Ranked: The World's Most Downloaded Apps in 2019
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Ranked: The World’s Most Downloaded Apps

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most downloaded apps

Note: Estimates include unique installs on iPhone, iPad, and Google Play from Jan. 1 through Dec. 31, 2019. Pre-installed apps for Apple and Google are excluded.

Ranked: The World’s Most Downloaded Apps

From strategically finding love, to helping researchers search for extraterrestrial life—there is quite literally an app for almost anything these days.

It is therefore no surprise that apps have become one of the largest consumer ecosystems on the planet, with the global app economy expected to reach $6.3 trillion by 2021.

Today’s graphics pull data from a recent report by Sensor Tower that ranks the top 20 most downloaded apps of 2019. New entrants are rising up and threatening the dominance of more established tech companies—but can they sustain their current position on the leaderboard?

The Champions of the App Economy

According to the report, total app downloads grew to 115 billion in 2019, including almost 31 billion downloads on the App Store and 84 billion on Google Play.

Social media giant Facebook owns four out of five of 2019’s most downloaded apps: Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and Instagram. Collectively, they boast an eye-watering 16 billion downloads—with WhatsApp holding the top spot for the fourth year running.

Growth in the short-form video category is apparent. The video creation app Likee joined this year’s ranking and sits in sixth place, with the majority of the app’s 330 million downloads coming from India.

The app lets users edit videos using a wide variety of effects, and directly competes with TikTok—a lip syncing app that entered the ranking in 2018 and now threatens WhatsApp’s position at the top of the leaderboard.

Which Apps Are Climbing the Ranks?

TikTok is the newest platform to turn its users into viral sensations, grossing $177 million in 2019. This is equal to more than five times its 2018 revenue. TikTok also bypassed Instagram in 2018, breaking Facebook’s foothold on the top four apps globally.

Most downloaded apps rank

TikTok is owned by Chinese tech firm ByteDance, the most valuable private company in the world—and 78% of TikTok’s total Q4’2019 revenue came from its native country.

Aside from several short-form video entrants, new players from other industries continue to storm up the ranks. While they don’t make the list of most downloaded apps yet, their recent success could change that.

Streaming Services

Netflix is the only streaming service to make it into the top 20 most downloaded apps, but the launch of Disney+ could potentially change that.

Despite a November launch, Disney+ became the second most popular new app of 2019. Within a month, the service generated $50 million in revenue.

To put this into context, Disney+ acquired 34% of all streaming app downloads in less than three months, or 30 million subscribers—half of Netflix’s current 60 million U.S. subscribers. That figure also surpasses Hulu and Amazon Prime’s figures for the entirety of 2019.

Gaming

With 2.4 billion people playing mobile games in 2019, gaming is also set to become a major player in the app economy.

Two popular console franchises, Call of Duty and Mario Kart, recently entered the mobile market to become two of the most successful games in the category.

The free mobile version of Call of Duty had the second best quarter of any mobile game ever, with 170 million worldwide downloads. Only Pokémon GO had a better quarter, with more than 300 million installs when it launched in 2016.

The success of these apps can be attributed to their already established consumer base, and the evident shift in more gamers moving to mobile platforms as smartphone technology and processing speeds improve.

Countries Leading the App Economy

The app economy is also being fueled by growth in emerging markets including China, India, Brazil and Russia, thanks to faster internet speeds and increasing smartphone adoption rates.

Specifically, India’s increasing digitization is driving significant growth in the market. The country witnessed nearly 5 billion app installs in the last quarter of 2019—surging ahead of the U.S. with just over 3 billion installs.

app downloads by country
Note: As Google Play is not available in China, the country was excluded from this chart.

India’s demand could be attributed to the fact that half of its 1.3 billion population is under the age of 25. A younger, tech savvy audience has resulted in India becoming TikTok’s top market, commanding 45% of the app’s first time downloads in 2019.

The App Economy 2.0

With an explosion in user spending, and seemingly endless opportunities for innovation, the global app economy shows a tremendous amount of promise, but is still in its early days.

Consumers spent $101 billion on apps globally in 2018. This is double the size of the global sneaker market, and nearly three times the size of the oral care industry.

—Danielle Levitas, EVP of Global Marketing & Market Insights at App Annie

Rising consumer spend combined with other forms of monetization, such as advertising and mobile commerce, could soon enable the app market to surpass the trillion dollar barrier in revenue.

While many experts claimed that the app industry was dead in its tracks, it’s safe to say that those predictions are now being irrefutably challenged.

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The World’s Most Used Apps, by Downstream Traffic

Of the millions of apps available around the world, just a small handful of the most used apps dominate global internet traffic.

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The World’s Most Used Apps by Downstream Traffic Share

The World’s Most Used Apps, by Downstream Traffic

Of the millions of apps available around the world, just a small handful of the most used apps dominate global internet traffic.

Everything connected to the internet takes bandwidth to view. When you look at something on your smartphone—whether it’s a new message on Instagram or the next few seconds of a YouTube video—your device is downloading the data in the background.

And the bigger the files, the more bandwidth is utilized. In this chart, we break down of the most used apps by category, using Sandvine’s global mobile traffic report for 2021 Q1.

Video Drives Global Mobile Internet Traffic

The biggest files use the most data, and video files take the cake.

According to Android Central, streaming video ranges from about 0.7GB per hour of data for a 480p video to 1.5GB per hour for 1080. A 4K stream, the highest resolution currently offered by most providers, uses around 7.2GB per hour.

That’s miles bigger than audio files, where high quality 320kbps music streams use an average of just 0.12GB per hour. Social network messages are usually just a few KB, while the pictures found on them can range from a few hundred KB for a low resolution image to hundreds of MB for high resolution.

Understandably, breaking down mobile downstream traffic by app category shows that video is on top by a long shot:

CategoryDownstream Traffic Share (2021 Q1)
Video Streaming48.9%
Social Networking19.3%
Web13.1%
Messaging6.7%
Gaming4.3%
Marketplace4.1%
File Sharing1.3%
Cloud1.1%
VPN and Security0.9%
Audio0.2%

Video streaming accounts for almost half of mobile downstream traffic worldwide at 49%. Audio streaming, including music and podcasts, accounts for just 0.2%.

Comparatively, social network and web browsing combined make up one third of downstream internet traffic. Games, marketplace apps, and file sharing, despite their large file sizes, only require one-time downloads that don’t put as big of a strain on traffic as video does.

A Handful of Companies Own the Most Used Apps

Though internet traffic data is broken down by category, it’s worth noting that many apps consume multiple types of bandwidth.

For example, messaging and social network apps, like WhatsApp, Instagram, and Snapchat, allow consumers to stream video, social network, and message.

Even marketplace apps like iTunes and Google Play consume bandwidth for video and audio streaming, and together account for 6.3% of total mobile downstream traffic.

But no single app had a bigger footprint than YouTube, which accounts for 20.4% of total global downstream bandwidth.

CategoryTop Apps (Category Traffic)Category Traffic Share
Video StreamingYouTube47.9%
Video StreamingTikTok16.1%
Video StreamingFacebook Video14.6%
Video StreamingInstagram12.1%
Video StreamingNetflix4.3%
Video StreamingOther5.0%
Social NetworkingFacebook50.5%
Social NetworkingInstagram41.9%
Social NetworkingTwitter2.4%
Social NetworkingOdnoklassniki1.9%
Social NetworkingQQ0.7%
Social NetworkingOther2.9%
MessagingWhatsApp31.4%
MessagingSnapchat16.5%
MessagingFacebook VoIP14.3%
MessagingLINE12.1%
MessagingSkype4.1%
MessagingOther21.6%
WebGoogle41.2%
WebOther58.8%

The world’s tech giants had the leading app in the four biggest data streaming categories. Alphabet’s YouTube and Google made up almost half of all video streaming and web browsing traffic, while Facebook’s own app, combined with Instagram and WhatsApp, accounted for 93% of global social networking traffic and 45% of messaging traffic.

Traffic usage by app highlights the data monopoly of tech giants and internet providers. Since just a few companies account for a majority of global smartphone internet traffic, they have a lot more bartering power (and responsibility) when it comes to our general internet consumption.

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Visualizing the Critical Metals in a Smartphone

Smartphones can contain ~80% of the stable elements on the periodic table. This graphic details the critical metals you carry in your pocket.

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Visualizing the Critical Metals in a Smartphone

In an increasingly connected world, smartphones have become an inseparable part of our lives.

Over 60% of the world’s population owns a mobile phone and smartphone adoption continues to rise in developing countries around the world.

While each brand has its own mix of components, whether it’s a Samsung or an iPhone, most smartphones can carry roughly 80% of the stable elements on the periodic table.

But some of the vital metals to build these devices are considered at risk due to geological scarcity, geopolitical issues, and other factors.

Smartphone PartCritical Metal
Touch Screen indium
Displaylanthanum; gadolinium; praseodymium; europium; terbium; dysprosium
Electronicsnickel, gallium, tantalum
Casingnickel, magnesium
Battery lithium, nickel, cobalt
Microphone, speakers, vibration unit nickel, praseodymium, neodymium, gadolinium, terbium, dysprosium

What’s in Your Pocket?

This infographic based on data from the University of Birmingham details all the critical metals that you carry in your pocket with your smartphone.

1. Touch Screen

Screens are made up of multiple layers of glass and plastic, coated with a conductor material called indium which is highly conductive and transparent.

Indium responds when contacted by another electrical conductor, like our fingers.

When we touch the screen, an electric circuit is completed where the finger makes contact with the screen, changing the electrical charge at this location. The device registers this electrical charge as a “touch event”, then prompting a response.

2. Display

Smartphones screens display images on a liquid crystal display (LCD). Just like in most TVs and computer monitors, a phone LCD uses an electrical current to adjust the color of each pixel.

Several rare earth elements are used to produce the colors on screen.

3. Electronics

Smartphones employ multiple antenna systems, such as Bluetooth, GPS, and WiFi.

The distance between these antenna systems is usually small making it extremely difficult to achieve flawless performance. Capacitors made of the rare, hard, blue-gray metal tantalum are used for filtering and frequency tuning.

Nickel is also used in capacitors and in mobile phone electrical connections. Another silvery metal, gallium, is used in semiconductors.

4. Microphone, Speakers, Vibration Unit

Nickel is used in the microphone diaphragm (that vibrates in response to sound waves).

Alloys containing rare earths neodymium, praseodymium and gadolinium are used in the magnets contained in the speaker and microphone. Neodymium, terbium and dysprosium are also used in the vibration unit.

5. Casing

There are many materials used to make phone cases, such as plastic, aluminum, carbon fiber, and even gold. Commonly, the cases have nickel to reduce electromagnetic interference (EMI) and magnesium alloys for EMI shielding.

6. Battery

Unless you bought your smartphone a decade ago, your device most likely carries a lithium-ion battery, which is charged and discharged by lithium ions moving between the negative (anode) and positive (cathode) electrodes.

What’s Next?

Smartphones will naturally evolve as consumers look for ever-more useful features. Foldable phones, 5G technology with higher download speeds, and extra cameras are just a few of the changes expected.

As technology continues to improve, so will the demand for the metals necessary for the next generation of smartphones.

This post was originally featured on Elements

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