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Global Consumer Spending in Top 100 Subscription Apps Climbed 41% to $18.3 Billion in 2021

Sensor Tower data reveals that the top 100 subscription apps worldwide earned $18.3 billion in revenue, up 41% from $13 billion in 2020.

Subscription IAP Revenue 2021

Worldwide consumer expenditure in mobile apps reached new highs yet again in 2021, and Sensor Tower Store Intelligence data reveals that mobile users are spending more than ever in subscription apps. The top 100 non-game subscription-based apps saw their revenue grow 41 percent year-over-year from $13 billion to $18.3 billion globally. This was 7 percentage points greater than in 2020, when spending in these apps climbed 34 percent Y/Y from $9.7 billion in 2019.

Subscriptions Continue Growing Their Share of Consumer Spending

Revenue from the top 100 earning non-game subscription apps represented about 14 percent of the $131.6 billion that consumers spent on in-app purchases last year in both non-game apps and mobile games. This was up from when the cohort represented about 11.7 percent of total spending in 2020. In Q4 2021, 86 of the top 100 earning non-game apps worldwide offered subscriptions, down slightly from 87 in Q4 2020 and 89 in Q4 2019.


The growth of subscription app revenue in the United States mirrored the global trend as its consumers spent $8.5 billion in the top 100 non-game mobile apps offering subscriptions in 2021. This was up 44 percent percent year-over-year from $5.9 billion in 2020, which had grown 28 percent Y/Y from $4.6 billion in 2019.

U.S. consumers spent $40.7 billion on in-app purchases in 2021, about 21 percent of which were in the top subscription apps. This was up more than 3 percentage points from 2020 when the top subscription apps generated $5.9 billion or about 17.9 percent of the $33 billion overall spend. 

In Q4 2021, 90 out of the top 100 earning apps in the U.S. included subscriptions. This was down slightly  from 91 in Q4 2020 and 93 in Q4 2019.


Top Subscription Apps See More Than Twice the Spending on the App Store 

As in previous years, consumers spent more on subscription-based apps downloads from the App Store than on Google Play. The top 100 non-game subscription apps on the App Store generated $13.5 billion in 2021, up 31 percent Y/Y from $10.3 billion. Worldwide consumers spent $4.8 billion on the top 100 subscription apps on Google’s marketplace, up 78 percent from $2.7 billion in 2020. While the top subscription apps on Google Play experienced more growth, the top apps on the App Store saw nearly three times as much spending last year.

Consumer spending in the U.S. saw a similar breakdown, with the top 100 subscription apps generating $6 billion on the App Store, up 33 percent Y/Y from $4.5 billion. The cohort saw approximately $2.5 billion in consumer spending on Google Play, up 79 percent from $1.4 billion in 2020.


Alphabet remains the perennial chart-topper globally as well as in the U.S. YouTube generated $1.2 billion worldwide and $566.5 million in the U.S., while Google One saw $1.1 billion worldwide and $698 million in the U.S. in 2021.


Subscriptions See Renewals In Their Future

Subscription video on demand (SVOD) platforms such as Disney+ and HBO Max have seen adoption continue to climb as consumers are now accustomed to tuning into streaming for premium content such as blockbuster releases. Social media giants such as Twitter, TikTok and Instagram are now also rolling out that subscription payment model. As platforms experiment with subscriptions as a way to entice content creators as well as retain their audiences, the number of top apps incorporating the subscription model will likely continue to grow in the months and quarters to come.

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Stephanie Chan

Written by: Stephanie Chan, Mobile Insights Strategist

Date: February 2022