(Bloomberg) –Tinder, Netflix Inc. and Tencent Holdings Ltd. took the top three spots in App Annie’s 2019 ranking of consumer spending on non-gaming apps, underlining the growing importance of subscription services for generating revenue.
Games offering in-app purchases of virtual currency and upgrades, commonly called microtransactions, continued to lead overall rankings, with video subscriptions dominating the rest of the field. Even before the much-anticipated Disney+ and Apple TV+ services have taken off, Baidu Inc.’s iQiyi, Google’s YouTube and Alibaba Group Holding’s Youku all ranked in the top 10 apps by revenue. This comes in a year when App Annie said total new app downloads and consumer spending will both break records, judging from data collected from January to November.
Tinder’s leading position should not be a surprise, said App Annie, as dating apps of its kind have “unlocked the keys to monetization through subscriptions” and their combined annual revenue has grown 920% between 2014 and 2019, exceeding $2.2 billion in the current year. Facebook Inc. retained its historic lead on overall app downloads, with the top three most-downloaded apps globally remaining Facebook Messenger, Facebook and WhatsApp for the sixth year in a row. It launched its own Facebook Dating service in September.
By the close of 2019, App Annie said consumers will have downloaded 120 billion new apps across Apple Inc.’s iOS App Store and Google’s Play Store — that’s without factoring in app updates, re-installations of existing apps or Android installs done via unofficial means. The number marks a 5% increase on last year, and the app-tracking company predicted the record will be broken again in 2020. Consumer revenue is said to be growing at 15% each year, with 2019 set to record close to $90 billion, another new high.
On the gaming front, Sea Ltd.’s Free Fire, the app that has minted two billionaires already, garnered the most global downloads, followed by Tencent’s PUBG Mobile. Call of Duty: Mobile, another Tencent property, also made it into the top 10 for the year, in spite of only being released at the start of October. Sony Corp.’s Fate/Grand Order took the title as most lucrative game — and overall app — of the year, followed by Tencent’s Honour of Kings and perennial moneymaker Candy Crush Saga by Activision Blizzard Inc. All three games are free to play, deriving their massive revenues from small purchases of in-game perks and upgrades.
Looking for the breakout hits of the year, App Annie highlighted Likee by YY Inc., an app for sharing short videos akin to TikTok, as the one with the largest absolute growth in downloads during the year. Two more apps by the same company were in the top four: Noizz for editing video and Hago for social gaming, the latter being especially popular with young users in Indonesia, according to the researchers.
For 2020, App Annie said it expects to see each of the current trends intensifying, with video-centric apps and subscription-based services growing in importance, ubiquity and revenue.