More than a decade ago, India had a negligible share of smartphone and internet users, but things have taken a massive turnaround with the onset of cheaper internet. While countries like the USA and the UK have seen steady growth in terms of mobile users, that has not been the case with India. A sudden internet revolution and an extraordinary demographic division make India a fascinating case, and the State Of Mobile 2022 report by Data.ai perfectly summarizes it.
The incredible growth in the Indian smartphone market presents users with many more options to choose from than they had a few years ago. You can find fantastic value smartphones for as cheap as ₹5,000 to flagship devices for as high as ₹2,00,000, covering essentially every economic group in the country. Moreover, the affordable internet clubbed with better value smartphones attracts numerous individuals to join the internet.
Let us look at some fascinating trends from the State Of Mobile 2022 report in detail and find out what Indians loved in the year 2021.
How much did Indians use their smartphones?
Indians loved spending time on their smartphones in 2021, according to the State Of Mobile report. India ranked second in the cumulative time spent on smartphones, with total usage reaching around 700 billion hours in 2021. The Chinese were the only ones that spent more time than Indians on their smartphones, and they beat us by a considerable factor. China’s cumulative smartphone usage was around 1.12 trillion hours, approximately 60% more than India.
Next up, the average smartphone usage proves our smartphones are our best friends. Indian users spent an average of 4 hours and 42 minutes on their smartphones daily. Being slightly short of the global average of 4 hours and 48 minutes, India still stands high amongst other nations at number five in daily smartphone usage.
Which apps did Indians use in 2021?
Now that we have seen our affinity to our smartphones let’s look at some trends that show what apps and services Indians liked in 2021. Indians downloaded a whopping 26.69 billion apps from the Apple App Store and Play Store combined and ranked just below China in the total app downloads category.
Being a leading market for smartphones and web-based services, the total download numbers in India portray optimism about the growth in India’s tech sector. India has shown some serious growth in download numbers with each passing year, with this figure increasing from 24 billion in 2020 to 26.9 billion in 2021.
2021 was also the year when people solidified the smartphone-related habits that they formed during the first few months of the pandemic.
App trends in India from 2021
As many as 2 million new apps got launched in 2021, and the Google Play Store accounted for more than 77% of this number. iOS also saw some fantastic app launches, but the number was nowhere close to Android. Games contributed to about 15% of all new releases irrespective of the platform. With this addition of apps in 2021, the Play Store now holds a library of 14.95 million titles, and the iOS holds around 6.39 million apps.
Seeing such tremendous growth in app download numbers, one must be curious to know which apps saw the most downloads and which categories stayed on the top. Let us look at some of the most popular app categories and the apps that dominated their segments:
India’s mobile gaming industry has shown splendid growth as more and more devices come into the ecosystem. This year, Indians showed great interest in hyper-casual games and downloaded them 4 billion times, making it the country’s most popular category of games. Hyper-casual games are lightweight games that don’t focus much on building real-life graphics but instead focus more on creating fascinating on-the-go gameplay.
Games like Ludo King and Garena: Free Fire dominated the market with the highest rankings in 2021, while games like Call of Duty Mobile have seen the highest consumer spending. Ludo King and PUBG: Mobile still hold the crown for most active users, but Garena: Free Fire climbed up the charts quickly.
Here is the list of games that topped the charts for the best year on year (Y0Y) growth as per a Data.ai report:
- Bridge Race
- Legends Squad 3D
- Hair Challenge
- High Heels
India had a massive share of people that wanted to invest their money but didn’t want to go through the hassle of getting the documentation right, opening Demat accounts, finding a trusted broker, and filing physical forms to buy or sell shares. The onset of financial apps was the perfect marriage between a community that wanted more accessible investment and tech startups that wanted to make the process easier.
Showing phenomenal growth figures, Finance apps downloads surpassed the 1 billion mark in 2021. You can get a picture of India’s love for finance apps by looking at the cumulative download numbers; the worldwide financial app downloads stand at 5.9B, and India single-handedly contributes to 1.128B of this number.
While the entire finance app segment has shown a phenomenal 28% YoY increase, apps like YONO SBI have even surpassed the industry standards at a more than 30% YOY increase. YONO SBI enjoyed an average of 53.78 million monthly users, and their lite version added another 18.80 million monthly users to the figure.
2021 was also the year of the crypto boom in India, and WazirX rode this wave showing the highest YoY increase in average sessions per user per year. The crypto exchange saw a whopping 160.9 sessions per user per year and stood second worldwide.
Here are the top finance apps in India that showed the best year on year growth:
- Bajaj Finserv
- Upstox Pro
- CoinDCX Investment
Online Shopping Apps
The pandemic and lockdown restriction made online shopping a common phenomenon around the globe, and India also witnessed a rise in retail app usage. The factor that makes India different from the west is that Indians had a huge population that hadn’t tried online shopping, but the pandemic forced numerous Indians to try out these applications. Indians spent around 7.57 billion hours on retail apps in 2021, ordering everything from clothes, electronics, groceries, utilities, and more.
Here are the top retail apps that showed the best year on year growth in 2021:
- AJIO shopping
Indians and their affinity towards entertainment is no secret; Bollywood and its immense following is a classic example of this. Although streaming apps were gaining popularity before 2020, it was only in the pandemic when they got to see some fantastic growth figures. Indians spent 52% more time on video streaming platforms and stood 3rd in the world after Indonesia and Japan.
The content-hungry audience and lockdown restrictions made the perfect ground for streaming apps to flourish and penetrate to an even more significant population. Netflix was amongst the most popular streaming apps in the Indian market due to its vast library of movies and shows from around the globe.
Now that the pandemic restrictions have lifted, streaming apps need to go the extra mile to secure these growth figures in the year to come. Creating India-exclusive content and strategically timing releases that line with Indian holidays can help boost those numbers. Another interesting fact about the Indian market is that a vast majority of Indians use their phones to stream videos. Opting for a mobile-centered strategy and launching cheaper plans for mobile users can surely pump those figures.
Here are the most downloaded streaming apps in 2021:
- Disney+ Hotstar
- MX Player
Social Media Apps
Social Media apps were among India’s most popular app segments in 2021. WhatsApp dominated the Indian market and saw a whopping 19.8 hours spent per month per user. Facebook, Instagram, Telegram, and Facebook Messenger followed WhatsApp in the monthly time spent on these apps.
The TikTok ban was a major gamechanger for the market as the short video enjoyed immense popularity in the Indian market before being exiled from the country. The ban created a void for the next big social media app, and Meta properties like Instagram and Facebook were its biggest beneficiaries with 35% and 15% increased engagement, respectively.
Despite the ban in Indian markets, TikTok witnessed some fantastic growth figures at 47% increased engagement. Before the ban, India was one of the biggest markets for TikTok, and it could have even better growth numbers if it could operate in India.
Here are the most downloaded social media apps in 2021:
- MX Takatak
Business and Job-seeking Apps
India is witnessing a wave of new businesses and startups, and WhatsApp Business was amongst the most popular business apps in the Indian market. Other than that, the pandemic has also forced Indians to look for new jobs, and job portals have seen an immense increase in their traffic. India is also expanding in the digital payment space, and digital payment companies like BharatPe and PhonePe are trying their best to penetrate into small towns and add more businesses to the ecosystem.
Here are the most downloaded business apps in 2021:
- WhatsApp Business
- PhonePe for Business
- Kormo Jobs
Dating apps became incredibly popular worldwide and saw a 95% increase in money spent compared to 2018, but India didn’t follow this trend. In fact, India saw a 27% decline in money spent on Dating Apps from 2020. An increasing number of scam dating apps and dating frauds can explain this decline in expenditure.
These were the most downloaded dating apps in 2021:
Indian government’s Aarogya Setu app was India’s most used COVID tracing app and the 7th most used globally. Aarogya Setu found its way on around 30% of all Android phones in India and had a 46% open rate i.e. 46% of the people who downloaded it actually opened the application. The app surpassed 100 million downloads in 2021 since its launch in April 2020.
Insights by Indus App Bazaar
At Indus OS, we also study the popular usage trends on the Indus App Bazaar, and that reveals the usage patterns of our users. Based on the data from 2021, we learned that Finance was the most popular category for apps on the Samsung Galaxy Store powered by the Indus App Bazaar contributing to 18.2% of the total downloads. The second-most popular category was that of games, amassing 15.3% download in the App Bazaar. Meanwhile, Communication apps accrued 2.2% of the downloads while Business apps made up for 1.1% of the total downloads on the Indus App Bazaar.
The five most downloaded apps in the Indus App Bazaar were:
- MX Takatak
The State of Mobile 2022 report gives us an insight into the trends that Indians followed and their interests. Social media, gaming, finance, and job-seeking apps saw phenomenal growth in 2021 and kept Indians hooked to their smartphones. Streaming apps were also a significant reason that pushed India’s cumulative time spent to 700 billion hours. India didn’t follow the global trend of spending more on dating apps, and those numbers declined in 2021.
The pandemic had a massive influence on 2021’s data, but it will be interesting to see how each of these sectors will perform in the post-pandemic era.
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