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Global Mobile Apps Revenues to Hit $77 Billion Yearly in 2017, Business and Industry Trends Analysis

Short for applications, “apps” are small programs originally designed to run on mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.  Many can be downloaded to desktop PCs and laptops as well, and Apple operates an app store just for Mac computer users.  An app may contain a considerable amount of software code and data in the app itself, or it may simply be a very convenient way to link directly to a specific web site.  Want to check the weather forecast on your iPhone?  Use a weather-related app.  Get a recipe for pot roast?  Use a cooking app.  Watch a video?  Use YouTube’s app.  A vast number are free of charge, published by companies such as airlines that are hoping to extend their relationships with customers, but growing numbers require a fee.
Health care is a field in which apps are proliferating.  Examples include MyFitnessPal for tracking daily diet and exercise and Runkeeper, another fitness tracker.  It is hoped that lifestyle apps such as these will lower the risk of heart disease, diabetes and other problems associated with obesity.
For purchased apps, developers receive most of the revenue, but the platforms also get a cut.  Apple, for example, gets 30% of the revenue for apps sold through its apps store, except that the smallest publishers pay only 15%.  It also generates revenues from purchases made within certain apps.
Apps didn’t really exist before the introduction of the iconic iPhone smartphone a few years ago (although “widgets,” which offer similar features, had been around for quite some time).  Today, Apple has nearly 2 million apps for sale in the Apple App Store, which is separate from Apple’s iTunes music store.’s State of Mobile 2024 report estimated that mobile users spent $171 billion on apps and games in 2023 on a global basis, up 3% from 2022.  New app downloads reached 257 billion in 2023, up 1% from 2022.
Meanwhile, vast numbers of apps are available for the Android mobile phone operating system (the world’s leading smartphone platform).  Android is the mobile operating system developed by Google, which makes apps available through its “Google Play” site.  On all platforms, the most popular apps include games, tools such as Google Maps, the Facebook app, and entertainment and media related apps, such as those for Pandora internet-based radio and for leading newspapers.  At the same time, important apps provide tools for business people, travelers, students, hobbyists, wine drinkers, people who like to cook, job seekers, students, children, sports fan, shoppers, car enthusiasts and myriad other special interest niches.
One problem for app developers is marketing their products.  Aside from “Top 10” lists on app store web sites, it is difficult to reach potential consumers with new releases among millions of others available.  Developers are hiring “pay for install” companies that know how to influence and market to consumers and promise set numbers of installations (helping new apps to rise from obscurity to best seller lists).  Analysts at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers estimate that developers are spending between 60% and 70% of their gross income on marketing.
Since the development of apps requires extensive programming and creative services, the app industry encompasses revenues and fees far beyond app store revenues.  For example, corporate spending on app development has been soaring.  Also, a large number of software companies have achieved success in selling app development tools and platforms to software coders.
Competition is fierce.  One study found that the average app loses 77% of its users within three days of download.  In the U.S., 30% of apps downloaded are used just two times and then abandoned.

SPOTLIGHT:  Shopping Within Apps
A number of apps and online sites are embedding tabs or buttons allowing users to quickly click on images to buy on the spot.  Facebook, for example, in 2020 launched a “shop” tab for business’ Facebook and Instagram pages.  Sellers can create stores within Facebook/Instagram and consumers save their payment methods and shipping addresses.  This means that businesses can take orders directly through Facebook’s massive user base, while consumers can shop without leaving Facebook or Instagram.  (Consumers also benefit in that they don’t have to log-in with the merchants.)  Likewise, Google posts shoppable ads including prices.  Pinterest is also making shopping easy with its “Shop the Look” service.
SPOTLIGHT:  WeChat, China’s Super App
WeChat is a multipurpose super app offering messaging, social media and mobile payment services in China.  Developed by tech conglomerate Tencent and first released in 2011, the app had more than 1.3 billion daily users as of early 2023.  Of those, more than 750 million have set up WeChat Moments to view feeds from friends; most users check the feed more than 10 times per day.  In 2017, WeChat morphed from a simple messaging app into a comprehensive platform with stripped-down programs such as its mobile payment system which offers quicker access than stand-alone payment apps.  WeChat currently offers more than 3.5 million of these “lite” apps, enabling users to do everything from pay for bus fare, order food from a restaurant or buy flowers from a street vendor.  In 2019, WeChat launched its Xiaowei voice assistant.

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