Researchers at Sensor Tower now say that the growth of data used by mobile app downloads has skyrocketed in the wake of COVID-19. In fact, compared to the three-year average for first quarter usage, the figure has climbed by 52-percent.
Interestingly, this isn't the amount of data utilized for running the applications either. The researchers took the measurement from first-time installs of the top 250 mobile apps worldwide. That means that the massive increase in data usage only applies to that used for top apps and only for some installations. That increase also can't be linked to an increase in overall file size of the apps, Sensor Tower says.
Moreover, the figures here don't include apps downloaded from APK mirrors or secondary app stores. Sensor Tower only used the primary app markets for the analysis. It didn't factor in re-installations, updates, and installations of apps to more than one device associated with the same Apple ID or Google account either.
In Q1 2020, the standard three-year average came in at 391 petabytes of data. With a growth rate of 34-percent year-over-year from 2019, that's risen to 596 petabytes in the first quarter of 2019. The figure grew just under 28.45-percent compared to 2018's numbers.
What is driving the app-install data growth?
As noted above, Sensor Tower attributes the rampant growth of app data from installs to COVID-19. In total, the combined growth of Apple's app market and the Google Play Store equates to approximately 33.6 billion installs in the first quarter of 2020. That is, the researchers say, a growth of 20.3 percent from last year due to COVID-19-fueled app adoption.
That's not at all surprising either. Governments, both national and local, rapidly implemented sheltering and stay-at-home orders globally in near-lockstep with the rise in cases. While some companies such as Google, were also quick to implement work-from-home policies, not all of them have.
The result of that is a lot of free time for mobile users around the world. With nearly 3-million apps available on the Google Play Store alone, the circumstances have been perfect for an increase in app exploration. That's setting aside the drive for users to explore new categories in terms of the top apps available.
Conversely, some app categories have undoubtedly fared better than others. Top video calling and group meeting apps, in particular, have surged as users vie to adhere to social distancing guidelines.
Simultaneously, users have almost certainly been downloading new apps to enable work tasks to be completed from home.
Other possible factors to consider
In addition to Sensor Tower's research, it's also not unlikely that users are looking for new ways to fill their time in light of slow-downs in apps they'd typically use for entertainment. Namely, apps like YouTube, Netflix, and others have cut streaming quality. That's been done in a bid to keep network traffic manageable as well as to reduce strain on networks.
As the quality of the entertainment experience in some apps has dropped, mobile users are undoubtedly looking to fill their time with new applications.