Sensor Tower: iOS Users Spent $3.6 Billion on Top 100 Subscription Apps of 2019, Up 16% Year-on-Year

U.S. App Store customers spent $3.6 billion on the top 100 subscription apps of 2019, up 16 percent from the $3.1 billion spent in 2018, according to the latest report from Sensor Tower. The total spent on subscription apps was 24 percent of the $15.3 billion that the store generated from user spending overall last year.

Owing to its ad-free premium service, YouTube was the top subscription app on the U.S. ‌App Store‌, followed by dating app Tinder. During 2019, YouTube crossed the $1 billion milestone through in-app user spending alone.

annual spending top 100 united states subscription apps by platform sensor tower
On Google Play in the U.S. in 2019, users spent more than $1.1 billion in the top 100 grossing subscription apps on the platform, up 42 percent year-over-year from the $775 million spent in 2018. However, the ‌App Store‌ still leads in consumer spending, with $3.6 billion versus Google Play's $1.1 billion, according to the report.

Across both the Apple ‌App Store‌ and Google Play, U.S. subscription app revenue reach over $4.6 billion in 2019, up 21 percent from the $3.8 billion generated by the top 100 subscription apps last year. The subscription revenue accrued by these apps is said to have accounted for 19 percent of the total $24 billion in U.S. consumer spend in 2019.

According to Sensor Tower, the top 10 subscription apps on iOS and Android devices grew by 10 percent in 2019, but the No. 11 to No. 100 apps grew by 35 percent in the same period of time, indicating that the subscription model is also helping the less popular apps earn more recurring revenue.

Despite their growth, subscription-based apps tend to divide the user community. Apple began incentivizing developers to sell their apps for a recurring fee instead of a one-time cost when it made changes to its ‌App Store‌ subscription policies in 2016. Usually, Apple takes 30 percent of app revenue, but developers who are able to maintain a subscription with a customer longer than a year see Apple's cut drop down to 15 percent.

In late 2017, Apple began letting developers offer discounted introductory pricing and time-limited free trials on auto-renewable app subscriptions, based on the idea that subscriptions provide a higher likelihood of an engaged audience.

Top Rated Comments

An-apple-a-day Avatar
40 months ago
I will never, ever buy an iOS or Mac app on a subscription basis. No exceptions. Apps must be purchased at a fair, one-time price, or be free, or I won't use them. I expect to have a perpetual license to use my purchased version and get minor updates at no cost, and then I can choose to pay for major upgrades if I need the new feature set and/or compatibility those bring to the table. The app developers will continue to receive funding for ongoing support and development over time, to the extent their major updates remain relevant and compelling.

However, with iOS apps and Mac apps purchased from the App Store, that means developers must offer separate "upgrade" apps over time, which is inelegant and justifiably unpopular with many users. I believe that's still far better than a subscription model, though. With a subscription model, developers are paid for users' sustained app usage regardless of whether their app updates prove to be relevant and compelling. Then, of course, there's the basic issue of having to endure yet another recurring payment obligation... and another... and another....

For institutions using vertical market applications and/or needing comprehensive support options, I can see the subscription model being [possibly] appropriate. But for most individuals I don't think it makes sense at all.

On a similar note, I will never, ever rent my music on a subscription basis.

The subscription thing is one of my most hated Apple strategies ever. I'd much rather have the ability to purchase "app upgrades" for major new versions from the iOS and Mac App Stores (as opposed to having developers release entirely "new" apps to recoup their development and support costs). Free trials from the App Stores would be good too (but maybe that feature already exists?).
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Scottsoapbox Avatar
40 months ago
See, gambling-based psychological tactics to get people to spend more money work!
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
terrapinjess Avatar
40 months ago
So, people are spending more money on subscriptions? Yeah isn’t that because ...... everything is a subscription now? ?‍♂️
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
4jasontv Avatar
40 months ago

Youtube Premium ftw. Best $15 sub by far imo. I can see why it's the top sub on the App Store.

Agreed, I may never watch YouTube without it again. Although, I’d rather pay $5 for Premium if I could drop the music portion. I know they are hoping it keeps me in their music service, but I suspect if I have to cancel one I’d keep Apple Music and stop using YouTube.
Score: 2 Votes (Like | Disagree)
Juicy Box Avatar
40 months ago
I have noticed a lot of apps that used to have an upfront one-time price now going to the subscription model.

I see the appeal for developers, but in most cases, I don't see any benefit for the consumer, except maybe longer app support.
Score: 1 Votes (Like | Disagree)

Popular Stories

Apple Silicon Teal Feature

The Next Big Apple Silicon Device May Not Be a Mac or iPad

Wednesday February 1, 2023 3:57 am PST by
Apple's next device with an Apple silicon chip may not be a Mac or an iPad, but rather an advanced external display, according to recent reports. The display, which is rumored to arrive this year, is expected to sit somewhere between the $1,599 Studio Display and the $4,999 Pro Display XDR – but more exact information about the device's positioning and price point is as yet unknown. While ...
General iOS 16 Feature Yellow

Five New iOS Features Coming to Your iPhone Later This Year

Tuesday January 31, 2023 11:58 am PST by
Apple has previously announced several upcoming iOS features that are expected to be added to the iPhone this year. Some of the features could be introduced with iOS 16.4, which should enter beta testing soon, while others will arrive later in the year. Below, we have recapped five new iOS features that are expected to launch in 2023, such as an Apple Pay Later financing option for purchases ...
HomePod 2 White and Midnight Feature Purple Blue

Apple Explains Why HomePod Was Released Again, Wi-Fi 4 Limitation, and More

Thursday February 2, 2023 7:57 am PST by
Apple's VP of hardware engineering Matthew Costello and product marketing employee Alice Chan recently spoke with Men's Journal and TechCrunch about the new second-generation HomePod in wide-ranging interviews about the smart speaker. Apple discontinued the original full-size HomePod in March 2021 after multiple reports indicated that sales of the speaker were lackluster, but Chan told Men's ...
iOS 16

Apple Preparing iOS 16.3.1 Update for iPhone as Wait for iOS 16.4 Beta Continues

Thursday February 2, 2023 6:41 am PST by
Apple appears to be preparing an iOS 16.3.1 update for the iPhone, based on evidence of the software in our website's analytics logs this week. It's unclear when the update will be released, but it will likely be available at some point in February. The same logs have accurately foreshadowed the release of several previous updates, including iOS 16.0.3 and iOS 16.1.1 most recently, so they...
dewey airtag

Report Highlights Danger of Using AirTags for Tracking Dogs

Monday January 30, 2023 1:45 pm PST by
AirTags may be a convenient way for tracking dogs that might get off leash or otherwise lost, but there are dangers associated with the practice, as outlined by a report from The Wall Street Journal. At 1.26 inches in diameter, AirTags are able to fit easily on a dog's collar, but that size also makes the tracking devices small enough to swallow, at least for a medium to large-sized dog, and ...
MKBHD HomePod 2 White Ring Stain

New HomePod Can Still Stain Some Wooden Surfaces

Tuesday January 31, 2023 8:29 am PST by
When the original HomePod launched in 2018, it was discovered that the speaker can leave white rings on some wooden surfaces. Now, well-known YouTuber Marques Brownlee has confirmed that the issue persists to a lesser extent with the new HomePod. In a side-by-side test, he showed that the white second-generation HomePod left a white ring on the wooden surface that he placed the speaker on,...
Multi Display CarPlay 1

Apple Launching All-New CarPlay Experience Later This Year With These 5 Features

Sunday January 29, 2023 10:15 am PST by
In June 2022, Apple previewed the next generation of CarPlay, promising deeper integration with vehicle functions like A/C and FM radio, support for multiple displays across the dashboard, personalization options, and more. Apple says the first vehicles with support for the next-generation CarPlay experience will be announced in late 2023, with committed automakers including Acura, Audi,...
iOS 16

When Will the iOS 16.4 Beta Be Released?

Wednesday February 1, 2023 11:09 am PST by
It's been more than a week since Apple released the iOS 16.3 update, and typically, new iOS betas follow launches within a day or so. We were expecting Apple to provide the first beta iOS 16.4 on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday of this week, but that hasn't happened. Tuesdays are the days that we most often see betas, though Monday and Wednesday happen now and then, and most often betas come...