The amount users spent on iPhone apps in the U.S. rose 23 percent last year

iPhone X Product (RED) Leather Folio
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

Wondering where all the money in your bank account is going? As per a new report from app store intelligence firm, Sensor Tower, the answer may be your iPhone apps. The company found that in 2017, U.S. iPhone owners spent nearly a quarter more money on in-app purchases than they did in 2016. The average user, in fact, spent $58 on in-app purchases — up 23 percent from $47 in 2016. Sure, that’s not a staggering amount, but it is about a dozen lattes in Starbucks currency.

This figure only represents the amount spent on purchases within an app using either Apple’s in-app purchase or subscription tools. This doesn’t include purchases made as a function of an app itself — for example, the $58 is not inclusive of the amount that you spend on Lyft or Uber rides, or your eBay bids. Rather, these are in-app purchases for say, Pokémon Go or other games.

Indeed, games represented the largest category of spending last year, making up over 60 percent of average spending. At $36 of the overall $58 spent per device, that’s a 13-percent jump when compared to last year’s $32 spent on gaming. That’s not particularly surprising given that gaming is generally the biggest revenue generator for the App Store as a whole.

Not only are iPhone users willing to pay to download these apps, but they’re also quite committed to continuously purchasing virtual goods, unlocking levels, buying in-app currencies, and other features. And given that most people play these games for extended periods of time, there’s plenty of opportunity for game developers to make a pretty penny.

More interesting, however, is the fact that entertainment apps have grown 57 percent year over year to represent $4.40 in spending per device, making it the largest category aside from games. These apps include streaming services like Netflix, Hulu, and HBO Now. And it’s not just visual entertainment — music also went up 8 percent between 2016 and 2017 to $4.10 in average spend. Most of this can be attributed to folks paying for premium subscriptions of, say, Pandora or Spotify. When music and entertainment are combined, it becomes clear that streaming services comprise a large proportion of in-app spending.

Also popular were dating apps, including Bumble and Tinder, which as a category grew 110 percent year over year and hit $2.10 in spending.

Curiously enough, while in-app spending on iPhone apps went up last year, it seems that Android spending on Google Play did not follow the same trend.

“We estimate that for each active Android device in the U.S. last year, approximately $38 was spent on Google Play – on and in apps – so about $20 less than iOS,” Sensor Tower’s head of mobile insights, Randy Nelson, told TechCrunch. “That tracks with the disparity in revenue generation we see between the stores outside the per-device level,” he added. “Android users generally spend less on or in apps, Google Play generated about 60 percent of the App Store’s revenue last year in the U.S.”

Also worth noting is that folks generally seemed more inclined not only to spend money on apps, but generally to install them. Sensor Tower found that iPhone app installs increased 10 percent — users installed around four more apps in 2017 when compared to 2016. And if you’re wondering how you stack up to the average iPhone owner when it comes to how cluttered your mobile device is, here’s some trivia for you. In total, the average iPhone user had 45 apps on their phone in 2017.


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