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Signal Sees 30% Boost in Downloads as U.S. WeChat Ban Looms

Sensor Tower data shows Signal's installs jumped 30% in the six days after the U.S. government announced it would ban WeChat.

Signal has emerged as the leading WeChat alternative in the U.S.

Following the United States government's August 6 executive order calling for a ban of Tencent's WeChat from the country's app stores, our data shows that consumers have been experimenting with potential replacements. Signal has emerged as the leading alternative, Sensor Tower Store Intelligence estimates reveal, with its U.S. installs growing 30 percent in the six days following the executive order compared to the six days prior.

In the time since the announcement of WeChat's impending ban, Signal saw 65,000 installs in the U.S., up from 50,000 in the six days before. This amounted to approximately 10,800 daily installs of the app in the period after the executive order, compared to about 8,300 in the preceding period.

Signal isn't the only alternative to WeChat that experienced a boost in adoption following the White House's announcement. Tencent's QQ saw its installs grow more than threefold in the six days after the executive order to 15,000 installs, as compared to about 5,000 in the prior period. Most of Signal's users are in the U.S., where it saw 1.6 million installs in the first half of this year. It has a much smaller user base in China than QQ, reaching 76,000 installs there in 1H20.

Signal's installs grew 30% in the six days following the August 6 executive order

QQ's popularity in China might make it a natural choice for consumers in the U.S. who are looking to communicate with users there. However, it's also developed by Tencent and, depending on how or if the U.S. government's directive is carried out, could potentially be affected in the future along with other businesses and apps in Tencent's portfolio. This uncertainty around its future may be the reason why its daily installs have since returned to near their levels prior to the order's announcement, after an initial spike in downloads.

Signal has generated approximately 8.8 million installs across the U.S. App Store and Google Play since its release. QQ has seen about 3.3 million installs in the U.S. since the beginning of our combined iOS and Android estimates in January 2014.

WeChat's Users Outside of China

WeChat reached approximately 764,000 installs from across the U.S. App Store and Google Play in the first half of 2020. This figure represents a little more than 2 percent of the app's approximate 32 million downloads globally, excluding third-party Android marketplaces in China. However, U.S. consumers spend the most on in-app purchases in WeChat outside of China, generating about $120,000 or nearly 6 percent of the app's $2 million global gross revenue from IAP in 1H20.

WeChat was banned in India on June 29, but before its removal the app saw about 697,000 installs in the first half of 2020 from India's App Store and Google Play.

Countdown to September 15

Since the U.S. government announced its intention to ban TikTok from app stores, a raft of video-sharing apps including Triller, Byte, Dubsmash, and Zynn has emerged as potential alternatives. As we approach the White House's September 15 deadline for ByteDance and Tencent, it's possible that we'll see additional WeChat replacements come to the fore from app makers hurrying to fill a potential void.

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Stephanie Chan

Written by: Stephanie Chan, Mobile Insights Strategist

Date: August 2020