A deep dive into SensorTower’s US app store data for H1 this year

The US photo & video app market is alive and well. It did not only boom during the COVID heydays last year with many consumers spending more time at home, but it has also shown continued growth of monthly users and revenues the first half of this year, according to a new report by SensorTower, which graciously allowed me to share the data presented in this article.

Before we get into the description of 8 significant trends among the more popular photo and video apps, note that the data is based on the US app store data for the top 100 photo and video apps for the following categories:
  • Photo Editor: Apps, such as Facetune2 and Voilà AI Artist, let users change photos or apply settings or effects when capturing images.
  • Video Editor: Editing apps for videos only, such as Video Star and Splice
  • All-in-One Editor: Editing apps, such as Canva and PicsArt, that enable editing of both photos and videos.
  • Video Streaming: Video sharing and live-streaming apps, such as YouTube and Twitch.
My first 6 trends are for photo & video editor apps (photo editing, video editing, and all-in-one editing apps); the last 2 are specifically for social photo & video apps. The video streaming apps are not part of this analysis.


The conclusions are for Google Play and Apple App Store data related to:
– App store revenues
One word of caution: While the app store revenues are indicative, note that many apps also generate revenues outside what’s captured in the app stores, e.g., through advertisements or the sale of photo print products.
– Monthly Active Usage (MAU)
– Monthly downloads
One word of caution: While indicative of which apps are trending, note that monthly downloads do not necessarily indicate the app’s installed base or MAU. Some newcomers’ initial download successes might be short-lived; other still widely used apps have tapered off to attract new users.


1. Overall photo and video editing app revenues: spending keeps going up

US app store spending on photo editing, video editing, and all-in-one editing apps (i.e., excluding the booming social Photo & Video and the video streaming apps) has grown 4.3x over the past three years, climbing from $32M in Q2 2018 to nearly $140M in Q2 2021.
While spending jumped in Q2 last year, it continued to gradually grow the first half of this year. I suspect that part of the increased spending is triggered by more and more photo and video apps offering subscription pricing – and consumers have gotten used to accepting the need to pay for subscriptions of apps they feel they can’t live without.

2. Active usage trends: video editor apps are surging

Which category is trending in terms of usage? The video editor category has seen the most dramatic growth since November of last year in terms of the number of monthly active users. (Note we’re talking about the month-over-month growth % – not the absolute MAU numbers, which are by far the highest among Social Photo & Video apps).
Photo-only editors have seen a slight decrease in MAU, while those that combine photo with video editing capabilities are currently at a 19% CAGR.

3. Top photo & video editing apps by revenues: Facetune2, Canva, and PicsArt

Which photo & video editing apps make the most money in the US app stores? In the first half of this year, the list was led by Lightricks’ Facetune2, followed by Canva and PicsArt.

4. Top photo & video editor by downloads: CapCut, PicsArt, and Voilà AI Artist

Which photo & video editing apps were downloaded the most in the US app stores? In the first half of this year, the list was led by video editor CapCut (the sister app to TikTok), followed by photo & video editor PicsArt and photo editor Voilà Al Artist.

5. Download trends among editor categories: all-in-one editors are on the rise

Within these editing apps, we’ve seen the share of all-in-one editing apps among all photo & video app downloads growing relative to photo-only editors. Note, though, that this has been going on for a while: the strongest move towards all-in-one editors already happened 2 years ago.

6. Download trends photo editor apps by smartphone OS:

Google Play is on the rise. Historically, we’ve seen many more photo editor apps downloaded from the US Apple App Store than from Google Play. Still, among the top 10 editor apps, Google Play app downloads significantly jumped in H1 2020, most importantly thanks to Splice, a longtime iOS video app, and the trending Voilà Al Artist photo app entering the Google Play store. Other photo & video apps that saw significant growth on Google Play in 2Q21 were VSCO (239% QoQ), CapCut (112% QoQ), PicsArt (39% QoQ), and FaceApp (24% QoQ), according to SensorTower.

7. Top social photo & video apps by revenues: TikTok, Likee, and Instagram

Who are the top-ranking revenue US app store revenue generators among the social photo & video apps? No surprise, the list is dominated by short-form music video apps (with Instagram in transition to becoming one), most importantly TikTok, which has been #1 since 2018.

8. Social photo & video apps by downloads TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat

Which social photo & video apps are trending in terms of downloads? In short: incumbents rule. They still see massive new downloads, led by TikTok, Instagram, and Snapchat. (While Poparazzi is a newcomer that went off to a good start, it has sizzled since.)

Download the Sensor Tower 2021 State of Photo & Video Apps Report here.

And a few more things…


Instagram. A new direction under fire. (For an initial analysis about Instagram’s move to video, see my OMG – Instagram turns into a video app perspective piece published July 14).
Instagram’s original user base is still seething about this new direction, according to The Guardian: “The social media platform was once a favorite of artists and photographers, but a shift towards TikTok-type videos and shopping could leave them looking for a new home online.” To rub things in, it’s not just the emphasis on videos and ads that puts off longtime Instagram users: now text memes are taking over Instagram, according to the New York Times.


Apple. Privacy vs. child sexual abuse images. Apple is also the subject of much debate among photographers (and privacy watchdogs). Having positioned itself as the unbending champion of privacy, its new technology, NeuralHash, will run on a user’s iPhone to detect child abuse images before he or she uploads them to the cloud. Here is a layman’s description of how Apple technically does this and why privacy advocates are concerned. And here is yesterday’s interview with Apple’s head of Privacy addressing the concerns.


Beamr. More than a drawer full of patents. While video encoding & optimization technology provider – and friend of our Visual 1st conference – Beamr celebrated its 50th approved patent, their 51st patent was granted in the meantime, this one covering a method of crowdsourcing subjective user opinions on video quality and aggregating the results to obtain meaningful metrics.


WhatsApp. Going snap. It took a while, but WhatsApp now offers what put Snapchat on the map: letting users send photos and videos that disappear (after 7 days, that is, and not protecting against the recipient taking a long-lasting screenshot).


ImagingExecutives@PHOTOPIA. This new conference, spearheaded by industry friend and former Business Forum Imaging organizer Thomas Blömer, is scheduled for September 24, 2021, as a physical event during the new photo and imaging festival and trade show, PHOTOPIA Hamburg. With the theme “Vital Opportunities,” the conference will feature top executives and independent experts from across the imaging industry discussing the latest opportunities and challenges in the Imaging market.


Stay tuned for frequent speaker updates for Visual 1st and the DIY Video Summit!
Main image Photo by William Hook on Unsplash

Author: Hans Hartman

Hans Hartman is president of Suite 48 Analytics, the leading research and analysis firm for the mobile photography market and organizer of Mobile Visual 1st, a yearly industry conference about mobile photography.

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