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Mobile Application Development: Global Market Overview

  • Rating — 5 (3 voices)
  • by Ivanna Denys
  • Updated on April 15, 2019
  • Read —
    5-6 minutes

Mobile development market is active and complex nowadays, so it’s may be challenging to grasp all the aspects and see a clear picture. Yet, if you want to develop a mobile application, it’s essential to understand what’s already offered on the market, if there is any vacant place for your idea and what to expect in the nearest future.

To help you figure these things out, we did a comprehensive market research and gathered the most important findings in this article. So let’s dive right into them.

Market size by downloads

people with smartphones

According to the industry overview by Statista, the total number of mobile application first-time downloads worldwide was 178.1 billion in 2017 and it’s forecast to grow to 258.2 billion by 2022.

It’s worth mentioning that Android wins this race leaving iOS far behind. Specifically, App Annie, a reputable data provider that studies the global mobile app market, reports that 70% of all mobile applications in 2017 were downloaded from Google Play Store.

As of the end of 2017, the total number of Android apps constituted 3.8 million, while Apple Store had 2 million mobile applications.

Speaking about separate apps, a market report shows that Android beats iOS for download volume in most cases. For example, as of the end of March 2018, WhatsApp (the most popular non-game app on both platforms) was downloaded 60.23 million times from Google Play Store and only 9.15 million times from App Store.

Here’s how the list of top 10 mobile applications looks:

top 10 mobile applications

Market size by revenue

According to Sensor Tower, the global mobile app revenue constituted $58.6 billion in 2017 and it is 35% more than in 2016 when users spent about $43 billion. Yet, consumer spending on non-gaming applications is significantly lower than the revenue received from mobile games and represents only about 20% of the total number (nearly $12 billion).

Interestingly enough that while Android had the greater market share in terms of the number of downloads in 2017, its users accounted only for 34% of total app users spendings, according to Statista.

iOS and Android users spending on apps

This may be partly explained by the distribution of free and paid mobile applications. Specifically, as of the Q1 of 2018, about 94% of applications in Google Play Store were available for free, while for App Store this figure constitutes only 88%.

Speaking about the most profitable applications, their list significantly differs from the list of most popular applications by downloads mentioned above. In 2017, Netflix ranked No.1 in Google Play Store, as well as by overall revenue, while Tinder had the leadership position in App Store. See below.

most profitable applications

Turning our focus to the channels of revenue generation, video ads take the leadership position with 36% of total non-gaming ad revenues. If you want to make a profitable app, it’s also a good idea to consider display ads and in-app purchases in your monetization strategy.

distribution of worldwide mobile application revenues


As of the beginning of 2018, the total number of mobile users worldwide was 3.8.billion, and it’s expected to reach 4.68 billion in 2019.

On average, a US adult (age 18+) spends about 2.5 hours in mobile applications and, if to believe information report provides, looks at smartphones’ screens approximately 47 times a day. Most of the mobile app usage time is spent on such market segments as social networking and music applications. Here’s how the distribution of time looks:


Out of all social media available today, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat have the greatest market share. US mobile users spend in them about 45-58 minutes a day.

Mobile industry overview also shows that Millennials (18-34 age group) constitute a notable part of all mobile users today setting most of the trends. According to ComScore, the list of top must-have apps according to Millennials looks as follows:

  • Amazon
  • Gmail
  • Facebook
  • Messenger
  • YouTube
  • Google Maps
  • Google Search
  • Apple App Store
  • WhatsApp
  • Instagram

An interesting fact is that about 80% of total mobile usage time users spend in their personal top three apps. Hence, if you plan to offer your mobile application to consumers, be prepared to compete not only with similar products but also with such key players on the market as Facebook, Netflix, Tinder, WhatsApp.

Market trends

mobile phone, virtual reality

We also want to outline a few trends that would be useful for anyone who wants to enter the mobile development market.

  • Security is becoming users’ No.1 concern. The amount of personal data that users have to give access to is constantly growing, so the requirements to application security on the market also become more and more strict. For this reason, if you want your app to be popular, pay special attention to inbuilt security features.
  • GPS is becoming a must-have functionality for most apps. In the modern fast-paced world, users appreciate the opportunity to receive real-time information at the moment they need it. Therefore, the interest in location-based services is growing and the niche has a great potential.
  • VR and AR continue winning users’ hearts. Gone are the days, when only the gaming industry exploited virtual reality and augmented reality. Today, the level of users’ expectations is indeed higher than ever before, so they want to take advantage of new technologies whenever possible. As an example, Ikea developed an app that allows customers to place more 3D furniture items in their rooms with the help of a mobile phone camera. In spring 2018, it was the most popular non-gaming app that is built only on ARKit 2.
  • Demand for personalization is growing. Time is money, so the more time your app will save for users, the more they will love it. That’s why, if you want to keep up with the mobile development trends, we recommend you to implement artificial intelligence in your product. This will allow you to provide users with the content specifically tailored to their needs and interests.

If you need more information on how to build a profitable app, read our article covering this topic.

When it comes to mobile apps, the execution is as important as the idea, because no one will use an application that doesn’t work.

Looking for a team to develop your mobile app? We can help!

Final thoughts

In this article, we outlined only the most critical aspects of the current mobile development market — just to give you some insights about the situation in general. If you have a specific app idea in mind, you’ll, of course, have to research much more data about existing products, competitors, target audience and their pain points, as well as do a deeper analysis of the mobile app market. Having all the necessary information will allow you to avoid a lot of difficulties during application development,  build a product that will meet users’ expectation and complement the list of top mobile applications.

Ivanna is a Content Marketing Manager of GBKSOFT passionate about tech advancements, marketing, and startups. Her dream is to make the virtual world a better place with the help of a written word.

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