27 May 2024 11:42

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Mobile App Market Forecast 2030: Consumers Will Spend More Than $2T in Apps Between 2021-2030

New industry forecast projects that mobile consumers are set to spend 58 trillion hours using apps over the decade.

The app economy is just over 15 years old. In 2008, Apple CEO Steve Jobs — speaking of the iOS App Store — told the Wall Street Journal, “Who knows? Maybe it’ll be a billion-dollar marketplace at some point in time.” Now we can confirm that said economy (including, of course, revenue from Google Play) is set to generate $2.2 trillion over the decade between 2021 and 2030. This is the headline finding of data.ai’s Mobile App Market Forecast 2030.

The report reveals that in-app spending through the app stores will grow 267% over the 2021-2030 decade compared to the prior 10 years, with $288 billion set to be spent in 2030 alone. Accordingly, downloads will grow too. Consumers are set to download nearly 2.9 trillion new apps and games between 2021 and 2030. That’s up 123% from the decade prior.

This will all add up to even more attention being directed to mobile devices. Our forecast says hours spent on mobile will surpass 58 trillion over the decade, or an average of nearly 16 billion hours each day.

It’s a truly remarkable performance – and a testament to the enduring pull of the app as an entertainment and utility platform. And don’t forget the $2.2 trillion revenue haul only reflects direct spending. It doesn’t account for the vast sums earned by in-app advertising (which hit $362 billion in 2023 alone.)

The positive forecast shows how robustly the app economy has shaken off its only “blip” in 15 years. That came last year thanks to a combination of global inflation, shrinking disposable income, privacy changes and a pandemic market correction. These headwinds caused a 2% decline in direct spend.

As we now know, the contraction didn’t last. In 2023, apps pulled in a record $171 billion in consumer dollars.

“Mobile continues to weather the storm,” says Lexi Sydrow, Corporate Marketing Director at Sensor Tower. “Mobile is creating the wave of consumer transformation and by 2030, will unlock trillions in economic value.”

So what more does the Mobile App Market Forecast 2030 tell us? Here are some highlights.

Apps Are Set to Earn More Than Games

For all of app history, it was the games sector that pulled in the big bucks. Gamers are passionate – and they are willing to pay to enjoy their hobby. What’s more, publishers became especially effective at incentivizing players to spend via models such as in-game events, customizing avatars and leaderboards.

However, thanks in part to the sheer scale of downloads, apps are set to outpace games in consumer spend. By 2030, we estimate annual spend in apps will be 50.3% of the market, up from 37% in 2023.

Spend on OTT and Short Video Apps Will Double

The global surge in mobile device ownership and the affordability of data has driven demand for Short Video apps. In our report, we forecast that global spending on Entertainment category apps such as OTT and Short Videos will make up 18% of annual consumer spend in 2030. This is driven by 120% growth between 2023 and 2030.

There’s anecdotal evidence for this everywhere. For example, in 2023 we reported that the video streaming app iQIYI surpassed $3 billion in global player spending. The milestone made the app part of an exclusive $3 billion club alongside Max, Tencent Video and Disney+.

In terms of user hours spent, even these giants can’t compete with app unicorns such as TikTok, YouTube and Instagram. We expect Social and Entertainment apps, including this trio, to (collectively) surpass 4.8 trillion hours in 2030, which is more than total time spent in all apps for 2022.

Developing Markets’ Consumers Will Drive the Fastest Growth

Perhaps unsurprisingly, app users in developing markets are expected to contribute the most dramatic rises in spend, attention and downloads. Mature market consumers will spend the most (the United States, China, Japan and Korea will make up two-thirds of consumer spend in 2030), but growth will come from other regions, with Central America, South America and Africa registering 12.0%, 10.9% and 10.8% seven-year compound annual growth rates, respectively.

The 2030 forecast is based on an analysis of more than 1.2 million apps categorized under data.ai’s industry-first Game IQ and App IQ taxonomy and our applied ai-driven market data.

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