The Most Popular Mobile Apps in the World

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With more than a billion smartphones in use around the world, it is entertaining, if not instructive, to look at what those phones are used for. Would you be surprised to find out, for example, that the most popular downloads from the Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) App Store are games and the most popular downloads from Google Inc.’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) Google Play store are utility or productivity apps?

The top five free app downloads from Apple’s App Store include three games and two Google apps, YouTube and Google Maps. Two of the top five free downloads from Google Play come from Facebook Inc. (NASDAQ: FB), another is Skype from Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT), and there is only one game. The other hit at Google is WhatsApp, a messaging app that replaces the SMS text messaging programs that mobile carriers charge money for with a free messaging system.

Just looking at the free download data, which comes from analytics firm Distimo, indicates that the most popular Google apps are related to social networking. The Facebook app is the most popular download at Google Play, and Facebook Messenger is the fourth most popular.

Among paid apps the story is much the same. WhatsApp is the top download for the iPhone, but the other four are all games. At Google Play, the top paid download is a keyboard utility, SwiftKey, and only one game — Minecraft — is among the top five.

For generating revenue for the app developer, all five top downloads from the App Store are games. The same is true for Google Play, but of the top five apps, four generate more revenue in Asia than in the United States.

Some observations:

  • Google’s Android-based phones are being used for more social networking, which very likely means that the owners of these phones are younger.
  • With the exception of a paid version of WhatsApp for the iPhone, the preponderance of game downloads from the App Store could indicate an older demographic that is using the games as a way to get familiar with smartphones.
  • Apple has no replacement for YouTube, and its fiasco with its mapping software gave Google another foothold inside Fortress Apple.
  • Samsung’s advertising for its Galaxy 3 phone was spot-on: the iPhone is your father’s Oldsmobile.

The Distimo report is available here.