app trends 2021

App Trends for 2021

14 December 2020
Carrier Billing

In 2008, the iOS App Store launched with only 500 apps. Today over 1.85 million different apps are available for users to download.

According to App Annie, the global app economy is set to be worth $6.3 trillion by 2021 (up from $1.3 trillion last year) with the app user base predicted to almost double from 3.4 billion to 6.3 billion. In 2021, time spent in apps is expected to grow to 3.5 trillion hours (up from 1.6 trillion in 2016).

2020 – A Year in App Trends

Globally, apps have played a crucial role in 2020. Not only to help facilitate social distancing and contact tracing, but in allowing us to keep in touch and stay entertained.

During this period, many consumers have changed their behaviours and habits, especially in terms of mobile and app usage – many of which are set to continue in 2021.

As 2020 draws to a close, here is a roundup of some of the most recent app statistics and trends we’ve taken note of in a year that has accelerated the growth of and the move to mobile:

  • Consumer app spend reached record highs amidst COVID-19-influenced social distancing measures and lockdown policies.
  • The pandemic has accelerated average daily mobile device usage to 4 hours and 20 minutes, with mobile app usage surging 25% YoY in Q3 2020.
  • Education – Recent remote return to school saw a 90% boost across top education apps.
  • Gaming – Mobile Game Consumer Spend Exceeded $20 Billion in Q3 2020. Call of Duty mobile alone, peaked at almost one billion monthly hours spent worldwide.
  • Casual Gaming – This category has increased by 45%. It’s clear that even with easy access to consoles and computers at home, consumers are turning to mobile to play games due to the “convenience and the variety of their offerings – whether hyper-casual or core gaming”. Casual games have also played a part in turning ‘non-gamers’ into ‘gamers’.
  • Mobile Gaming – By the end of 2020, mobile game spending is set to lead over desktop and home console gaming to more than 2.8x and 3.1x, respectively — reinforcing that mobile gaming is in a league of its own.
  • Travel Apps – Trends show increasing interest among consumers and a willingness towards spending on travel companies impacted by the pandemic, especially as lockdowns ease.
  • Video Streaming – Apps have seen a major surge as lockdowns continue – streaming app usage increased 15% YOY in Q3 2020 in the US. Video streaming on mobile is poised to have its biggest year yet in 2021, topping 1 trillion hourson Android phones alone.
  • Popular shows drive interest in apps – The popularity of The Queen’s Gambit has driven demand for Chess apps, while downloads of Disney+ in the US jumped 55% the weekend of October 30th during the release of Season 2 of The Mandalorian. Halloween also contributed to this spike, as Americans likely turned to classics, such as “Hocus Pocus”.

Christmas 2020 App Trends

The festive period will see less consumers shopping in-store than usual, due to lockdown restrictions. This will inevitably lead to an increase in online shopping and has the potential to increase app downloads. Consumers have also discovered or rediscovered new activities that they plan to continue – these new lifestyles will guide Christmas gift choices, not to mention Prime Day and Black Friday spending:

  • Prime Day – Americans spent over 61 million hours shopping on mobile during the week of Prime Day 2020 (an increase of 30% year over year), as well as over 51 million hours the first week of November across shopping apps on Android devices.
  • Black Friday – According to Adobe, Black Friday 2020 online shopping surged 22% to a record $9 billion.

The festive season is a great time to think about building a new user base for your app. It’s also a good time to bring users back. App retargeting re-engages users who may have abandoned the app, targeting the best possible audiences. App Annie suggest that “long-term investments in mobile promotions should also be considered as device usage is anticipated to remain high even after these holidays pass”.


2021 App and App Development Trends

So, what does the new normal look like for mobile in 2021?

  • Consumer spend across app stores will grow – rising by 18% to reach $139 billion by 2021.
  • In app stores, games will continue to drive revenue, growing from $50 billion in 2016, to $105 billion in 2021.
  • Mobile commerce was “cited as the single largest driver of growth for the app economy, growing from $344 per user to $946 by 2021. Asia will grow the quickest, reaching $3.2 trillion in 2021, followed by the Americas hitting $1.7 trillion, then EMEA (Europe, Middle East, and Africa) which will reach $1.0 trillion”.
  • Taking a look back to our predicted App Trends for 2020, it seems that many 2020 predictions will remain for 2021. Non-game revenue is set to triple from $11.5 billion in 2016 to over $34 billion in 2021, with apps for gaming, video, music, dating, health and fitness, food delivery, education, and productivity leading the way.
  • TikTok is set to reach 2 billion average monthly active users in 2021. As of Q3 2020, TikTok was the #2 non-gaming app by consumer spend — a testament to the breadth and depth of engagement for its user base.


The overall trend that’s important to note here, is that apps have clearly become more and more integrated with our ‘real-life’ daily lives. With more apps being downloaded than ever and consumer spend on the rise, now is a great time to consider adding carrier billing as a simple, secure method of payment.

Unlock the potential of new markets and customers and contact SLA Digital today.

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