U.S. consumers spent an average of $ 138 on iPhone apps last year, a 38% increase over the year, mainly driven by pandemic consequences, according to new data from app store intelligence firm Sensor Tower. Through 2020, consumers turned to iPhone apps for work, school, entertainment, shopping and more, which led users to use a new record and the largest annual growth since 2016, when it had risen 42% year over year.
Sensor Tower tells TechCrunch that it expects the trend of increased spending to continue in 2021, projecting spending per active iPhone in the US to reach an average of $ 180. the pandemic – and especially the elevator in pandemic-driven mobile gaming spending.
Last year’s increased spending on iPhone apps in the US reflected global trends, which saw consumers spend a record $ 111 billion on both iOS and Android apps, per Sensor Tower and $ 143 billion, per App Annie, whose analysis had also included some third-party Android app stores in China.
When it comes to where America’s iPhone consumption was focused in 2020, of course, the biggest category was gaming.
In the US, spending per unit on mobile gaming increased 43% year over year from $ 53.80 in 2019 to $ 76.80 in 2020. That is more than 20 points higher than the growth of 22% seen between 2018 and 2019, when spending in the game grew from $ 44 to $ 53.80.
American users spent the most money on puzzles, such as Candy Crush Saga and Gardenscapes, which may have helped take people’s minds off the pandemic and its related stresses. That category averaged $ 15.50 per active iPhone, followed by casino games, which averaged $ 13.10, and was driven by physical casino closures. Strategy Games also saw an increase in spending in 2020, growing to an average of $ 12.30 per iPhone user spending.
Another big category for spending in the app was entertainment. With theaters and concerts closed, consumers turned to streaming apps in greater numbers. Disney + was launched at the end of 2019, just a few months before the pandemic was blocked, and HBO Max soon followed in May 2020.
Average unit expenditure in this category was the second highest, at $ 10.20, up 26% from $ 8.10 spent in 2019. By comparison, unit expenditure had only grown by 1% between 2018 and 2019.
Other categories among the top five per device per expense included Photo & Video (up 56% to $ 9.80), Social Networking (up 41% to $ 7.90) and Lifestyle (up 14% to $ 6.50).
These increases were related to apps such as TikTok, YouTube and Twitch. Twitch saw 680% revenue growth during the year, especially on US iPhones. Meanwhile, TikTok saw 140% growth. In the Lifestyle category, dating apps increased growth as consumers seemed to get in touch with others almost under lock and key, while bars and clubs were closed.
Overall, what made 2020 unique was not necessarily what apps people used, but how often they were used and how much was used.
App Annie had previously pointed out that the pandemic accelerated mobile adoption by two to three years. And Sensor Tower today tells us that the industry did not see the same kind of “seasonality” around spending in certain types of apps, and especially games, last year – although the pre-pandemic is usually slower in parts of the year for spending. That was not the case in 2020, when it was a good time to spend money on apps.