The mobile revolution isn’t over yet. Quite the contrary — more aspects of the average consumer’s life, including areas like personal finance and digital health data, continue to shift onto mobile platforms. This week, analytics company App Annie released its annual “State of Mobile” report, summarizing how the mobile economy fared in 2019 and how it might continue to evolve in 2020.
The data has meaningful implications for mobile platform operators like Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) and Alphabet (NASDAQ:GOOG) (NASDAQ:GOOGL) subsidiary Google, as well as mobile-oriented companies like Facebook (NASDAQ:FB). Here are four takeaways for investors from the report.
Consumers spent $120 billion on mobile in 2019
Worldwide app downloads jumped to 204 billion, with emerging markets like India and Brazil driving that growth. Developed markets aren’t seeing downloads grow much, but consumers are still exploring new apps, according to App Annie.
Total consumer spending on mobile platforms reached a record $120 billion in 2019. That’s more than twice as much as consumers spent in 2016. Gaming continues to be the largest overall category, representing an overwhelming 72% of all app store spending. China is the largest individual market, accounting for 40% of total spending.
Mobile gaming eclipses all other gaming formats
Compared to other formats like consoles or desktop, mobile gaming continues to dominate in terms of spending. Mobile games brought in 25% more revenue than all other formats combined in 2019, underscoring the market opportunity for game developers.
Mobile platforms have relatively lower barriers to entry while giving game developers access to enormous user bases. Many mobile gamers tend to play casually, with that genre representing 47% of game downloads. With the recent launches of Apple Arcade and Google Play Pass, the underlying economics of mobile gaming will continue to evolve.
App Annie forecasts that mobile game spending will top $100 billion in 2020.
Subscriptions are here to stay
Apple has been emphasizing its growth in paid subscriptions as part of its pivot to services, with the tech giant touting 450 million paid subscriptions at last count. The subscription model continues to resonate with both consumers and developers, with in-app subscriptions representing a whopping 96% of non-gaming consumer spending.
“On iOS in the US, 97% of non-gaming consumer spend in the top 250 apps was driven by apps with subscriptions in 2019,” App Annie writes. “On Google Play, this was slightly lower at 91%.” Dating and video-streaming apps are seeing particular success with in-app subscriptions.
“Our third-party subscription business grew across multiple categories and increased almost 40% year over year,” Apple CFO Luca Maestri said on the last earnings call. “There are now more than 35,000 subscription apps on our platform, with the largest accounting for less than 0.25% of total services revenue.”
Mobile ad revenue to reach $240 billion
Ads are another major part of the mobile economy, with mobile ad spending estimated at $190 billion in 2019. That is expected to jump 26% to $240 billion in 2020, according to the report.
That’s good news for dominant mobile advertiser Facebook, which offers a portfolio of social networking apps that are predominantly monetized with ads. Mobile advertising accounted for 94% of Facebook’s ad revenue in the third quarter, for example. Rival TikTok saw global time spent on its platform skyrocket by 210%, so Facebook will be competing for a chunk of the growth in mobile ad spending.
Google also continues to shift focus to its mobile search business, which is pinching profitability, as those offerings carry higher traffic acquisition costs.