Strong App Store Activity Could Prove a Silver Lining for Apple and Google

Mobile apps aren’t being left out as the COVID-19 pandemic drives major increases in digital content consumption.

On Thursday, mobile app data provider App Annie estimated that global time spent on Android phones rose 20% annually in Q1. In China, which was impacted by COVID-19 before other countries, time spent rose 30%.

App Annie also estimates that app downloads rose 15% sequentially to more than 31 billion. And in Italy, the first Western country to see a major COVID-19 breakout, time spent on non-gaming apps is estimated to have risen 30% from Q4 to March (this meshes with what Facebook (FB) and others have shared about Italian usage growth).

U.S. time spent on non-gaming apps is believed to have risen a more modest 10% from Q4 to March. However, with lockdowns having been implemented over the course of the month, April will probably see additional growth.

App Annie’s estimates for Q1 growth in time spent within non-gaming apps.

A healthy chunk of this additional time is clearly being spent on remote work/learning and communications apps. Zoom (ZM) , Microsoft Teams, Google Classroom and Google Hangouts Meet are all on App Annie’s current top-10 list for the most popular free app downloads among U.S iPhone users.

Separately, app data provider Apptopia and CRM software firm Braze estimated that streaming sessions on mobile apps rose 30.7% in March. Total entertainment and streaming app sessions are now estimated to be above 100 million, after hovering in the 70 million to 80 million range in February.

Apptopia and Braze’s estimates for Q1 streaming app downloads.

App Annie’s Q1 numbers suggest the recent spike seen in time spent hasn’t yet had a big impact on app store spending. The firm estimates that iOS App Store and Google Play spending both rose just 5% annually in Q1 (to $15 billion and $8.3 billion, respectively). However, given that it can take new app downloads to yield revenue via things like in-app purchases and paid subscriptions, there’s a good chance that Q2’s growth will be stronger.

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And that of course would be a positive for Apple ( AAPL)  and Alphabet ( GOOGL) , as they deal with a period of weakening smartphone and ad sales.

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