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Time and spend on mobile goes up, driving mobile ad market, GenAI downloads and gaming

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Consumers are spending more time and more money on mobile globally than ever before, with the mobile economy valued at $533bn in 2023 – more than the GDP of Colombia.

So finds the latest State of Mobile report from data.ai out this week, which suggests that, after declining 2% YoY in 2022, global consumer spend bounced back in 2023 up 3%. South Korea, Brazil, Mexico and Turkey all exceeded 25% YoY growth in 2023.

Meanwhile, downloads growth stalled at 1% YoY. Bangladesh has emerged as one of the fastest growing markets. Time spent grew 10% YoY. Time spent in Pakistan (#10 by time spent), South Africa (#19) and Vietnam (#9) grew by 14%, 13% and 12% respectively.

When it comes to spends, China still leads the market by some considerable margin, topping $50bn, but down on 2022’s high of nearly $60bn. The US is closing the gap, hitting $45bn in 2023, up from 2022’s $41bn. Aside from the UK and Germany – which at $4.5bn and $4.2bn respectively are the fifth and sixth largest consumer spend market on mobile globally – European markets trail along in the $1bn longtail.

Download the data.ai State of Mobile report 2024 here

Mobile ad market accelerates

The majority of this spend is going to mobile advertising, which accrued $362bn in 2023, compared to app store spend, which hit $171bn. This mobile ad spend is forecast to rise to $402bn in 2024, suggesting an 11% surge in growth.

Mobile will continue to take a larger share of the advertising wallet as more time than ever before is spent in apps. Total hours will reach 5.1 trillion in 2022 on Android phones alone. Much of this is likely to be directed at video, with YouTube and TikTok being the key beneficiaries.

A lot of this video growth is driven by GenZ users embracing user generated content (UGC) across videos and forums. In the UK this sees WhatsApp and Instagram top the list of GenZ users, while in Spain Instagram and TikTok are king.

The picture is very different in India. Instagram is top, however the other four top five platforms to grow from this GenZ surge are  all from outside Europe and the US, with PhonePe, Flipkart, Telegram and MyJio completing the list.

Mobile games growth

Demand for games at all-time high, yet spending on in-game purchases cools, finds the study. Consumer Spend in Mobile Gaming Fell 2% in 2023 to $107.3 Billion — Downloads Dipped to Around 88 Billion

In 2023, well known IP games such as Monopoly GO and EA SPORTS FC Mobile Soccer saw breakout success as mobile games are now capable of offering console-quality graphics and gameplay experiences.

Hit Open World RPG Genshin Impact continued to break new grounds, crossing $4 Billion in all-time consumer spend in Q1 2023.

Puzzle and Hypercasual games like Block Blast Adventure Master and Attack Hole were key download drivers, but 2023 saw some surprise hits such as Avatar Life Simulation game Gacha Life 2, and Party Royale game Eggy Party, making major gains in downloads and usage.

Casino genres have been the leading genre in markets including the United States and Canada, but in recent years Strategy and RPG Games have encroached on market share. Top genres such as 4x March-Battle, MMORPG and Battle Royale tend to feature online multiplayer mechanics — indicating an appetite for connection and social experiences exists across the gaming spectrum.

Cross-play features are becoming increasingly prominent in the top games — the ability to access the same game progress across devices (whether on mobile or console, for instance) appears to be on the rise, as is playing against players using different platform versions of the same game.

AI on mobile

Generative AI, data.ai’s latest addition to its App IQ taxonomy, emerged as one of the fastest growing genres of 2023. AI Chatbot apps really took off in the later part of the year with the launches of ChatGPT and Character AI and adoption has remained strong since.

Consumer spend also continued to climb throughout 2023 after huge growth earlier in the year. Many top apps like ChatGPT include subscription offerings to unlock additional features.

The AI popularity was fairly global, though the genre did not rank among the top five breakout genres in several Asian and Middle Eastern market including China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey.

Other industries embracing mobile

A raft of other industries are also turning to mobile as consumers up the time spent with their devices.

DatingPerhaps counterintuitively, Dating app usage surged at the start of the pandemic even as people were stuck at home. Dating apps provided a useful way for people to socialize, if not in person, on their mobile devices. A number of apps aimed at finding friends also emerged, including Wizz, Yubo and Wink.

Consumer spend growth has slowed in some key markets like the US and China as Dating behaviors continue to adjust to a post-lockdown world. Developing markets show more opportunity. Discover the state of the dating market in 2023: which apps are the best performers in terms of monetizing users and encouraging them to keep using the apps.
Ticketing – In-person events, which came roaring back in 2022, were even more popular in 2023. Global downloads hit a new high in Q3 2023 at 82.5 million, up 33% year-over-year and 77% from pre-pandemic Q3 2019. With the red-hot demand for ticketing apps came fiercer competition. The share of downloads from paid channels trended up throughout 2023. By the end of the year, more than 12% of global Ticket Service downloads and 34% of US downloads came from paid search or in-app ads.
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