7 Take aways from Covid-time

TikTok was downloaded over 38 million times between March and May 2020. That’s more than any other app and over double the 18 million downloads that Instagram, a close rival, landed.

Unlike India, where Chinese companies dominate the app ecosystem, TikTok and Alibaba-owned shopping app Lazada are the only prominent Chinese apps to make Southeast Asia’s most downloaded list.

Then there are some usual suspects. There’s Lazada’s e-commerce rival Shopee, messaging app LINE—which is particularly popular in Thailand—and ride-hailing giant Grab, which is Southeast Asia’s highest valued private tech company with a $14-billion valuation. Less obvious entries include video editors InShot, PicsArt and KineMaster, and SHAREit, a low-key but popular file-sharing app started by Lenovo in 2013 that claims 1.8 billion global downloads.

Contrasting the downloads with session data across verticals—provided by AppsFlyer—shows the initial wave of growth was enjoyed by food delivery apps as Southeast Asians ordered in during lockdown. Education apps started promisingly, but their early steam ran out and activity dipped as schools started considering reopening.

Transport apps, meanwhile, were hit hardest. Some 40% of all activity within travel apps in March, April and May came in March, according to AppsFlyer, as the impact of international flight bans and local travel restrictions kicked in.

YouTube better watch

YouTube better watch

TikTok has made a play for YouTube’s crown as the home of videos in India, the US and other countries, and the Chinese app is making serious inroads in Southeast Asia, too.

A huge market is at stake. Google said in 2018 that half of Google-owned YouTube users in Southeast Asia spend 10+ hours each week on the service. YouTube in Southeast Asia accounts for 20% for all video consumption worldwide, according to the company.

ByteDance, which owns TikTok, is very serious about capturing a chunk of that audience, and it is making promising strides to do so as the data shows.

The gulf in consumption between YouTube and TikTok was enormous at the start of 2019, but it narrowed significantly thanks to explosive growth from TikTok in 2020. The Covid-19 outbreak only served to catalyse the surge.

Between January and June 2020, TikTok and TikTok Lite reached a combined 85 million downloads across Southeast Asia. That’s close to the 96 million downloads the apps accrued through 2019 and more than the 21 million downloads YouTube has seen in 2020 to date—although YouTube isn’t reliant on downloads since it is bundled on Android devices. Android accounts for over 80% of smartphones in Asia, according to Statcounter, and the figure is likely higher still in Southeast Asia.

Formidable Facebook

When it comes to being a top dog, TikTok has nothing on Facebook though. Southeast Asia has an obsession with the social network—as we noted in a previous data story published in March—and the pandemic didn’t put a stop to it.

The pandemic helped TikTok as its session numbers grew in countries like Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines during lockdown, but the groundwork was laid before it. Downloads of the main TikTok app hit an all-time Southeast Asia high of 16 million during February.