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We’re all stuck at home and – admit it, you too – spending more time on our mobile handsets than we did previously. Consumers in North America spent $23bn on app downloads in the first quarter of the year – a new record. The figure for Q2 will almost certainly be higher. The more interesting consideration is what apps are we using most. Similarly, some apps will clearly have fallen by the wayside, given that the pandemic is clearly changing how we behave. 

Video chat and online shopping are in while real estate and anything travel or leisure related are markedly out. Begin with video conferencing. Perhaps it’s no surprise that this category tops the tables given the sheer number of people both working from home and unable to socialise with their friends. Apps in this category enjoyed an over 600% increase in downloads in Q1 and a 120%+ rise in daily active users. Take Zoom as a case in point: its worldwide user base expanded by more than 300% in just under a month.

While there is still some clear novelty in video conferencing, most social media networks already had large user bases prior to the pandemic. The more useful metric for success here would be usage. Pre-crisis, social media channels such as Instagram and Facebook accounted for ~20% of mobile app usage. By mid-March, this figure had reached 25%. Over the period tracked, daily active users rose by more than 125m on Instagram and close to 200m on Facebook (your author users the former but not the latter). Not every app can, of course, boast of such meteoric popularity. Why consider a holiday or even moving house at present? Take Airbnb. Bookings in major cities such as New York or San Francisco had already dropped by over 50% by the end of Q1 relative to the beginning. They have almost certainly fallen further since. Meanwhile Zillow, a leading US real estate business, saw close to a 25% decline in downloads in March. It may be quite some time until these trends fall into reverse. 

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