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UK Mobile Device Apps market report

Everything you need to make the right decisions

Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the Mobile Device Apps market, and the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Mintel has the answers you’re looking for

What are the key challenges facing the industry? Who is the consumer and what do they want? Where are the opportunities, where are the risks and what lies ahead?

Covered in this report

This report covers apps designed to run on mobile devices (smartphones, tablets and smartwatches). Mobile apps are typically compatible with iOS, Android or Windows 10 Mobile. Market size discussion focuses on revenue estimates for Apple’s App Store and Google Play, which sell apps for smartphone, tablets and smartwatches. Whilst consumer research includes data for Windows and other operating systems, low sample sizes mean some analyses focus on only Android and iOS systems.

Other common definitions used in this report:

  • Augmented reality – Technology that superimposes a computer-generated image onto the image viewed through a device camera.
  • Artificial intelligence – Computer systems able to perform complex perception, recognition and decision-making tasks.
  • Digital assistant – Software that can perform tasks or services for the user, most commonly controlled by the voice.
  • Microtransaction – A low-priced online purchase. Some data in this Report is supplied by app analytics firm App Annie. All App Annie data is identified as such when quoted.

What you need to know

The UK mobile app market continues to grow at impressive rates, with Apple’s iOS App Store and the Google Play Store dominating revenues. Revenues are driven by free-to-download apps based on advertising, subscription models and in-app microtransactions for additional content. Even among younger demographics, most people are not regularly paying up front to download apps. While the Google Play Store receives far more downloads overall, primarily due to the prevalence of Android devices, the iOS Store produces far higher revenues. This reflects more engaged iPhone and iPad users more likely to pay for apps and additional content.

Overall app store revenues across iOS and Android are dominated by mobile games. The majority of gaming revenues come from free downloaded apps, such as Pokémon GO and Fortnite. Revenues are based on season passes and microtransactions, with users making multiple small payments for additional content. This is partly why men are more likely to make additional payments for mobile gaming apps, with women more likely to favour puzzle games, which have fewer opportunities for in-game payments.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

Written by Adrian Reynolds, a leading analyst in the Consumer Technology sector, his extensive knowledge delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

The mobile app market is continuing to expand, with the emphasis firmly on free downloads and subscription payments or microtransactions. Gaming dominates app revenues but there are strong opportunities for other sectors, with augmented reality developments in particular driving app innovations in social media and retail. While young people are regularly downloading new apps, they must provide unique functions over websites or risk being quickly deleted. Adrian Reynolds
Consumer Technology Analyst

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Table of contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
      • Products covered in this Report
      • Executive Summary

          • The market
            • Gaming revenue growth to continue
              • Other app categories closing the gap
                • Gaming the largest app category for purchasing
                  • Gaming revolutionised with cross-play and cross-progress
                    • Mobile an emerging eSport segment
                      • Messenger apps offer instant-access social gaming
                        • Companies and brands
                          • Candy Crush a lesson in game longevity
                            • ROBLOX offers users an immersive gaming world
                              • Pokémon ties mobile gaming with the Nintendo Switch
                                • Epic Games bypasses Google Play with Android Fortnite release
                                  • Google maps supports location-based games
                                    • ASUS ROG smartphone a high-spec device for gaming
                                      • The consumer
                                        • Gaming branches out beyond dedicated gaming apps
                                          • Those that play mobile games do so regularly
                                            • Figure 1: Regularity of app usage, by category, July 2018
                                          • Short-burst gaming formats lead mobile genres
                                            • Adventure and Action games have significant room for growth
                                              • Consumable purchases ideal for single-player gaming
                                                • Cosmetic items are gaming’s solution to “pay-to-win”
                                                  • Figure 2: Types of purchases made in mobile games, July 2018
                                                • Word of mouth most likely to prompt discovery
                                                  • Brand awareness through mobile and console game spin-offs
                                                    • Game trailers remain an effective promotional tool
                                                      • Mobile gaming still most often done alone
                                                        • Social gaming most popular with friends
                                                          • Figure 3: Social mobile gaming, July 2018
                                                        • Competing for rewards an appealing aspect
                                                          • Battery life an important barrier to regular gaming
                                                            • Daily rewards a simple way to foster loyalty
                                                              • Data usage not a deal-breaker
                                                                • Multi-platforming provides additional revenue streams
                                                                  • Figure 4: Barriers and incentives to mobile gaming, July 2018
                                                                • What we think
                                                                • Issues and Insights

                                                                  • Will more games choose to bypass the Play Store?
                                                                    • The facts
                                                                      • The implications
                                                                        • The effect of cross-play and cross-progress
                                                                          • The facts
                                                                            • The implications
                                                                              • Do purchasable cosmetic items translate from core gaming platforms to mobile?
                                                                                • The facts
                                                                                  • The implications
                                                                                  • The Market – What You Need to Know

                                                                                    • Strong gaming revenue growth
                                                                                      • Other app categories are catching up
                                                                                        • Gaming remains main app category for purchasing
                                                                                          • Game franchises continue to expand to mobile
                                                                                            • Gaming revolutionised with cross-play and cross-progress
                                                                                              • Mobile an emerging eSport segment
                                                                                                • Innovation creating new trends in mobile gaming
                                                                                                • Market Size and Forecast

                                                                                                  • Gaming revenue growth to continue
                                                                                                    • Figure 5: Forecast for the value of the UK mobile gaming market, 2013-23
                                                                                                  • Other app categories closing the gap
                                                                                                    • Figure 6: Mobile gaming and total mobile device app revenue in the UK Apple App Store and Google Play, 2013-23
                                                                                                    • Figure 7: Top app categories on the UK Apple App Store and Google Play, by revenue, H1 2018
                                                                                                  • Forecast methodology
                                                                                                  • Market Drivers

                                                                                                    • Gaming the largest app category for purchasing
                                                                                                      • Figure 8: App purchasing, July 2018
                                                                                                      • Figure 9: In-app purchasing, July 2018
                                                                                                    • Game franchises continue to expand to mobile
                                                                                                      • Gaming revolutionised with cross-play and cross-progress
                                                                                                        • Cross-play in a competitive environment
                                                                                                          • Spend on mobile advertising increases
                                                                                                            • Figure 10: Mobile adspend as a proportion of total digital expenditure, 2010-17
                                                                                                          • Mobile an emerging eSport segment
                                                                                                            • Innovation creating new trends in mobile gaming
                                                                                                              • Augmented reality and real-time location services
                                                                                                                • Massively-multiplayer games
                                                                                                                  • Increasing pressure to protect children in games
                                                                                                                    • Messenger apps offer instant-access social gaming
                                                                                                                    • Companies and Brands – What You Need to Know

                                                                                                                      • Candy Crush a lesson in game longevity
                                                                                                                        • ROBLOX offers users an immersive gaming world
                                                                                                                          • Niantic maintain a dedicated following
                                                                                                                            • Pokémon ties mobile gaming with the Nintendo Switch
                                                                                                                              • Epic Games bypasses Google Play with Android Fortnite release
                                                                                                                                • ASUS ROG smartphone a high-spec device for gaming
                                                                                                                                • Market Share

                                                                                                                                  • Candy Crush a lesson in game longevity
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 11: Top mobile games on the iOS App Store, by UK revenue, H1 2018
                                                                                                                                    • Figure 12: Top mobile games on Google Play, by UK revenue, H1 2018
                                                                                                                                  • ROBLOX offers users an immersive gaming world
                                                                                                                                    • Niantic maintain a dedicated following
                                                                                                                                    • Launch Activity and Innovation

                                                                                                                                      • Bethesda announces RPG based on the Elder Scrolls series
                                                                                                                                        • Pokémon ties mobile gaming with the Nintendo Switch
                                                                                                                                          • New Apple iPhones renew focus on gaming
                                                                                                                                            • Epic Games bypasses Google Play with Android Fortnite release
                                                                                                                                              • EA revives its Command & Conquer series with a mobile game
                                                                                                                                                • Google maps supports location-based games
                                                                                                                                                  • Location-based gaming expands with Harry Potter: Wizards Unite
                                                                                                                                                    • ASUS ROG smartphone a high-spec device for gaming
                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 13: The ASUS Republic of Gaming smartphone
                                                                                                                                                    • Apple removes independent gambling apps
                                                                                                                                                    • Advertising and Marketing Activity

                                                                                                                                                      • Niantic and King’s advertising reflects dominant position in mobile gaming
                                                                                                                                                        • TV and digital display advertising lead promotional materials
                                                                                                                                                          • Figure 14: Total above-the-line, online display and direct mail advertising expenditure on mobile gaming, Aug 2017-Jul 2018
                                                                                                                                                        • Nielsen Ad Intel coverage
                                                                                                                                                        • The Consumer – What You Need to Know

                                                                                                                                                          • Gaming branches out beyond dedicated gaming apps
                                                                                                                                                            • Those that play mobile games do so regularly
                                                                                                                                                              • Short-burst gaming formats lead mobile genres
                                                                                                                                                                • Adventure and Action games have significant room for growth
                                                                                                                                                                  • Virtual currency creates an in-game economy
                                                                                                                                                                    • Consumable purchases ideal for single-player gaming
                                                                                                                                                                      • Cosmetic items are gaming’s solution to “pay-to-win”
                                                                                                                                                                        • Mobile gaming still most often done alone
                                                                                                                                                                          • Battery life an important barrier to regular gaming
                                                                                                                                                                          • Gaming App Usage

                                                                                                                                                                            • Gaming branches out beyond dedicated gaming apps
                                                                                                                                                                              • Those that play mobile games do so regularly
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 15: Regularity of app usage, by category, July 2018
                                                                                                                                                                              • Women match men on mobile gaming
                                                                                                                                                                                • Figure 16: Regularity of gaming app usage, by gender, July 2018
                                                                                                                                                                            • Genres Played

                                                                                                                                                                              • Short-burst gaming formats lead mobile genres
                                                                                                                                                                                • Adventure and Action games have significant room for growth
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 17: Genres of mobile game played, July 2018
                                                                                                                                                                              • In-game Purchasing

                                                                                                                                                                                • Virtual currency creates an in-game economy
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Figure 18: Purchasing of in-game currency, July 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                • Consumable purchases ideal for single-player gaming
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Cosmetic items are gaming’s solution to “pay-to-win”
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Randomised bundles help maintain an item economy
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 19: Types of purchases made in mobile games, July 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                  • Game Discovery

                                                                                                                                                                                    • Word of mouth most likely to prompt discovery
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 20: Motivations for game downloads, by all users and in-app purchasers, July 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                    • Brand awareness through mobile and console game spin-offs
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Game trailers remain an effective promotional tool
                                                                                                                                                                                      • Social Gaming

                                                                                                                                                                                        • Mobile gaming still most often done alone
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Social gaming most popular with friends
                                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 21: Social mobile gaming, July 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Competing for rewards an appealing aspect
                                                                                                                                                                                            • In-game communication is not yet refined on mobile
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Figure 22: Appeal of social gaming, July 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                          • Barriers and Incentives to Gaming

                                                                                                                                                                                            • Battery life an important barrier to regular gaming
                                                                                                                                                                                              • Daily rewards a simple way to foster loyalty
                                                                                                                                                                                                • Data usage not a deal-breaker
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Dedicated gaming devices pique the interest of over a quarter of gamers
                                                                                                                                                                                                    • Multi-platforming provides additional revenue streams
                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Figure 23: Barriers and incentives to mobile gaming, July 2018
                                                                                                                                                                                                  • Appendix – Data Sources, Abbreviations, and Supporting Information

                                                                                                                                                                                                      • Abbreviations
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Consumer research methodology
                                                                                                                                                                                                        • Appendix – Market Size and Forecast

                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Market forecast
                                                                                                                                                                                                            • Figure 24: Forecast of UK mobile gaming revenue, 2018-23
                                                                                                                                                                                                          • Forecast methodology