and healthcare.

Apps are also removed and phased out over time, so the number of apps and games currently available to download on the app stores stands at 5.4 million, of which 1.8 million are on iOS and 3.6 million are on Google Play.

Another key standout was the continued explosion in social and photo and video apps, with the report showing seven of every 10 minutes on mobiles was spent on such categories. App Annie predicted that as mobile usage increased in emerging categories, those consumers would also engage deeper in early-mover categories such as social, communications and photo.

While apps such as YouTube and TikTok have seen an increase in market share of time spent, this has largely not been at the expense of current habits. Rather, consumers have turned historically non-mobile time into time spent in apps and games.

Financial apps were revealed as a key trend in 2021, showing strong growth globally. App downloads in India broke the billion barrier in 2021, adding fuel to an overall 28% year-on-year increase in worldwide finance app downloads, which totalled 5.9 billion.

Digital challenger banks – or neobanks – which have no physical presence, gained in popularity as YONO SBI, Nubank and PicPay each saw an over 30% annual increase in average monthly average users (MAU) worldwide. Brazil was a particular hotspot for neobank adoption as it has a large population that currently does not have relationships with retail banks. The country’s Nubank and PicPay had the second and third highest average MAU worldwide in 2021, while its C6 Bank and Banco PAN saw more than 200% growth in MAU year on year.

The study found that mobile shopping habits catalysed during Covid-19 have solidified. Time in shopping apps reached over 100 billion hours globally, rising by 18% year on year, with strong movement in fast fashion, social shopping and mobile-savvy big-box players. The countries with the fastest annual growth included Indonesia, Singapore and Brazil, at 52%, 46% and 45% respectively.

“Mobile is the greatest of all time and the go-to device of the future,” said App Annie chief executive officer Theodore Krantz. “The big screen is slowly dying as mobile continues to break records in virtually every category – time spent, downloads and revenue. Mobile brings us closer together whether virtually or in person.”

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