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The daily time spent using apps rose as much as 45% in two years as the pandemic reinforced mobile habits, according to a report on the second quarter by mobile data and analytics firm App Annie.

Consumers in eight regional markets now spend more than 4 hours a day using apps. And users in Russia and Turkey have upped their “app hours” by more than 40% since 2019.

App Annie acknowledged 2020 was an extraordinary year, and that’s why it’s also been making comparisons to 2019 as well as 2020. Global populations were plunged into chaos, which forced many of their previously “analog” behaviors towards new digital equivalents. The effect was to drastically increase the time spent in apps. Across 2021, with much of the world easing lockdowns, a new question emerged: Would those new habits be sustained?

Now, the numbers are in, and App Annie said the answer is yes. The new data reveals that time spent in apps in Q2 2021 is level or slightly down year on year. But it is still significantly up on the pre-lockdown figure (for Q2 2019). As a result, the global app market broke its all-time record for spend again. At $34 billion, the Q2 quarterly total was around $7 billion up on the total for Q2 2020 and $2 billion up on Q1 2021.


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Game breakouts by downloads

Above: App Annie’s breakout games for Q2 2021.

Image Credit: App Annie

Turning to games, the top title across the United Kingdom, Germany, and France in the second quarter was Hair Challenge. The other notable title was Supersonic’s Bridge Race, which appeared at No. 2 in the U.K., France, and Russia.

In Asia-Pacific, Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds topped the charts for downloads in Japan and South Korea. APAC users are among the most committed to the mobile habit — as of Q2 2021. Indonesians come second in the rankings (just over 5 hours a day in apps), with South Korea at fourth (just under 5 hours a day) and Japan at seventh (4.5 hours).

The most popular new apps across the APAC region comprise a diverse collection including utilities (Google Classroom, Fast Cleaner), food delivery (McDonald’s China), and news (SmartNews).

Japanese users flocked to Kantan Netprint, an app that makes it easy to print out or makes PDFs of mobile files. Meanwhile, South Korea’s consumers made a hit of Gong Cha, the official app of a fast-growing tea drink franchise.

The top product in China is National Anti-Fraud Center. It was launched by the Ministry of Public Security in response to a rise in scams based around the Study Xi app. The latter is a product that contains the teachings of the president. Criminals had been hijacking the app to steal from users.

The most notable games product in APAC over the last quarter is certainly Ni no Kuni: Cross Worlds. It topped the breakout chart in Japan and South Korea. Ni no Kuni is a Ghibli-style role-playing game that made its first appearance on the Nintendo DS in 2010. It launched in June.

In China, the chart topper is Mole’s World, created by Taomee Entertainment and based on a hugely popular web browser game from 2008.

Time spent in apps

Above: The top breakout apps in the U.S.

Image Credit: App Annie

Top of the list for time spent in apps is Brazil, which leaped 30% from Q2 2019 to Q2 2021. Despite a slight fall in the past 12 months, its consumers still spend well over 5 hours a day in apps. It’s a similar story for Indonesia, the only other country whose consumers pass more than five hours a day in apps. Here the growth rate is up 35% in two years.

In terms of the most growth, the notable markets are Russia and Turkey. Russians today spend 45% more time in apps than they did in Q2 2019. For Turks, it’s 40%.

U.S. consumers downloaded social, education, and photo and video apps in droves, and so daily time spent rose 20% from pre-pandemic levels.

In global terms, the U.S. experienced a relatively modest upwards spike in time spent in apps. Perhaps this is due to its mature market status pre-pandemic. In Q2 2021, its consumers upped their daily hours to just under 4. That’s a 20% increase over Q2 2019.

The U.S. breakout apps

Above: The top breakout apps in the world in Q2 2021.

Image Credit: App Annie

Looking at the top U.S. breakout apps (those with the most dramatic growth over the previous quarter), it’s notable how none has any direct relationship to COVID-19 immunization or contact tracing — this is not the case in most other countries. That could mean the anti-vaxxers are stronger in the U.S.

Surprisingly, the No. 1 breakout product is PictureThis – an app that lets the user take a photo of a plant in order to identify and find out more information about it. The app, developed by China’s Glority, has also been a huge hit in Germany, France, and Japan. Perhaps its success is due to a revival of interest in gardening/botany due to the pandemic.

The second breakout app in the U.S. is HBO Max. It’s the app for the subscription-based streaming service launched by HBO/Warner in May 2020.

HBO/Warner ended March 2021 with 44.2 million domestic subscribers and 63.9 million worldwide subscribers (it does not break out the totals for the existing HBO cable customers and Max subscribers). HBO Max’s success reflects the rise of the subscription TV model — and of viewing this content on a mobile device.

Poparazzi is the social media app of the moment (like Clubhouse and HouseParty before it), and it has real momentum. Poparazzi describes itself as the anti-selfie selfie club. It only lets users take photos of other people, and it doesn’t allow filters, follower counts, or captions.

At the top of the U.S. breakout games chart is Hair Challenge by Turkish developer Rollic Games, which was acquired last year by Zynga. The game invites players to navigate obstacles and pick up rewards that extend/dye their hair. It is a female-oriented game similar to High Heels, which was a big hit from Rollic in Q1 2021.

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