Top 10 Most Popular iOS Apps of All Time

Artyom Dogtiev

In App Data. May 23, 2016

There is a reason why so many of us simply can’t live apart from our smartphone or tablet, actually several reasons. These reasons are apps. As Steve Jobs used to say “Software is the soul of a hardware”, without it any smartphone or tablet is just a piece of metal. Despite the genius of Apple’s Chief Design Officer, Jonathan Ive, that makes iPhone design so exceptional, when it’s turned off, it’s useless, the iOS operating system is what makes it tick. Forgive us for repeating this metric once more, we know you’ve heard it countless times, but here it is – there are more than 3 million iOS and Android apps combined. By 2015 iOS apps in particular, were downloaded more than 100 billion times. To put this number in perspective, there are only 26 million songs on the iTunes store and up-to-date they’re downloaded 25 billion times. In fact, it’s really hard to find other example of a digital content that can compete with mobile apps in terms of quantity and diversity.

Number of  iOS apps downloads  from 2008 to 2015
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All those apps have a particular reason for their existence, a particular problem to solve or just to entertain and, as with any market, the majority of those apps, to put it mildly, aren’t spectacularly good. You see, it’s about human’s talent and creativity, some people are exceptionally bright, some are absolutely ok with just following the flow and imitating others. But in the ocean of these apps there are handful that over the years have managed to win the greatest number of user hearts and they become part of our daily smartphone or tablet usage routine.

Checking some of those apps is the first thing we do in a morning, before drinking coffee or anything else, some of them make us smile or sad as we learn about what’s going on in the world around us. Let’s look at the TOP 10 apps that, according to AppAnnie app intelligence platform report, to date were downloaded more than other apps and became super popular.

The Full List

Without a further ado, let’s walk through each app on this list and dig into a bit of its history.

Facebook
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In a sense this app has become even more essential than many iOS native apps. In fact, Facebook app in many cases is the reason why people reach out their smartphone in the morning – to check what’s new in their Facebook feed. The app is available in 27 languages and there are countries where the majority of population has an account on Facebook and on the other hand it’s prohibited in China, what certainly limits its user base growth, which is by Q4, 2015 reached 1,59 billion. On average people spend on Facebook at least 20 minutes a day. The top three countries with the great number of accounts on Facebook are US (151M), India (109M), Brazil (70M).

Key Facts:

F8 2015 – Facebook on iOS: Inside the “Big Blue App”


Facebook Messenger

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In August of 2011 Facebook released a standalone app to separate instant messaging communication between Facebook users into a standalone app. This Facebook’s move had a mixed reception but ultimately the app took off and by April, 2016 it had 900M users. The most distinctive feature that sets Facebook Messenger apart from other instant messengers is chatbots support, that allow businesses to build a communication channel with their customer via Facebook Messenger. Countries where the app is popular the most are US, Canada, Sweden and Australia.

Key Facts:

  • Release data – August 9, 2011
  • Current version average rating – 3.0 stars
  • Category – Social Networking
  • Data point – as of mid April, 2016 it had 35 chatbots already

Introducing Video Calling in Messenger


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YouTube
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If you asked people 10 years ago about what popular video sharing websites did they watch, they would tell you that it was DailyMotion, Vimeo and YouTube. Ask this question today and people will smile at you because the answer is obvious – YouTube only. It was one of the apps that iPhone was introduced with by Steve Jobs on January 9, 2007, it was a time when the App Store didn’t exist and iPhone users app choice was limited with a handful of apps. In 2012 Apple decided to drop YouTube from the set of native apps with introduction of iOS 6 and soon after Google released its own app, which since has gone through 11 major iterations and today proudly sits on the third place of the Top 10 Most Popular iOS apps.

Key Facts:

  • Release data – June 2008 (an iOS native app), September 2012 (a standalone app)
  • Current version average rating – 2.5 stars
  • Category – Photo and Video
  • Data point – people upload on YouTube 300k hours of videos daily, which is 24 TB of data.

YouTube app iOS 9 recent update review


Instagram

Online photo sharing took off with an introduction of services like Yahoo Flickr, Google Picasa and others back in 2004-2005. Later with iOS and Android ecosystem introduction, photo sharing services went mobile and as of today you’d have a hard time trying to find more popular photo sharing app than Instagram. On a contrary from many popular apps that are a mobile extension for a website service, Instagram was initially conceived as a mobile app. It was launched in 2010 and in 2o12 it was acquired by Facebook for approximately $1 billion in cash and stock. Today the app is available in 25 languages and allows users to share both photos and videos, it’s got an advertising solution for businesses that provides among others a mobile app user acquisition solution. The top 5 countries where the app is most popular are US, Russia, Brazil, Turkey and UK.

Key Facts:

  • Release data – October, 2010
  • Current version average rating – 4.5 stars
  • Category – Photo and Video
  • Data point – the most popular hashtags on Instagram are #love and #selfie.

Introducing Photos of You


Skype

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Take any popular instant messaging app and most likely it has a video calling capability but as with any popular feature there is one particular app that set it on a trajectory to become popular at some point in a past. For video calling it was definitely the Skype app and even though Google HangoutsFacebook Messenger, Apple’s iMessage, Viber apps provide video calling feature, still Skype is the major choice for people when it comes to placing a video call and it rightously occupies the fifth position on the Top 10 Most Popular iOS Apps chart. Skype has more than 47M in US alone and more than 300M worldwide.

Key Facts:

  • Release data – summer of 2009
  • Current version average rating – 4.0 stars
  • Category – Social Networking
  • Data point – Skype Translate can translate calls on-fly in 7 languages: Chinese Mandarin, English, French, German, Italian, Spanish, and Brazilian Portuguese

Skype Conversations Of The Future


WhatsApp Messenger

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If ICQ instant messaging application name doesn’t ring your bell, it’s ok – today people hardly remember about it but back in the day it was The instant messaging application you could find on any desktop computer or a laptop. Today’s reincarnation of the same concept is WhatsApp Messenger app, it’s a cross-platform instant messaging app that allows people on iOS, Android, Windows, BlackBerry and Nokia phones communicate freely and it has over 1 billion users worldwide. Aside from a phenomenal number of users that rivals with its current parent company, Facebook Inc., the price that Facebook paid in February 19, 2014 to acquire the company – $19.3 billion.

Key Facts:

  • Release data – January, 2010
  • Current version average rating – 4.0 stars
  • Category – Social Networking
  • Data point – WhatsApp team has crossed 1Billion downloads on Android with 4 engineers (and 1 guy overseeing it), in their own words they’re 4.25 people vs 1Bn+ android users.

WhatsApp: Voice Messages


Find My iPhone

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In its own right, this app is the most important of all ten on the list, meaning how would you able to use all those apps if you’ve lost your iPhone? Well, seriously speaking this iOS app has a great record of being really useful for iPhone owners in situations, ranging from having their beloved device stolen, lost or simply put somewhere in the house by their kids and they wouldn’t find it quickly without this app. It’s one of those apps that you better not turn up to be in a situation when you need it but you better have it when you do.

Key Facts:

  • Release data – June 15, 2010
  • Current version average rating – 3.5 stars
  • Category – Utilities
  • Data point – Activation lock function, part of the Find My iPhone service, has decreased iPhone theft by 40% in San Francisco and 25% in New York.

Find My iPhone iOS app

find my Iphone


Google Maps

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Another app that debuted on iOS platform as one of the native apps that was developed by Apple in collaboration with Google and than, with iOS 6 introduction, became a third-party app developed solely by Google. Even though the initial reaction on this Apple’s move was controversial but looking back now in retrospective, we can say that eventually all parties have won. Apple managed to decrease its dependency on services of its rival in mobile arena, Google got more freedom for developing the app the way the company wanted to and iOS devices owners got more choice of high quality navigational apps. One thing was clear about the Apple’s own maps app from a get-go that it’s going to require a big effort on Apple’s part to compete with Google that had years of a head start with mapping technology. As of today Google Maps continue to rule the mobile navigational apps space and it’s number eight on the chart of Top 10 Most Popular iOS Apps.

Key Facts:

  • Release data – Dec 12, 2012
  • Current version average rating – 3,5 stars
  • Category – Navigation
  • Data point – Google Maps covers over 25% of the world’s land surface and over 60% of the world’s population in sub-meter high resolution.

Experience 36 Hours through Google Maps

Twitter


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Conceived initially as a service to help families and friends to inform each other about updates in their lives, today Twitter has become so much more than that. It’s become the major source for news people can pick up in a matter of minutes after they being reported on Twitter by regular usrs or media outlets. Twitter is the place for celebrities, politicians and hundreds of millions of regular users to share and consume information. Even though Twitter has apps for for iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows 10, Windows Phone, BlackBerry, Firefox OS, and Nokia S40, its iOS app for iPhone continues to be the flagman for new features to be implemented on and, along with the Android app, contributes the bulk of usage among Twitter users worldwide.

Key Facts:

  • Release data – April, 2010
  • Current version average rating – 4,5 stars
  • Category – News
  • Data point – 347,000 tweets are sent every minute.

How to use Mute on Twitter


iTunes U

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Aside from Apple’s achievements with hardware and software oriented towards consumer and Enterprise markets, its ongoing effort with digital education is what sets Apple aside from other tech giants. On May 30, 2007 Apple introduced a new section on iTunes – iTunes U, to host audio and video courses from universities for people to download free of charge. This was a tremendous step to make educational materials accessible to people who wouldn’t be able to get a hold of them otherwise. As of today iTunes U iOS app concludes the Top 10 Most Popular iOS apps chart and demonstrates people’s thirst of knowledge. It’s a good example of how solutions like iTunes U can be a great digital campaign for universities curriculum and increase education efficiency.

Key Facts:

  • Release data – April, 2010
  • Current version average rating – 3,5 stars
  • Category – Education
  • Data point – In February, 2013 iTunes U crossed 1 billion content downloads mark.

Understanding iTunes U

Conclusion

When we look at the list of these ten apps, we see distinctive patterns. Number one – almost all of them are from the Social Networking category, it bolsters one of the major trends for mobile apps, which is that they feed our necessity to communicate, we are social creatures, we need to be able to share information whenever we want to and, in a current fast-forwarding world, it’s not an easy task. Trend number two – these apps are extensions of a previously existing desktop service and their enormous success can partly be explain by that.

Hence a takeaway lesson for app developers could be that to launch and sustain a successful app, they need to apply a complex approach – an app should be one of the channels to reach out their audience with the service they provide.