Facebook dominated App Annie’s top iOS and Android apps charts in 2015, as the analytics firm predicted that video streaming is set to grow in popularity and Apple TV will change the apps landscape for developers.
Facebook owned WhatsApp took top place in the worldwide download chart, followed by Facebook Messenger in second place and the company’s core social networking app in third place – and with Instagram in fourth.
Spotify, LINE and Pandora Radio took the top three positions when it came to top apps sorted by revenue.
In terms of downloads by company, unsurprisingly Facebook topped the non-games chart, followed by Google and China’s Cheetah Mobile, maker of Clean Master, which describes itself as an “Android optimiser, speed booster, battery save and free anti-virus app”.
As for top gaming companies by downloads, Electronic Arts, Gameloft (subject of attention by Vivendi) and King (recently acquired by Activision Blizzard) were in the top three places.
Angry Bird maker Rovio, which struggled in recent times with layoffs and saw its CEO step down, came in at number five in the downloads chart but didn’t make it to the top 10 chart by revenue, where Supercell, King and Japan’s Mixi took top three position.
“Games are maturing at a faster rate, while mobile gaming revenue has become less concentrated. This presents opportunities for publishers who can effectively navigate this changing landscape, but also presents challenges for those that cannot,” the report noted.
2015 was described as a “pivotal year” for video streaming on mobile devices thanks to the combination of improving hardware, expanding services and cheaper data plans.
As mobile and connected entertainment devices like Apple TV and Chromecast attract a growing share of time spent on screens, cord cutting, or at least “cord shaving”, will continue to challenge traditional broadcast TV.
During this transition to mobile — and more specifically to apps — subscription models are proving to be a viable revenue model and will continue to drive video streaming sales in the coming years.
Apps for wearables
While Android Wear devices have been available since 2014, Apple’s entrance into the space with Apple Watch “dramatically increased interest in wearable apps”, which the report says is related to iOS developers’ enthusiasm for monetising Apple’s lucrative install base.
As a result, the number of Apple Watch apps grew from 3,000 in April to more than 14,000 in December.
Games remain one of the largest categories on the Apple Watch (although not overwhelmingly so), but the report notes that for Apple Watch to achieve long-term and mass market success, developers from all categories need to find “innovative ways to leverage wearable form factors and deliver benefits that smartphones cannot provide on their own”.
Meanwhile, Apple TV has created a variety of opportunities for developers who can leverage the television’s large screen size to deliver alternative versions and wholly new apps to consumers.
Also, given the communal nature of the living room, apps on the TV open up “a new dimension for multiuser experiences, from entertainment to education”.
The report says it expects apps delivered to the TV to allow for more monetisation through increases in store revenue and better CPMs via advertising. The latter will be achieved not just through ads via the app on the TV, but the targeting of secondary screens.
Google Play vs App Store
Google Play saw a huge increase in downloads driven by first-time device owners in emerging markets.
Meanwhile, app revenue increased notably year-on-year as iOS cemented its position as “app store revenue king”.
Growth in iOS revenue helped drive monetisation for new sectors of the app economy, proving to an increasing number of businesses that apps are a viable and vital route for profitable growth, the report observed.
Both stores made considerable gains in revenue, although iOS continued to outpace Google Play, thanks to strong growth in China, the US and Japan, which contributed nearly 90 per cent of the iOS App Store’s year-on-year revenue growth.
Device penetration remains relatively low in a number of emerging markets, and future increases are likely to bolster download growth. Store revenue will continue to grow as audiences broaden and monetisation options such as in-app subscriptions gain further traction in the coming year.
The valuations of the companies behind Uber, Lyft, Ola Cabs, GrabTaxi and Didi Dache continued to climb “as the classic ritual of hailing a taxi is becoming increasingly rare for millions of people around the world”.
In terms of active users, the ride-sharing and taxi space “grew phenomenally” in 2015. This was especially true in emerging markets, some of which outpaced the world’s leading app markets.
China, Mexico and Brazil were major standouts on iPhone, while India led the way on Android phones.
In all four of these cases, more than 20 per cent of smartphone users actively used at least one major taxi or ride sharing app in Q4 2015.
Uber appears to be the only global player, as it holds the top spot in many markets. In order to counter Uber’s growing ambitions, Lyft, Ola, GrabTaxi and Didi Kuaidi signed a “roaming agreement” in December, which will allow users travelling internationally to use their local app to order a ride.
This could mark 2016 as a year for major consolidation in this vertical, the report predicts.
User growth will undoubtedly continue, but consolidation is expected to increase as competition grows, the report said.