Asia rules the mobile world: more users, more often, generating more cash
Chinese developers are cashing in as the region buys in to TikTok and games
Asian nations have been revealed as the primary drivers of the mobile ecosystem, according to data.ai – a mobile analytics firm previously known as App Annie – in its 2023 State of Mobile report.
In the firm's measurement of which nation's residents spend most time on their phones, Indonesia came out on top with 5.7 average hours a day. Of the top ten smartphone-obsessed nations, seven were in Asia.
The peoples of Singapore and South Korea surpassed an average of five hours per day in mobile apps in 2022 while Australia, India, Japan and Thailand spent just a little less gazing at their black mirrors. Residents of China came in 18th place and spent an average of 3.6 hours a day.
Time spent on apps over the past four years grew 67 percent in Australia and 62 percent in Singapore.
Downloads don't always mean spend – except in China
Although China didn't come close to the top ten for time spent on apps, it did rate first place for number of downloads and consumer spend on apps. Chinese residents downloaded over a collective 111 billion apps and spent around $58 billion – that number on the rise from 2020 and 2021.
In second place for downloads was India, with a comparatively paltry 28.8 billion. India's total spend, however, did not make the top 20 countries. Neither did Indonesia's, despite being ranked fifth place for downloads, at 7.7 billion.
Japan came in third in terms of spend with over $17.7 billion, but 14th place in downloads. South Korea was fourth with $6.2 billion of spend and did not place in the top 20 for downloads.
Pakistan experienced standout growth of downloads at 35 percent, while the global average was 11 percent.
Consumer spending dropped in 2022 by two percent year-on-year, but Taiwan and Hong Kong both grew by double digits: 15 and 34 percent, respectively.
Standout APAC apps came from China
Chinese-owned short video-sharing apps TikTok and Kwai were rated the world's top two entertainment apps by the data.ai report, which measured them on a "proprietary AI algorithm" that accounted for factors like sentiment, engagement acquisition and monetization. Both apps have faced criticism for data and privacy issues.
Chinese e-shopping app Xiaohongshu placed third for social media, and a Chinese app called My HotPot Story – in which users role-play as a restaurant owner – is the world's top simulation game.
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Publishers headquartered in China also drove a third of consumer game spend.
"China's mobile gaming market has grown rapidly over the years to become the world's largest, but growth has leveled amidst an environment of increased competition and regulation. For game publishers based in China, overseas markets provide opportunities for international expansion and monetization for gaming publishers of all sizes," detailed the report.
Japan was a big market for Chinese game developers, who took nearly a quarter of the nation's market share. However, Japan consumer spend on gaming dropped from around $14.2 billion in 2019 to $13.1 billion in 2022.
The declining game spend is a trend worldwide. The average standing drop comes out at five percent, except in some countries including India and Indonesia where developers found moderate growth.
Indonesia-based consumers spent $370 million on gaming in 2022, up from $260 million in 2019. Chinese spend was at over $42.3 billion in 2022, up from $33.1 billion in 2019.
E-commerce and food delivery
Time spent on shopping apps slowed down in terms of growth globally, but remained strong in India and Indonesia. India residents spent 8.7 billion hours shopping online in 2022, compared to Indonesia's 6.6 billion – though it's worth noting Indonesia has about one fifth India's population.
When it came to food delivery, growth stayed fairly flat in Singapore, Japan and South Korea, with modest declines toward the end of 2022 in Indonesia and Thailand. China’s food delivery segment experienced modest growth, while India's exploded with a 31 percent year-on-year increase.
The world spent over two trillion hours on social media on Android phones in 2022, a number 17 percent higher than in 2021. New app installs jumped 15 percent year-on-year on average, with China apps bucking the trend with a whopping 25 percent growth.
"Consumer spending growth hit some headwinds in top markets like China and Japan. Seven of the top ten apps saw YoY declines, including LINE, Facebook, and QQ. However, this was offset by strong growth from apps like TikTok, Snapchat, WePlay, and Zhihu," said data.ai.
TikTok figured out the monetization game
As for actually making money from apps, TikTok led the world. It became the second non-game app to surpass $6 billion in terms of all-time consumer spending. It reached the top spot in 2022 with over $3 billion in consumer spending – a feat only ever reached by Tinder. TikTok downloads more than doubled those of the second most popular app, YouTube.
The Chinese app's average monthly revenue per user sits at 85 cents, far above the distant second-place finisher in this category, SnapChat, which remains at five cents per user. According to the report, TikTok cashes in with high value in-app purchases. Although not all users end up spending, TikTok users end up spending more in individual transactions than other apps.
"TikTok made us reimagine how high consumer spending in apps – especially outside of mobile games – could reach," reads the report. ®