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COVID-19 drives 52% surge in data used for mobile app downloads

App Store on iPhone
App Store on iPhone (Image credit: iMore)

What you need to know

  • COVID-19 has driven a massive surge in app downloads.
  • According to Sensor Tower data, first time installs increased data usage by 34% compared to the same period last year.
  • Over 596 million GB of data was used to download apps in Q1 2020.

New data from Sensor Tower suggests that the COVID-19 pandemic has driven a massive surge in first-time app downloads, as more people are staying at home and finding new ways to socialize and entertain themselves.

According to the new report, a "sharp rise in consumer adoption of mobile apps during the global COVID-19 pandemic precipitated a significant increase in internet bandwidth consumption around the globe."

Sensor Tower data reportedly reveals that the amount of data used to download the top 250 mobile apps globally increased by a whopping 34% in Q1 of 2020 when compared to the same period last year. A staggering 596 petabytes (596 million GB) of data was used, marking a 52% increase on Q1's three-year average. By contrast, 2019's Q1 figures marked a 4% decrease on Q1 of 2018.

Sensor Tower notes that the increase cannot solely be attributed to an increase in file sizes of apps, which has only grown 10% year on year since 2019.

Covid 19 Downloads

Covid 19 Downloads (Image credit: Sensor Tower)

So how much data is 596 petabytes? I'm glad you asked. Sensor Tower's comparison notes that the total data used would be enough to stream 53 million hours (over 6050 years) of 4K Netflix, or enough to fill the storage of 9.3 million iPhones (top-of-the-range storage models). (So just a bit less than Call of Duty: Modern Warfare)

The report further confirms this does not include third-party Android downloads, re-installs, updates of installations of the same app on multiple devices with the same account, so it could actually be a fairly conservative estimate in just how much data usage for app downloads increased at the start of 2020. The data usage represents over 33.6 billion new installs from both the App Store and Google Play, a 20.3% increase year-on-year.

You can read the full report here.

Stephen Warwick
News Editor

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple.