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App Annie Index: Apps - WhatsApp Takes the Road Less Traveled

App Annie

The App Annie Apps Index brings you the top-performing publishers and apps outside of games across both the iOS App Store and Google Play based on market data from App Annie Intelligence.  To find out what’s happening in game apps, please check out our October 2013 Games Index.

WhatsApp Blazes Own Trail with Subscription Business Model

Most of the top messaging apps such as LINE, KakaoTalk, and WeChat have a business model that encourages users to play freemium games, purchase stickers to use while chatting, and engage with other ecommerce tie-ins.  WhatsApp took a different approach to monetization that embraces a subscription model.  Instead of relying on advertising or creating products and games designed to encourage users to spend money on in-app purchases, WhatsApp Messenger users pay $0.99 per year after their first year.  This subscription business model has been consistent across Android, Blackberry, Nokia, and Windows Phone, but was just implemented on the iOS App Store on July 17th.

Since switching from a paid model where users had to pay $0.99 up front in July, WhatsApp Messenger has consistently been the #3 ranked non-game app by monthly downloads on the iOS App Store.  The messaging app’s consistent download ranking on the iOS App Store mirrors the trend seen on Google Play where it has been the #2 ranked non-game app each month by downloads since the beginning of 2013.  Further, WhatsApp Messenger rose two spots to join the top four grossing apps on Google Play in October.  This level of sustained success contributed to a monthly active user base of 350 million according to a speech given by WhatsApp’s CEO Jan Koum.  Many messaging apps share their total download numbers, but very few announce their monthly active users because it is considered a statistic that indicates user retention.  With a monthly active user base that exceeds Twitter’s by 130 million, it’s no wonder WhatsApp is proud of the community they have built.  If WhatsApp can retain the new users they are adding from the iOS App Store long-term, the publisher could begin reaping the benefits next summer once their $0.99 subscription fees activate.

iOS Customization Apps Add Personal Touch and Climb the Ranks

While apps that customize the Android experience have performed consistently well in the Apps Index, October saw iOS customization apps make a splash in the rankings.  Android customization apps like SwiftKey Keyboard and publishers like Sungy Mobile, the company behind GO Launcher Pro, have been featured in the Apps Index every month in 2013, but Emoji> is the only iOS customization app featured in an Apps Index, and even then it was only featured for one month in the June Apps Index.

The October Apps Index saw two iOS customization apps make an impact in the rankings. Wallpapers plus for iOS7 from AppWill customizes the iPhone wallpaper to take advantage of the new features in iOS 7 and became the 8th most downloaded non-game app on the iOS App Store in October.  表情工厂 (Emoticon Factory) from China-based publisher Meitu customizes the sticker experience within Tencent’s popular WeChat messaging app by letting users create animated stickers with their own pictures.  This app propelled Meitu up to #9 in the iOS App Store publisher rankings by downloads.  Whether it’s the background of the phone’s operating system, unique elements within the apps themselves like stickers, or even cases for the outside of the phone, people seem to gravitate towards products that add a personal touch to their mobile experience.

 


Top Publishers by Monthly Downloads Excluding GamesiOS October 2013

Publisher Rank Change
vs. Sept 2013
Headquarters Total Apps
(incl. games)
1 Google - United States 35
2 Apple - United States 35
3 Tencent - China 131
4 Baidu 1 China 107
5 Facebook 1 United States 15
6 Tap Nation 1 Belarus 0*
7 Outfit 7 1 Cyprus 72
8 Disney 2 United States 371
9 Meitu 18 China 7
10 Microsoft 1 United States 57
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

* Tap Nation's apps were removed from the iOS App Store after October 2013.

 

Meitu climbed 18 spots in October to become the 9th most downloaded non-game publisher on the iOS App Store.  The China-based photo app publisher’s growth in the rankings was primarily driven by 表情工厂 (Emoticon Factory), an app that lets users customize stickers to share with friends on WeChat.  表情工厂 (Emoticon Factory) was released in early October and China’s passion for using expressive stickers in WeChat quickly drove it to become the #1 overall free iPhone app by downloads in China.

 

 
WeChat users can use their own pictures to create custom stickers with Meitu’s 表情工厂 (Emoticon Factory) app.

 


Top Publishers by Monthly Downloads Excluding GamesGoogle Play October 2013

Publisher Rank Change
vs. Sept 2013
Headquarters Total Apps
(incl. games)
1 Facebook - United States 9
2 Google - United States 126
3 Sungy Mobile - China 2061
4 WhatsApp - United States 2
5 Outfit 7 1 Cyprus 34
6 Microsoft 1 United States 39
7 LINE - Japan 105
8 Kingsoft 2 China 36
9 NAVER 1 South Korea 953
10 Twitter 1 United States 7
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

 

Kingsoft rose two spots in the ranking to become the 8th most downloaded publisher on Google Play in October. Their growth was primarily driven by the success of Clean Master, October’s 5th most downloaded app on Google Play.  The publisher spoke with App Annie about the approach they’ve taken to incorporate user feedback into their development process:

"With Clean Master, we identified a complex problem and provided our users with a comprehensive and easy-to-use set of features to resolve it. Each week, our international team consults with real users to get their feedback, and this process has led to a consistent rise in ratings and downloads for our app updates. We also heavily leverage R&D to analyze the inner functions of the top 10,000 apps worldwide so we can know for certain what are, and aren't, junk files. Through this, we gained international attention by being the first and only app to enable users to fully delete their Snapchats.

Clean Master 4.0 will be released shortly, and we're very excited as it represents the culmination of months of user feedback to make our users' phones cleaner and faster than ever." - Sheng Fu, CEO of Kingsoft Internet Software, a Kingsoft company

Kingsoft’s battery optimization app, Battery Doctor, also helped them achieve their position in the rankings after a strong month:

 

The growth of Kingsoft’s Battery Doctor in Russia and the US helped them become the #8 most downloaded publisher on Google Play.

 


Top Publishers by Monthly Revenue Excluding GamesiOS October 2013

Publisher Rank Change
vs. Sept 2013
Headquarters Total Apps
(incl. games)
1 Pandora - United States 1
2 LINE - Japan 94
3 Apple - United States 35
4 Disney - United States 371
5 Microsoft - United States 57
6 Zoosk - United States 1
7 NHL Interactive 201 United States 4
8 Smule 2 United States 12
9 Badoo 2 United Kingdom 2
10 comiXology 6 United States 21
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

 

Baseball has gone into hibernation for the winter, but as one sports season comes to a close, another is just starting.  The National Hockey League (NHL) kicked off hockey season in the US and Canada on October 1st.  The NHL GameCenter app drove NHL Interactive up 201 places in the rankings to become the #7 top grossing publisher on the iOS App Store.  NHL GameCenter uses the same business model that Major League Baseball used for their MLB.com At Bat app.  Hockey fans can upgrade to NHL GameCenter Premium for $9.99 to listen to games on the radio, or they can go for the NHL GameCenter LIVE upgrade for $169.99 that lets them stream games live. From season to season, we consistently see that sports really does monetize on apps.

 

NHL GameCenter LIVE lets users live stream games to their phone, tablet, computer, game console or Internet-connected TV.

 


Top Publishers by Monthly Revenue Excluding GamesGoogle Play October 2013

Publisher Rank Change
vs. Sept 2013
Headquarters Total Apps
(incl. games)
1 LINE - Japan 105
2 Sungy Mobile - China 2061
3 Kakao - South Korea 16
4 GREE - Japan 124
5 WhatsApp 4 United States 2
6 Voltage - Japan 50
7 Pandora 2 United States 2
8 comiXology - United States 2
9 TomTom 2 Netherlands 29
10 MagazineCloner 1 United Kingdom 646
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

 

LINE maintained their position as the top grossing non-game publisher on Google Play in October.  They have held this position in the top grossing non-game publishers on Google Play since spinning off from NHN in the April Apps Index.  Jun Masuda, LINE’s Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer, spoke with App Annie about their approach to building a platform that goes beyond messaging:

"It's a great pleasure to have maintained our high ranking as a top grossing publisher for both the Google Play and iOS App Store. We believe this is because we caught the smartphone wave and continue to provide value as a communication tool. We go beyond being a simple messaging app, offering text-based communication with stickers that express emotion, voice and video calls, and family apps including LINE GAME. As these services expand, we're also creating a new industry-leading business model.

Through app improvements and the development of new content and services, we want LINE users across the world to have good and enriched communication." - Jun Masuda, Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer of LINE

WhatsApp climbed four spots to become the #5 top grossing publisher on Google Play in September.  WhatsApp’s growth had them join LINE, Kakao, and GREE to give messenger app publishers four of the top five positions.  The only new publisher in October’s Top 10 was UK-based MagazineCloner.  MagazineCloner is a digital publishing platform that makes it easy to quickly publish magazines across multiple stores and formats.  MagazineCloner’s growth made October the second month in a row to feature a magazine publisher in the top revenue rankings after Condé Nast was the 8th highest grossing publisher on the iOS App Store in the September Apps Index.

 


Top Apps by Monthly Downloads Excluding GamesiOS October 2013

App Rank Change
vs. Sept 2013
Publisher Headquarters Category
1 YouTube - Google United States Photo & Video
2 Facebook - Facebook United States Social Networking
3 WhatsApp Messenger - WhatsApp United States Social Networking
4 Instagram 1 Facebook United States Photo & Video
5 Google Maps 1 Google United States Navigation
6 Google Search - Google United States Reference
7 Skype 3 Microsoft United States Social Networking
8 Wallpapers plus for iOS7 564 AppWill China Reference
9 Snapchat - Snapchat United States Photo & Video
10 Find My iPhone 3 Apple United States Utilities
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

 

Major US tech companies continued to dominate the iOS App Store download rankings as Google, Facebook, Microsoft, and Apple accounted for 7 of the Top 10 apps.

AppWill’s Wallpapers plus for iOS7 joined the Top 10 after their update in late September that added wallpapers that fully utilize the new features in iOS 7.  The update coincided with the growth of the app’s downloads in a number of East Asian countries, including China, Hong Kong, and Singapore.

 


Top Apps by Monthly Downloads Excluding GamesGoogle Play October 2013

App Rank Change
vs. Sept 2013
Publisher Headquarters Category
1 Facebook - Facebook United States Social
2 WhatsApp Messenger - WhatsApp United States Communication
3 Skype - Microsoft United States Communication
4 Instagram - Facebook United States Social
5 Clean Master 3 Kingsoft China Tools
6 LINE 1 LINE Japan Communication
7 Facebook Messenger 1 Facebook United States Communication
8 Twitter 1 Twitter United States Social
9 Viber - Viber Media Cyprus Communication
10 Tiny Flashlight + LED 2 Nikolay Ananiev Bulgaria Tools
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

 

Clean Master earned the #5 spot in the Google Play download rankings for October.  The September Apps Index featured the performance optimization app’s growth in India, Indonesia, and Brazil, but October saw substantial gains in a number of Western countries.

 


Clean Master’s growth from September to October was fueled by downloads in a number of countries, including Germany, Russia, the US and Mexico.

 


Top Apps by Monthly Revenue Excluding GamesiOS October 2013

App Rank Change
vs. Sept 2013
Publisher Headquarters Category
1 Pandora Radio - Pandora United States Music
2 LINE - LINE Japan Social Networking
3 Skype 1 Microsoft United States Social Networking
4 Zoosk 1 Zoosk United States Social Networking
5 NHL GameCenter 129 NHL Interactive United States Sports
6 Badoo - Badoo United Kingdom Social Networking
7 Comics 2 comiXology United States Books
8 Grindr - Grindr United States Social Networking
9 NYTimes 1 NY Times United States News
10 Pages 5 Apple United States Productivity
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

 

While iOS apps by revenue have traditionally been dominated by social networking apps, one sports app stood out. NHL GameCenter became the #5 top grossing app on the iOS App Store.  The app’s performance was driven by a surge of hockey fans in the US and Canada who upgraded the app to packages that let them stream live radio and video feeds of their favorite team’s games.  NHL GameCenter’s performance is impressive, but time will tell if it can match the performance of MLB.com At Bat, which ranked in the Top 10 grossing apps on the iOS App Store from March through September.

 


Top Apps by Monthly Revenue Excluding GamesGoogle Play October 2013

App Rank Change
vs. Sept 2013
Publisher Headquarters Category
1 LINE - LINE Japan Communication
2 KakaoTalk - Kakao South Korea Communication
3 GREE - GREE Japan Social
4 WhatsApp Messenger 2 WhatsApp United States Communication
5 Pandora Radio 1 Pandora United States Music & Audio
6 LINE Fortune-Telling 1 LINE Japan Entertainment
7 LINE Manga - LINE Japan Comics
8 Comics - comiXology United States Comics
9 SwiftKey Keyboard - SwiftKey United Kingdom Productivity
10 Sygic: GPS Navigation & Maps 36 Sygic Slovak Republic Travel & Local
SOURCE: App Annie Index ™

 

Although WhatsApp Messenger’s recent growth in monthly active users won’t translate to revenue until they have been on the app for a full year or are up for renewal, the messenger app’s loyal user base has already translated into an increase in revenue that sent them to #4 in the Google Play revenue rankings.  The app that made the biggest jump to land in the Top 10 in October was Sygic: GPS Navigation and Maps.  Its rise in the rankings to #10 was driven by a particularly strong month in Europe:

 

Sygic saw a dramatic rise in its Google Play revenue rankings in Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, the UK, and other countries.

 

For those of you who also are looking for an update on top apps in gaming, please check out our October 2013 Games Index.

 

Notes:

  • The publisher and app rankings reported in the App Annie Index are based on the download and revenue estimates available through App Annie Intelligence.  The daily rank history charts and the home page feature app data are available to all users through App Annie’s app tracker solution, Store Stats.
  • While the Games Index covers games, the Apps Index provides app tracking on everything but games.  Note that the Top Publishers rankings in the Games Index are based solely on the publishers’ games downloads and revenue, while the Top Publishers rankings in the Apps Index are based on the publishers’ non-games downloads and revenue.
  • Through August 2013, publisher rankings in the App Annie Games Index and Apps Index were based on apps that ranked in the Top 1,000.  Effective with September data, publisher rankings are based on publishers' full set of apps.
  • Through September 2013, similar versions of the same app with different names (e.g., NYTimes and NYTimes for iPad) were ranked separately. Effective with October data, similar versions of the same app with different names will be unified (e.g., NYTimes and NYTimes for iPad are now aggregated and ranked as a single NYTimes unified app).
  • In the first month in which an app becomes unified, its rank change in the Index will compare the unified app that month vs. its highest-ranking individual app in the month prior.  As a result, rank changes for newly unified apps may overstate ranking increases from September to October 2013.
  • In the Top Publisher tables, the Total Apps column reflects the publisher's number of apps as of the middle of the month in which the report was released (e.g., the October 2013 Index report shows the count as of mid-November 2013).
  • In the iOS App Store, an app can be categorized under a Primary Category as well as an optional Secondary Category.  If an app has a Primary Category of Entertainment and a Secondary Category of Games, it is a candidate to be included in this Apps Index.  If the app’s Primary Category is Games and its Secondary Category is Entertainment, then it will not be included in this Apps Index; it is a candidate for the Games Index.
  • Note that the ranking approach used in the App Annie Index differs from that used in the iOS App Store.  In the latter, app rankings for a given category will include all apps whose Primary Category or Secondary Category matches that given category.  So an app can appear in the rankings for more than one category within the iOS App Store or in App Annie Store Stats rankings.
  • In Google Play, an app can be categorized under only one category, so there is no double-categorization.
  • Occasionally, a publisher may decide to shift an existing app from one category to another category.  In these cases, the App Annie Index will rank that app based on how it is categorized in the subsequent month.  Given that the App Annie Index now has a Games report and an Apps report, the scenario where an app’s recategorization could shift it from one Index to another is if its category changes from the Games category to a category other than Games or vice versa.
  • In the App Annie Index, all apps and publishers are reported under their parent publishers, where available; for example, the Plants vs. Zombies™ 2 app is reported under its parent publisher Electronic Arts, rather than its direct publisher PopCap. Note that if you view the Electronic Arts parent publisher page on Store Stats, you will see the publishers that roll under the parent publisher Electronic Arts, including PopCap. The Plants vs. Zombies™ 2 app will be listed under the PopCap publisher page.
  • App Annie Index revenue rankings are based on revenue that the iOS App Store and Google Play earned from paid downloads and in-app purchases.  They do not include revenue earned from in-app advertising.
  • Any non-App Annie trademarks or images used in this report are the property of their respective owners.  App Annie claims no rights in those trademarks.

November 20, 2013

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