App search accounted for 59% of App Store downloads last year

Anne Freer | March 22, 2021

App Business

The pandemic hasn’t just affected how many apps we download and use but also how we search and find new apps.

According to new research from SensorTower, app search accounted for 59% of App Store downloads globally in 2020.

This makes search the largest source of downloads between 2018 and 2020. But app referrals caught up in 2019.

COVID-19 led to a record download of video conferencing, entertainment and health and fitness apps.

The research shows that many consumers found these apps based on brand searches.

App referrals were the second largest source for downloads in 2020 at 20% followed by browsing (12%).

Search was particularly valuable for non-game apps, accounting for 70% of installs last year, up 7 points from 2019.

Meanwhile, app referrals are growing as a source for mobile game installs. In 2020, app referrals were the largest source for mobile game downloads at 38%, up from 31% in 2019.

Given the app search for mobile games has been in decline over the last three years, a higher number of games could be installed through referrals in the future.

It shows that mobile and in-app ads are working for game developers, whereas search performs better for non-gaming apps.

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