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Last update: May 2021

5 mins to read - 2021/01/18

App Annie’s State of Mobile Report: Mobile Trends for 2021

It’s an understatement to say that 2020 was a year that changed the way we go about our daily lives. Widespead isolation and lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic has resulted in a dramatic shift in how we use technology… and especially our mobile devices. Mobile games in particular have seen a huge surge in downloads. We’ve been using our mobile devices to buy groceries, to socialize with friends and family, even to go to work. 2021 will likely see mobile technology take up even greater importance in our lives, as the pandemic is projected to continue throughout the year. App Annie has analyzed the landscape of the mobile industry over the past year and written an intensive report on the State of Mobile 2021. Take a look at our recap below, to see what mobile trends their experts are predicting for 2021.

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state of mobile trends 2021
Image Source: App Annie, State of Mobile 2021 report

Mobile Trends and Changes Leading Into 2021

First of all, it’s important to put into context just how much the mobile industry changed in 2020. According to App Store data, the mobile industry saw a total of $143 billion consumer spend, 218 billion apps downloaded, and 3.5 trillion hours spent using mobile apps. This is a staggering growth, which advanced the mobile industry 2-3 years in the space of 12 months. With an average of 4 hours per day, Americans were even spending more time on their mobile devices than they were watching TV!

This spike in mobile usage was seen to trend across demographics as well. Device users from Gen Z, Millennial, and Baby Boomer generations were all up in mobile usage 16-30%. While Gen Z favored apps like Twitch, Snapchat, and TikTok, Baby Boomers tended to vary according to country. In the US they preferred Ring and Nextdoor, while in the UK they preferred BBC news and weather apps. In Canada and Australia, COVID tracker apps also featured, and that is likely to continue into 2021.

Mobile Gaming Breakdown

As we have explored in previous blog posts, mobile games have seen tremendous growth in the past year, moving from a fringe media to a mainstream form of entertainment. According to App Annie, casual gamers dominated downloads in 2020, with 78% of all downloads of gaming apps. Casual games such as Among Us and ROBLOX have topped the charts in terms of downloads. However, the more serious core gamers contributed 66% of consumer spend, so it seems that users who just picked up mobile games during the pandemic aren’t yet accustomed to spending money in-app.

However, in their report The New Normal in 2021, App Annie predict that consumers will spend over $120 billion in 2021 on mobile games, which will outstrip all other mobile markets combined. Games will likely become more expansive and sophisticated on the hard-core end of the gaming spectrum, as mobile phones become more capable of supporting these types of games. However, there will also be growth in hybrid games, combining aspects of hard-core and mid-core games with the fast-paced addictive quality of hyper-casual. They state:

“Mobile has enabled core games to become more ‘casual’ in nature given the device specs and user interface. Yet, mobile phones are powerful enough to stand up to the ‘core’ game experience and enable cross-platform play. We expect 5G to see its first impact in gaming — particularly core gaming — by reducing latency and lag.”

financial mobile app trends

Financial App Trends

Mobile gaming wasn’t the only industry that saw a breakthrough in 2020. Financial apps also saw tremendous growth over the course of the year. Part of this was due to economic uncertainty, resulting from the pandemic. In addition to having to do all their banking remotely, people were downloading P2P loan apps and checking the stock market with Yahoo! Finance. Moreover, the cryptocurrency market saw a huge spike in Q4 2020, so plenty of people were trading various coins with mobile wallets such as Robinhood and Coinbase.

It’s likely that mobile banking, due to the sheer convenience, will continue to rise in the upcoming year.

Mobile Streaming App Trends

Streaming apps also saw an enormous uptick in 2020, as videostreaming replaced in-person recreations such as cinema, theatre, etc. Major studios even released films on their streaming platforms, and at-home streaming spiked during Q2 2020. YouTube is the most popular streaming app across the board, with users averaging around 38 hours per month. Among paid streaming platforms, Netflix users have racked up the most viewing time worldwide, followed by Amazon Prime Video in Canada and Japan. The runner up is Twitch, which is popular among Gen Z users and those who view user-generated content. TikTok has also seen an uptrend almost universally, except for in India, where the app is banned.

As content creators continue to release content, and with streaming apps now being the primary platform for releasing that content, App Annie predicts that downloads of mobile streaming apps will increase by 85% in the US in 2021. Moreover, they predict that TikTok will continue to grow, gathering 1.2 billion average monthly users in 2021, due to its robust and energetic user base.

mcommerce retail mobile apps trends 2021

Retail and mCommerce Apps

With stores and restaurants closed indefinitely in 2020, mobile shopping and ordering was a lifeline for many of us. What’s more, live shopping – where retailers livestream their products on, e.g., Facebook or Instagram as they put them up for sale – has become highly popular, in China and later elsewhere. This will likely grow in popularity in Western countries, especially among those who miss the human interaction of shopping in real-time. AP News predicts social retail will be worth $2 trillion by 2024.

Similarly, food and drink delivery apps such as Deliveroo and Uber Eats saw huge growth in 2020, from 60% in the US to a staggering 105% in Russia.

So… What Does All This Mean for 2021?

The pandemic is far from over, and many people have grown accustomed to a more stay-at-home lifestyle. It’s likely that, even once people are vaccinated, many will choose to work remotely if given the option. This means that our mobile phones will continue to be our primary mode of communication, entertainment, shopping, banking, and more. And a lot of mobile apps are anticipating this, it seems. Mobile interstitial ads grew by 95% in the US in 2020, and App Annie predicts that mobile ad spend will hit $290 billion in 2021.

Remote business and learning apps – most prominently Zoom and Google Classroom – spiked in 2020, and will likely continue to rise. App Annie predict that our mobile devices will continue to drive most of our at-home activities, with in-person industries such as film and fitness all having to recalibrate their business strategies in a way that will have to cater to the mobile user.

It will be an adjustment we will all have to continue to make. However, for most of us it won’t be all that great of a change. Our mobile phones are effectively our primary interface with the outside world as it is. And with this trend only set to increase in 2021, any brand that wishes to communicate with users would be well advised to do it through their mobile platform. This means investing in a robust multichannel marketing strategy, with a particular emphasis on push notifications.

To learn more about how a savvy push notification campaign can boost user engagement and app click-through rate by up to 750%, get in touch with one of our experts!

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