Crypto and Mobile in 2022 Series Part 1: Crypto adoption and app downloads skyrocket
From Bitcoin, to NFTs, to Web 3, and the Metaverse, crypto and digital assets became one of the hottest topics in tech in 2021. Crypto has seemingly taken the world by storm, with interest in the asset class gaining a tidal wave of attention. Celebrities and business leaders such as Elon Musk and Jack Dorsey have publicly endorsed crypto assets, memecoins such as Dogecoin and Shiba Inu have generated mass followings, NFTs have become a sensation, and crypto apps have become a major force in the advertising world. But why was 2021 a watershed year for crypto adoption, and what do these developments mean for the mobile ecosystem?
As adoption rapidly grows, from fintech apps to NFT wallets to crypto-enabled games, competition between crypto apps will continue to heat up. MMPs such as Adjust are a critical tool for these apps to attract, measure, and retain high-value users in this growing space.
In this 5-part series, we explore the emerging mobile crypto ecosystem, the types of crypto apps, how these crypto apps are performing, and how they can improve their user acquisition (UA) efforts with attribution and mobile measurement. In part one below, we look at some of the key trends driving crypto adoption and how these trends are impacting crypto apps.
Crypto gains major adoption in 2021
Bitcoin grows in mainstream acceptance
While Bitcoin and cryptocurrencies in general have long been viewed as highly speculative assets, digital assets moved more into the mainstream in 2021, thanks to a variety of catalysts. In February, Bitcoin’s market capitalization reached $1 trillion for the first time, making it the fastest asset to ever do so. After a decline in the summer, the entire crypto market cap reached $3 trillion by November, driven by retail enthusiasm, maturing technologies, and interest from institutional investors.
While a lack of regulatory clarity continues to slow broader institutional adoption of crypto assets, late 2020 and 2021 saw major moves to broader acceptance. For the first time, publicly-traded companies such as MicroStrategy, Square, and Tesla added bitcoin to their balance sheets. In June, El Salvador became the first country to make Bitcoin legal tender. And in October, the ProShares future-based bitcoin ETF began trading on the New York Stock Exchange, followed by two other US-approved Bitcoin ETFs soon after. A steady stream of regulatory developments have developed across the globe, including Congressional hearings in the United States, as governments seek to integrate crypto into existing legal frameworks without stifling technological innovation.
Crypto becomes more integrated into payments
Major payments companies also began to embrace digital assets like never before in 2021. PayPal began allowing US customers to buy, sell, and hold four cryptocurrencies in late 2020, stating that demand “greatly exceeded expectations,” and offering BTC, ETH, LTC, and BCH as a payment method for merchants in the US. Popular payment apps Venmo and Cash App added crypto purchasing and sending functionality, while Square changed its name to Block in a nod to blockchain and its new focus on crypto.
Not to be out done, VISA launched a crypto advisory service, began a program to settle VISA transactions with the USDC stablecoin on the Ethereum blockchain, and purchased a CryptoPunk NFT; while Mastercard announced new crypto-linked payment cards in APAC and a crypto rewards credit card with Gemini exchange, with many more crypto-related partnerships on the horizon for each in 2022. Payments are one of many in-app user actions that can be measured by an attribution provider such as Adjust.
NFTs in the limelight
Another digital asset has also made a big splash in 2021, as non-fungible tokens, or NFTs, rapidly grew in popularity as a means to represent ownership of digital art. In March, the artist Beeple sold his piece “Everydays: The First 5000 Days” as an NFT for a record-breaking $69.3 million through Christie’s, which became the first major auction house to sell a digital-only piece of art, allowing the cryptocurrency Ether as payment. In October, Sotheby’s launched its own NFT marketplace, and claimed to have a record-grossing year largely thanks to NFT sales.
The embrace of NFT collections such as CryptoPunks and Bored Ape Yacht Club by a wide variety of celebrities have brought NFTs into the limelight, but the trend hasn’t been without its critics. While many praise the potential of NFTs to transform the creator economy and beyond, others have criticized what they perceive as unwarranted hype, unfair economic consequences, and environmental impacts of the technology. We’ll explain more about what NFTs are, what they may mean for mobile, and the role MMPs play in mobile NFT functionality in the next part of this series.
Crypto exchange app downloads skyrocketing
This explosion of interest in crypto led to huge growth in users in 2021, with the crypto user base doubling from 106 million to 203 million between February and May alone. This user growth is having a direct impact on downloads for crypto exchange apps. According to data from Sensor Tower, crypto apps nearly tripled their market share of installs in 2021, and in the first half of the year, surging consumer interest propelled crypto apps to surpass stock trading apps to become the majority of downloads among asset management apps. And data from App Radar showed crypto app downloads soaring by 560% on Google Play, rising to over 82.9 million downloads, compared to 13.5 million in 2020.
As cryptocurrency and NFT adoption grow, competition will continue to heat up among crypto apps to become the preferred gateway to digital assets on mobile. In order to succeed in this hot and rapidly-expanding market, apps will need to attract and retain high-value users. MMPs such as Adjust are a critical tool to identify high-value users and their sources, optimize User Acquisition (UA) campaigns, as well as measure user KPIs such as churn rate and average time to first transaction, which are critical for refining user journeys and retention strategies.
In the following parts of this series, we’ll examine the state of crypto on mobile in 2022 and look at:
- Understanding blockchain and cryptocurrencies and how they interact with mobile
- Why NFTs, blockchain gaming, and the Metaverse have become hot topics for 2022
- How crypto apps performed across key metrics in 2021, such as installs and sessions, and how crypto apps compare to stock trading apps on user engagement and retention
- What crypto apps can do to improve their UA and gain market share
- How crypto app developers can work with MMPs like Adjust to better measure, automate, and protect their data
To learn more, download our upcoming “Fintech Deep Dive: Digital Currencies 2022 Playbook” to understand the key trends, drivers, and opportunities for crypto and fintech apps in the year ahead.
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