What a year it has been! We saw unprecedented changes in the app economy in 2020 as consumer behavior shifted dramatically. You can see 2019's worldwide download leaders here. This year is a little different, as we are providing many more categories, in addition to providing US data in many cases. We've also included the top grossing apps for three select categories (Apps, Games, Health & Fitness).
Before you start, you may want to understand what a mobile app download is, what this metric is good at measuring and what it does not measure.
Let's set the ground rules:
1. All data is combined iOS + Google Play, except for data from China which is iOS only
2. If an app has a "lite" version, that data is included in the respective app's data
3. We created these categories ourselves and had to make decisions on distinctions. We will call out those distinctions in the writing below. In general, we tried to group apps with the same primary function together.
4. Light commentary for each image or set of images follows directly below it.
5. This was created and written by Adam Blacker and Madeline Lenahan. Contact us on Twitter with any questions or thoughts.
Sadly, there are no real surprises here. Four of the apps on both charts are Facebook owned. Newcomers include Zoom and Google Meet, enabling us to have remote meetings. For the US, Cash App is the only finance focused app to land in the top 10.
TikTok takes the top spot here, far above any other social media or live streaming app. We know Netflix makes a lot of money because the app actually stopped accepting new customer payments via the app stores in December 2018, and it still lands in the top 10. Netflix would likely be the #1 grossing app if this was not the case.
Launched in summer 2018, Among Us! finally found overnight success once a few prominent streamers began playing it for their viewers. Zynga gets on the board in the US this year via acquisition of Rollic Games, which publishes the hypercasual game, Tangle Master 3D.
Tencent's PUBG/Game for Peace breaks the billion dollar mark for the year, but what I find most impressive is that Arena of Valor's high revenue mark is solely from iOS devices in China. Another impressive feat is from Russian publisher Playrix (headquartered in Ireland), which shows up twice with Gardenscapes and Homescapes. In the US, Roblox hits the top mark ($RBLX will go public this year) while King's classic Candy Crush is still going strong. Playtika's (also scheduled to go public this year) Slotomania is the only social casino app to be a top grosser this year.
Outside of Mi Fit taking the #1 spot as a Chinese device-connected app, you should notice right away that four of these app icons look very similar. Why? Home Workout, Lose Weight for Women, Six Pack in 30 Days, and Lose Weight for Men are all owned by ABISHKKING. The company has more than 100 apps, most of which are fitness-oriented. In the US, Calm sets itself apart by having been downloaded seven million more times than the #2 app, Fitbit.
In 2020, mental fitness appears to have been just as, or even more, important than physical fitness. Both Calm and Headspace are at the top of charts. Notably, SWEAT by Kayla Fitness continues to hold a spot here, even as the category has made room for similar at-home fitness competitors. And, finally, we would be remiss not to mention Muscle Booster, which we called out back in January 2020 as the Health & Fitness app to watch.
With the masses working from home and Peloton in the spotlight, connected fitness apps were brought to the forefront of the Health & Fitness category in 2020. iFit, which connects to NordicTrack equipment is the the only other app on this U.S. list that is designed for cycling/large equipment. Fitbit, VeryFitPro, Garmin Connect, Mi Fit, WHOOP, Lefun, Huawei and Garmin Jr. all connect to watches or similar devices.
Like Connected Fitness, Mental Health was top-of-mind this year as we adjusted to our "new normal." In the U.S., Calm and Headspace, of course, take the top spots. But Calm continues to outpace Headspace by nine million downloads. Interestingly enough, Insight Timer, another meditation app, made it onto this list without having ever spent budget on advertising. The app even has 5x the retention rate of its largest competitor, Calm.
Netflix continues to be a powerhouse, but given that Disney+ is newer, I wonder if it would be the #1 downloaded Entertainment app if it was available in as many countries as Netflix is. Disney+ did manage to beat out Netflix in the US by a small margin. HBO Max pops up at #8 in the US and it is currently the fastest growing SVOD platform in the country right now. Two apps making an appearance on the global chart for the first time in this category are MX Player, a video on-demand app popular in India, and Reface, an AI powered face swap app.
The apps in this chart are all VOD, or video on-demand, apps. This category does have a lot of crossover with Entertainment. Both Tubi and Pluto TV appear on both the worldwide and US list, and both are supported solely via advertising (AVOD). This has been a growing market as consumers search for more content without the cost, like how TV used to be before cable.
Most of these global leaders do not have physical locations. We're seeing the world's regional ecommerce leaders here with Shopee and Lazada doing well in Southeast Asia, Flipkart doing well in India, Mercado Libre doing well in Latin America, and Pinduoduo doing well in China. Amazon, Wish and SHEIN all do well globally. In the US, we find just three retailers with physical locations; Walmart, Target, Nike. It's also interesting to see Shop here, which is owned by Shopify. I mainly use the app for tracking packages but it does enable users to browse products from Shopify merchants.
Dating app engagement suffered at the beginning of the pandemic, then bounced back, even surpassing pre-pandemic levels. Tinder dominates globally and in the U.S., and is joined on this list by its other Match Group family members, Plenty of Fish and Grindr. Match competitor, The Meet Group, owns MeetMe, Skout and Tagged. Blackstone owns both Badoo and Bumble. LOVOO and BLK didn't make it on these lists, but they are the fastest-growing dating apps of the year.
WhatsApp continues to be the dominant global messaging tool of choice, even having its business app pop up in the top list too. For the Communication apps, we purposely left out apps we felt were less about transactional communications and were more of a social network. Discord is a new addition this year, it was growing nicely on its own but the rise of the game, Among Us! really made it take off. In the US, we see Microsoft Teams make the top list but not Slack. Houseparty, which was acquired by Epic Games (maker of Fortnite), just sneaks onto the US list.
TikTok is no surprise here at the top of both lists. The last three apps in the global list received most of their downloads in the second half of 2020 as TikTok was banned in India. MX TakaTak, Josh Videos and Moj are also social short-form video apps popular in India. Besides TikTok, BIGO Live is another socially-oriented app from Asia that has gained serious traction in the US. As its name infers, BIGO Live is more geared toward live streaming than TikTok is.
The top bank app in the US this year is one without any physical branches. Two other apps that landed in the top 10, Dave and Current, do not have physical locations either.
As of writing this, Bitcoin is up to to $35K. We predicted growth back in August, as we saw crypto apps seeing strong, steady growth for the first time in a while. You'll notice we did not include Robinhood or Cash App on this list. This is because we focused on primary function for the apps and Robinhood is not what we would call "crypto-centric." Robinhood would have easily come in first with 14.4M downloads.
This category is all about apps whose primary, or best known, function is sending money to friends, family, or that sketchy guy on Craigslist. I was surprised Zelle landed on the list given that the tool is accessible via many banking apps and not many users of the product have reason to download the app. Lydia, which just cracked the list, has been called the 'Venmo of France.'
The top three are the same this year as they were in 2019. In the US, Instacart was able to boost itself into a top spot this year from a very strong surge in downloads in March and April. One thing to know is that a few apps here like McDonald's, Starbucks and Just Eat Takeaway, all have different apps for different countries. To get the numbers here, we combined them all. However, we did not combine owned properties with a different namesake. For example, downloads of the Seamless app are not included in Grubhub's downloads, and Grubhub's downloads are not included in Just Eat Takeaway's downloads.
Here we are just looking at apps whose primary function is the delivery of prepared food. This is why Instacart is not here. And yes, you can order delivery through an app like McDonald's, but that is not its primary function. DoorDash has taken over Uber Eats as the most downloaded food delivery app in the US this year. It comes in as the second most downloaded app globally even though it is only available in the US, Canada and Australia.
While numbers were down this year, demand for rideshare apps remained stronger than other products/services in the Travel category. Road trips and the "work from anywhere" mantra also helped boost navigation and vacation rental apps. VRBO, for instance, saw record-high growth back in June. Airline apps, like American and Southwest, made it onto the US list, in spite of 2020 producing dramatically lower numbers than 2019. AutoNavi Maps is like a Google Maps for China. InDriver is a rideshare app popular in Brazil and Hello Travel is a rideshare app popular in China.
Again, vacation rental apps Airbnb and VRBO really shined in this category, as they offered alternative WFH options, and in Airbnb's case, digital experiences. In the U.S., Booking.com is a heavyweight.
As schools moved to remote learning, education apps became pivotal to their curriculum. Google Classroom, which provides a Zoom-like platform designed for teaching, captured the #1 spot both globally and in the US. Picture This, which made it onto both lists, is a unique app, as it helps you identify and learn about different plant species. As many people re-connected with the outdoors over quarantine, its presence here makes sense.
Spotify lands the #1 spot again this year and is joined by many of the usual suspects at the top. StarMaker, if you're wondering, is a karaoke app most popular in Asia. Gaana is essentially the Spotify of India. Notably, Audible didn't make the cut.