2021 on-device mobile advertising overview and 2022 trends

With immense advancements and innovation coming from industry leaders, mobile devices have become prime real estate for advertisers looking to reach quality users - and optimizing your on-device advertising strategy is only getting easier. 

New app sectors, device models, and marketing techniques make it crucial to stay up to date on the next big opportunities. Let’s explore what worked in 2021 and what will continue to be important for advertisers in 2022. 

The smartphone industry in numbers

Let’s first look at the state of the mobile ecosystem in 2021.

  • Global smartphone sales to end users totaled 328.8 million in the second quarter of 2021, an increase of 10.8% year over year (1)
  • Samsung held 20% of the market share in the third quarter of 2021, maintaining the No. 1 position. (2)
  • Total shipments of 5G-enabled smartphones are expected to reach 544 million units by the end of 2021 (3)
  • From November 2020 to November 2021, Android held 70.75% of the global market share and iOS held 28.53% of the global market share (4) 

The amount of devices sold and the technology they’re equipped with has a huge impact on on-device advertising. This past year, the industry saw immense innovation in technology and hardware as well as shifts in power dynamics. 

Trends in the market 

Let’s take a look at the key trends that on-device advertisers should be paying attention to. 

The opportunity with foldable phones 

Foldable phones are, arguably, the greatest innovation in smartphone hardware in 2021. With their capabilities only getting stronger, foldable phones are a lucrative place for advertisers to reach a rich demographic of users.  

First, foldable phones have adjustable screen sizes, allowing for flexible usage and significant ad opportunities. For example, users can fold or unfold their devices, like origami, to reveal more of your ad content. The larger screen size also allows you to design more detailed creatives - there’s more room to include important, eye-catching information. 

Second, foldable phones are changing the way we work and interact with our phones. With the versatility of foldable phones, users can complete tasks that weren’t always optimized for mobile devices, meaning you’ll be reaching people at the center point of their digital lives by advertising on these devices. 

Last, the consumers purchasing foldables are early adopters with high tech awareness - the most influential demographic of users - meaning you’ll be in front of industry authorities and experts ready to talk about your app. 

Foldable phones are only going to continue to evolve and innovate, meaning there’s no better time to start advertising directly on these unique devices. Learn more about the on-device advertising opportunity with foldable phones

Growing smartphone brands 


Samsung had a record quarter in Q3 2021, maintaining their number one position in terms of smartphone market share at 20% according to Counterpoint. Samsung has also remained a consistent leader in smartphone sales, surpassing earlier Android players, such as HTC, LG and Sony, this past year. Let’s look at what spurred their growth in 2021.

First, Samsung is the world’s largest chipmaker, and with a shortage of memory chips and processors globally in 2021, they saw increased demand in their memory division - high prices and demand for chips meant high profits for Samsung. Second, Samsung saw high demand for their foldable phones,​​ the Galaxy Z Flip 3 and Galaxy Z Fold 3, which are the market leaders in the foldable space. Third, Samsung’s mobile display earnings rose as customers continue to desire the most updated device experiences. Finally, with Huawei no longer a global player - their market share has dropped without access to American firms - Samsung has stepped up in pushing the envelope on device updates and innovation. 


OPPO ranked second in the global smartphone market in May 2021, with a 16% share of unit sales, followed by Apple at 15% according to Counterpoint. OPPO also ranked first in global 5G smartphone shipments of Android phones according to Cision.

OPPO’s success in 2021 is likely due to their multi-brand strategy. The OPPO family includes OPPO (mid-to low-end smartphones), realme (base-tier smartphones), and OnePlus (premium smartphones). With phones priced at many different levels, OPPO has wide distribution and reaches many different types of users. They also developed robust marketing campaigns overseas, Western Europe, Central Latin America, Central Eastern Europe, and Africa Middle East, that built brand awareness for each of the subsidiaries and grew their presence globally. 

Striking the right balance between price and quality, OPPO has become a major player in the global smartphone market. Today, OPPO is one of the fastest growing smartphone brands and it will be interesting to follow their growth in the future.

5 app categories that have grown in 2021

It’s also important to have an idea of which app categories are on the rise.

1. Food and rapid delivery apps are continuing to grow after COVID 19

Despite COVID restrictions loosening and more restaurants opening up, food delivery apps are still on the rise. There are many explanations for this - convenience, increased demand, safety, etc. In fact, Business of Apps projects that the global market for delivery apps will increase to $120 billion by the end of 2021. Ultimately, with more delivery riders and route optimisations technologies, delivery is faster and cheaper than ever, driving incremental growth.  

Glovo increased Aura installs by 5x and decreased CAC by 60%

Rapid delivery apps, or apps that deliver groceries within 10-30 minutes of app order, are also attracting millions of users and big name investors. Rapid delivery apps are largely operating out of major cities across the UK, US, and Europe, with a few first movers leading the market in these areas - Getir, Flink, Gorillas, Gopuff, Weezy, Dija, Jiffy, Fancy and Snappy are all notable names.

Read more about rapid delivery app

2. Global brands are investing in mobile apps

Data suggests that mobile spending is only going to increase, which makes mobile devices key real estate for global brands. While they’re still getting used to the platform’s best practices, brands are starting to invest more in mobile advertising.

In fact, according to a recent MMA and WARC report, 75% marketers are expecting an increase in mobile budgets in 2021. Ultimately, now that mobile has a larger audience, higher usage levels, and is more reputable, big brands are turning to mobile advertising to get in front of new, quality users. 

McDonald’s Spain achieves 64% app launch rate and drives over 34K installs with Aura

3. Classified apps are allowing users to buy and sell wherever they are

Throughout the last year of COVID, people have had extensive time to sift through their belongings and make decisions about what to keep and give away. Now classified platforms, especially on mobile, represent a major opportunity for growth. 

eBay Kleinanzeigen (Classifieds) boosts installs with Aura

Subito looked to Aura to boost engagement 4x, grow scale, and diversify their user acquisition strategy

Milanuncios reduces cost per lead 47% with Aura

4. News apps are users go-to to stay updated on current events

The share of US consumers reading online news on a smartphone more than doubled between 2013 and 2021 according to Statista. “News on the go” through mobile devices has become the norm. This means that news apps are no longer an add-on to people’s typical news source, but the main character - encouraging news apps to focus on their app discovery and user acquisition strategies. We’ve seen a similar trend in Europe as well over the last year.

SmartNews drives 35 million installs and meets retention goals with Aura

How Le Figaro reduced costs 70% and reached retention goals in 3 months with Aura

5. eCommerce apps are making it easier to shop from your phone

Similarly to news apps, eCommerce apps have also seen immense growth, creating a more competitive environment - more than half of all internet traffic comes from a mobile device. This is most likely due to the effects of COVID-19, which turned people away from brick and mortar. In fact, 79% of smartphone users have made a purchase online using their mobile device in the last 6 months according to OuterBox

OTTO sees over 100% MoM growth and significantly increased ROI for their ironSource Aura volume

AliExpress Russia drives over 400K installs and exceeds their KPI goals with ironSource Aura

Ozon drives over 900K installs and exceeds KPI goals with ironSource Aura

Overall, the state of the smartphone industry, key trends in the Android market, and the growing app categories, all have had an impact on the success of ironSource Aura. With on-device advertising becoming more prevalent, Aura saw a record year in 2021. 

The growth of Aura 

In 2021, the team at ironSource Aura focused on expanding the available touchpoints so advertisers can continue to drive value and meet users throughout their lifetime in the device. New placements - such as a games manager that gives users a new game each week - use contextual information to reach users in the right ways and at the best times for maximum, long-term engagement. Learn more about our touchpoints with our eBook

ironSource Aura also expanded to new carrier and telco partners in 2021 - announcing partnerships with Vodafone and Samsung in India, Germany, and Italy, following existing collaborations with Samsung in Russia and South East Asia.

It’s been an incredibly successful year thanks to both our advertiser and telco partners. Looking forward to continued success in 2022! 

Full list of Aura’s on-device advertising content from 2021

Case Studies


Atom Finance


Le Figaro

McDonald’s Spain




eBay Kleinanzeigen (Classifieds)


AliExpress Russia


Varo Bank


How to get to your users first

Your guide to app user acquisition

Marketing your app: The essentials

Recapping Out of the Box Russia

4 myths about on-device advertising

Breaking down rapid delivery apps

How to scale up your on-device campaign

Using a 30-day attribution window

How different generations interact with devices

What are carriers, OEMs, and MVNOs

The opportunity with foldable phones


Daniel Sichel, Mindshare

Sally Chi, Chime

Martin Lancee, LinkedIn

Maor Sadra, Incrmntl

Gil Eyal, Hypr

Clement Halloo, Fabulous

Noam Auerbach, Enhancv

Mick Rigby, Yodel

Andy Carvell, Phiture


5 on-device placements to diversify your user acquisition strategy


  1. Gartner
  2. Counterpoint
  3. Statista
  4. Statcounter
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