Global short video sensation TikTok, combined with Chinese version Douyin, recorded more than US$78 million (S$110 million) in user spending in April to move ahead of YouTube and become the world's highest earning non-game app.
The twin apps, from Beijing-based ByteDance, topped the overall worldwide revenue rankings, according to San Francisco-based mobile app analytics firm Sensor Tower. It estimated that about 86.6 per cent of user spending in April was generated in mainland China, followed by 8.2 per cent in the United States.
That achievement further burnishes the credentials of TikTok as the most successful non-game app from China released in the overseas market.
Video-sharing app TikTok - on which users can watch as well as create short videos with music, stickers and animation as special effects - has been one of most downloaded apps worldwide since it was launched by ByteDance in 2016.
While the overall rankings showed that TikTok and Douyin took the No 1 spot on the App Store in April, these apps did not crack the top 10 in Google Play.
The rankings did not include revenue from various Chinese Android app stores, which Sensor Tower does not cover. The firm projected App Store and Google Play to record US$102 billion in global app consumer spending this year.
YouTube, by comparison, generated close to US$76 million in revenue in April, with 56.4 per cent of user spending from the US and 11 per cent from Japan, according to Sensor Tower. Other top-grossing apps that month were Tinder, Disney+ and Tencent Video.
The latest revenue estimates further raise the stakes for ByteDance, the world's most valuable start-up whose valuation has increased to U$100 billion, reflecting expectations that TikTok will keep pulling in advertisers and user spending amid the pandemic.
An example of spending in China are the "Douyin Coins" users buy to tip influencers during live-streamed broadcasts.
TikTok's success overseas has been marred by privacy and censorship concerns , especially in the US. The US Navy, Air Force and Transportation Security Administration, for example, have banned the app's use in government-owned devices.
Last week, a group of privacy advocacy organisations in the US filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission , alleging that the app violated a consent decree and a law protecting children's privacy online.
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.