We often get asked which apps are the most popular. This is a difficult question to ask, as there are all sorts of criteria to keep in mind, and the answer can almost literally change from day to day. However, we also get asked which types of apps are more popular, and that question is at least a little bit easier to answer. It's with that question in mind that we'd like to share some statistics and analysis on the most popular categories in the mobile app marketplace today. For simplicity and clarity, we're gonna stick to the two biggest apps stores in the market, the Apple Apps Store and Google Play.
First, the numbers. For Apple, we tapped two sources: Statista.com and 148apps.biz. For Google (Android), we got our statistics from AppBrain.com and Androidrank.org. When you take a look at the charts and listings these sources provide, you'll see they don't necessarily match up 100% with one another. That's not too surprising; in fact, it's to be expected, for they not only sample slightly different time periods, but they also use different category listings and criteria of measurement. There's also one big fact that makes categorizing apps tricky sometimes: some individual apps can be slotted into more than one category.
When you average everything out, one category stands clear across the board as the number-one draw, not only for overall number of apps available, but for popularity—and that's games. Beyond that, though, we've found the following categories to the in the top five:
1. Games/Brain and Puzzle
3. Education/Books and Reference
Now that we know the “what,” let's look at the “why” for each category:
Games: Look at how much of your life is spent waiting for something: car trips, doctor's offices, sitting in airport terminals, waiting in line at grocery and department stores. Our brains crave distraction and amusement during those boring down times, and thanks to mobile technology, they're available at the tap of a button.
Entertainment. See “Games” above. To break up the drudgery of real life, sometimes a movie or TV show is just the ticket for a pick-me-up, whether you're waiting in a check-out line or filling empty time at work (PS: shame on you). Like Games, this type of app is popular because people hate to be bored.
Education. There are those of us who remember a time when, if you wanted to write a research paper, you went to your local library and thumbed through the good old card catalog to find the books and periodicals that had the information you needed. (And yes, we walked barefoot through blizzards, uphill, both ways, to do it. And our homework had to be turned in on granite slabs just like on The Flintstones. Now get off our lawn.) Well, now all that information is available to seekers of higher education right on their smartphones—and judging from this category's popularity, they like that time-saving idea a lot.
Lifestyle/Personalization. Let's be honest: a lot of smartphones out there, at first glance, look a lot alike. Sometimes it's hard to tell which one is whose until you see the home screen. We're not saying this is the main reason this category is popular, though. It's a combination of expression of personality and individuality mixed with a hearty helping of having the functions and apps that are important to you arranged in an easy and attractive manner. These apps are popular because they make a mobile device uniquely yours.
Utility. Remember the Yellow Pages? How about those big ring-bound city atlases? We're not asking if you remember them fondly, mind you. Utility apps help people find businesses, restaurants, night spots, tourist attractions, you name it—and they help direct them there, too. These are just a couple of examples of how utility apps take tasks that used to be complex and time-consuming and simplify them greatly—and folks really appreciate having that convenience.
Take a look at the apps on your smartphone. We're not the gambling type, mind you, but we'd be willing to bet at least three of the five categories listed above are represented by the applications you've installed. App developers pay close attention to this sort of information, of course; they see the categories getting the most consumer attention, and they naturally gravitate toward creating apps that cater to them.
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