Mar 17, 2022 - Economy & Business

Crypto apps broke 100M downloads in fourth quarter

Illustration of an app shaped like a briefcase with a dollar sign on it waiting to download
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Crypto apps are in. The last three months of 2021 saw more than 100 million downloads for the first time ever in a single quarter, according to data firms Adjust and Apptopia in a new report released today.

Why it matters: The increased popularity of crypto applications shows how crypto assets are becoming more and more popular with the mainstream. Many investors rely on third party apps to do the heavy lifting for them, rather than the more technical approach of interacting directly with blockchains.

Context: Any attempt to measure the total crypto market that doesn't take app usage into account should be viewed as incomplete.

  • There are likely many, many more owners of cryptocurrency than we can see via "on-chain" data, because so many of the newest buyers are using third party platforms, such as the Coinbase, Binance or FTX apps, to manage their holdings.
  • Apps are a much easier way to interact with these assets than the means preferred by hardcore crypto users, a so-called "wallet". (Just as a person can run their own email server, most prefer to use Gmail.)
  • However, they also introduce third-party risks that wallets evade.

By the numbers: 2021's bull market for app downloads was much stronger than 2017's, when crypto app downloads first broke 20 million downloads in a single quarter, by the report's reckoning.

  • That was the high water mark until the first quarter of 2021, when downloads fell just short of 100 million.

Crypto app adoption began growing in 2020 before really taking off in 2021. The growth largely tracked with prices of the major coins, bitcoin and ether.

  • Downloads in 2020 grew 64% over the prior year, and then by 400% in 2021. Sessions grew even more last year, with overall sessions up 567% over the prior year, topping four billion sessions in the fourth quarter.
  • Growth dropped off precipitously in the third quarter of 2021, along with the crypto market itself, with downloads falling in the 50 million range.

These numbers squared with data tracked by SensorTower, when looking at the top five crypto apps in 2020 and 2021.

  • In SensorTower’s data, in 2021, those top five apps were: Coinbase, Crypto.com, Binance.US, Binance and Voyager. The 2020 top five were Coinbase, Crypto.com, Binance, Coinbase Pro and Binance.US.
  • And crypto apps are sticky. The Adjust/Apptopia report found that average session length for a crypto app was 15 minutes, well ahead of stock trading, banking and payments apps tracked by the report.
  • The report did not count apps like Cash and Paypal that do some crypto and also more traditional financial services.

Of note: Downloads for the top five apps are down in early 2022 versus the prior quarter, but still up 770% over January - February 2020, according to SensorTower.

  • That‘s even with Super Bowl week this year in February, which saw crypto apps take three of the top five spots for strongest download growth over the prior week among the mobile-first brands advertising during the game (the other two were sports betting apps), according to SensorTower. Coinbase's ad earned it the number one spot by far.

The bottom line: 2021 was a huge growth year in crypto and that growth can be seen in ways that go well beyond bitcoin price action.

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