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Charted: India’s love for smartphone apps is not an obsession anymore, it’s a mania

People take photos with their mobile phones as they participate in the "Howdy Modi" event in Houston
Reuters/Jonathan Ernst
Glued to the phone.
  • Ananya Bhattacharya
By Ananya Bhattacharya

Tech reporter

Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

India’s obsession with smartphone applications has shot up rapidly in recent years.

Between 2016 and 2019, there was a nearly 200% increase in app downloads in India, the highest in the world by a long shot. Globally, the growth was much smaller at 45%, according to data from analytics and market intelligence firm App Annie’s State of Mobile 2020 report released on Jan. 16.

App Annie
App downloads.

Indians lapped up apps across retail, video streaming, and social media, among other segments, the data showed.

Shopping fever

Between 2018 and 2019, the growth in time spent on shopping apps was the highest in India in comparison to most countries barring Indonesia, the report said.

App Annie
Retail apps growing.

India’s e-commerce sector has boomed over recent years. By 2020, e-commerce revenue in the country is expected to jump to $120 billion, from just $39 billion in 2017.

Seattle-based Amazon topped the chart of breakout apps, determined by absolute growth in downloads from 2018 to 2019 in India. Homegrown rival Flipkart and India’s largest digital payments app, Paytm, were next-in-line.

Entertainment, entertainment, entertainment

Globally, consumers spent 50% more sessions in entertainment apps in 2019 than in 2017, App Annie found. India posted the highest increment of nearly 80%.

The country’s love for streaming is no secret. In fact, over-the-top platforms are on track to dethrone television in the country. India is also lapping up music-streaming services and even podcasts.

“The ever-growing adoption of video-streaming apps on mobile devices to watch movies, TV shows, and live events on-demand helped bolster demand for entertainment apps,” the report noted.

App Annie
Entertainment apps are a hit.

“Competition in the video-streaming space will bolster better user experiences to drive growth in downloads, usage, and revenue, and ultimately lead to partnerships and consolidation to win the wallets of consumers long-term,” App Annie’s report noted.

India’s video-streaming space is especially heating up with not just global behemoths like Netflix and Amazon Prime Video but even homegrown platforms such as Hotstar and JioTV are also finding many customers.

Going local

Hyperlocal apps—social or services—made for India by India soared in popularity last year.

Vernacular-language networking site ShareChat grew four-fold between 2018 and 2019, App Annie’s data showed. The elections may have had a big hand since the Android-based “no English” app was where political battles were fought in 2019. Chief ministers of three Indian states, all governed by prime minister Narendra Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party, had ShareChat accounts. Rival party Indian National Congress jumped on the bandwagon, too.

App Annie
Hyperlocal’s the word.

Meanwhile, at-home services provider UrbanClap’s reach almost tripled.

India’s online services market, estimated at Rs440 crore ($62 million), according to a recent report by KPMG and Google. “Online hyperlocal services make one of the strongest cases (in the internet space) for differential pricing as several customer cohorts have a high willingness to pay for a premium service,” Bengaluru-based RedSeer noted in May 2019. “Thus the industry seems one of the best placed to drive revenue and eventually profitability growth in the future.”

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