Lyft is quickly catching up to Uber in the US as the ride-hailing companies race to go public

  • App install data shows Lyft is quickly closing the gap with its competitor Uber in the United States.
  • Lyft has about a 35% market share in the country currently and could grow significantly given its focus on the US.
  • Both companies have confidentially filed to begin the IPO process, which could happen as soon as next year.

Uber is still miles ahead of Lyft when it comes to global reach, but new data show that its hold in the US market could be slowing.

App installs data from the firm Sensor Tower show that first-time downloads for Lyft have nearly caught up with Uber, narrowing the gap between the two to less than a million.

Uber vs lyft installsBI Graphics / Andy Kierz

“What stands out to me from this data is that Lyft has closed the gap in monthly new installs tighter than ever in November, with Uber seeing 25 per cent more downloads as opposed to 50 per cent more in November 2017,” Randy Nelson, Sensor Tower’s head of mobile insights, said in an email to Business Insider.

Uber was well established by the time Lyft began expanding throughout the US. But that secondary entrance could have benefitted Lyft with learning opportunities as well as gaining market share.

Lyft as per cent of uberAndy Kiersz / BI Graphics

Santosh Rao, an analyst at Manhattan Venture Partners, has called this the “free rider effect.”

The company was able to focus more time and resources on marketing its specific brand whilst Uber had to bear the responsibility of building consumer awareness around ride-hailing/sharing and establishing a new service category,” he said in a note to clients this week.

“Lyft has also benefited from the aggressiveness Uber displayed in pushing for a legal framework for ridesharing applications. This meant lower risk levels for Lyft while entering a new city that already had Uber.”

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To be sure, there are significant limits to Sensor Tower’s data. The data only shows first-time installs for US phones from either the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. It does not include re-downloads, if someone has deleted the app and then re-installed, and it does not include downloads to multiple devices by the same account. Nor does the data account for the growth of Uber Eats.

“We continue to experience strong growth for a business of our size and global scope,” Uber spokesperson Michael Amodeo said. “As we look ahead to an IPO and beyond, we are investing in future growth across our platform, including in food, freight, electric bikes and scooters, and high-potential markets outside the US.”

A Lyft spokesperson declined to comment.

Last week, both Uber and Lyft filed confidential documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission to begin the process of going public. No public documents have been filed yet.

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