In 2014, observers predicted that the app industry would be worth $77 billion dollars by 2017. In fact, it actually surpassed that last year by some margin. The latest projections for 2021, from trusted accumulator App Annie, are even more insane; the market is expected to grow exponentially and be worth around $6.3 trillion in just four years time. These are gargantuan figures, which prove just how huge the appetite for apps are. The industry is growing every single day, and as smartphone technology increases, so too do the apps that come with it. Every developer hopes that their app is going to be one of the major success stories, but sadly only a small amount of apps actually make themselves profitable. Now 2017 has turned to 2018, we take a look at some of those venerated success stories, and discover who came top of the app charts.
There aren’t many surprises on the popular charts. Snapchat was the most downloaded app of 2016, but this year it fell to number two, losing out on the top spot to Bitmoji. The novelty of creating an emoji version of yourself proved just too tempting to users across the globe, resulting in it being technically the most popular app of 2017. As the company behind Bitmoji is Snap, who also developed Snapchat, it’s unlikely they’ll mind too much about their firstborn losing the top spot to their young upstart. Looking further down the charts, things are pretty much unchanged from previous years; YouTube, Messenger and Instagram make up the rest of the top five, all the dominant titans in their own genres. Facebook is in at number six, followed by Google Maps (which as we all know is extremely useful and unsurprisingly popular) at number seven and Netflix at number eight. Spotify and Uber round out the rest of the top ten respectively.
The most popular paid apps tell a bit of different story. The top spot here went to Facetune, a photo editing application used to edit, enhance and retouch photos taken on your smartphone. It was developed by Israeli-based startup company Lightricks. The app was released in March 2013, and after a few updates and reimagining, has managed to take the top spot for paid apps in over 120 countries. While it’s proved somewhat controversial in some spheres, Facetune is a perfect example of an app that caters to people’s needs (i.e. the need to look good in online photos), and works in tandem with other apps to successfully integrate itself into the user’s daily life. Also, Facetune is designed to almost piggyback along with developing technology and apps; as the cameras in smartphones get better, Facetune will become all the more relevant, and with the popularity of such apps as Instagram and Snapchat, people are going to continue looking their best when they present themselves online.
Number two in the paid app charts is a bit of an anomaly. Usually apps cater to universal needs; the more people you can reach with your app idea, the better it’s going to turn out for your balancing sheet. But Tabs & Chords, the number two most popular paid app, is directed only at people who play (or are learning to play) a stringed instrument. It was developed and released by popular tablature site Ultimate Guitar, and provides users with access to over 1.4 million songs to play and learn. It primarily focuses on guitar, but also cater to bass and ukulele players, providing riffs, chords and even guitar effects for hundreds of thousands of popular songs. This is the perfect example of an app completely dominating an area, even though it’s directed towards a niche audience; bringing the tried and tested tablature formula to a smartphone app has resulted in blazing success for the developers.
The third most popular paid app of 2017 was something completely different; it’s interesting to note that, unlike the most popular free apps which all tend towards social media, the top three most popular paid apps are all from completely different industries. Number three was HotSchedules, an employee-scheduling app that makes life easier for both employers and employees by uniting schedules and rotas into one handy cloud-based solution. It’s no surprise why this app is popular; it caters to a specific need, one which has plagued busy employers since the start of commerce. By compiling all the relevant data into one area, employees can organise shift switches by themselves, requiring only a managerial approval to make it official. The app claims 75% time savings, and by the look of this app’s popularity, that doesn’t seem to just be empty talk.
Despite all these stats, the gaming sector is still the most popular genre of app, holding over 25% of the market share. For indie developers looking to make a statement with their first app, the game market is often where they turn. But, despite all the revenue and market hold, it’s a crowded arena in which competition is fierce. The most popular game from last year was Nintendo’s Super Mario Run; this should give a good indication as to the kind of completion you’re facing in the gaming sphere. Pool simulator 8 Ball Pool was a close runner up in second position, followed by Snake VS Block, Ballz, and World Cookies!. The top paid game of last year was the Ellen DeGeneres-emblazoned Heads Up!, which took the crown for a third year in a row.
So if you’re looking to top the charts next year, you can learn a lot from the developers who found success this year. It never pays to copy other products, but take some inspiration from the 2017 chart-toppers and copy what they did right. Maybe this time next year you’ll be one of the lucky few developers who found app success in the previous twelve months!