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Technology 30 Dec 2016

Snapchat, the most-downloaded free app of 2016

From locating an unknown address to identifying the name of the song playing on the radio, apps can do almost anything. Although the app boom is over, users still download millions of them every day. This year, Snapchat was the most downloaded app in the Apple Store, according to Time magazine, followed by Messenger, Pokémon GO, Instagram and Facebook.

Evan Spiegel’s free app is about to close its most successful year ever. The app, which ranked fifth in 2015, according to Mashable, climbed to the top spot in 2016, fending off competition from titans such as Facebook, Instagram and Pokémon GO. In the case of Android, according to fastcompany.com the most downloaded app this year was Face Changer 2, an app that allows users to swap faces with friends when taking a selfie, morph of their faces or adding funny objects to their own photos, such as glasses and hats. Joining Face Changer 2 were, in ranking order, Photo & Selfie Editor, Castbox – Podcast Radio Music, Emoji Keyboard Pro and MSQRD.

In the games category, unsurprisingly, Pokémon GO topped the ranking. According to British newspaper the Daily Mirror, the game was the most popular on Google Play. With over 100 million downloads, the app kept many users busy during the summer in a monster-hunting craze. In fact, a U.S. citizen, was the first one that managed to do so. As reported in heavy.com, Nick Johnson traveled around the world with his mobile phone. It took him two weeks to capture all the characters available in the game. Other games such as Clash Royale, Traffic Rider, slither.io and Dream League Soccer were also hugely popular.

The “word of mouth” of independent apps

The success of an independent app – i.e. not owned by Google, Apple or Facebook – such as Pokémon GO’s is rather unusual. According to Robbie Allan, head of product development, in general terms, 40% of the apps installed in mobile handsets are put out by these three tech giants, and therefore usually take the top spots in these rankings. On the other hand, independent apps, even if they offer a high quality service, have to rely on word-of-mouth to build their popularity among the general public.

More competitors

Today, it is harder than ever for developers to reach broader audiences without support from Google or Apple. Not only do they have to focus on building high-quality, user-friendly, attractive and easily shared applications, but they also have to compete against applications released by the giants, at a distinct disadvantage. However, competition has increased, even for top companies, and getting a user to download an app is becoming an increasingly harder challenge, according to a report by Nomura, reported by Recode. As the technology news site reveals, the main apps are seeing their download rates dwindle, as they find it harder and harder to keep demand up over time.  Thus, WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook, even YouTube, Instagram and Spotify were down this year.  Only transport app Uber and social network Snapchat, are up compared to last year.

However, competition has increased, even for top companies, and getting a user to download an app is becoming an increasingly harder challenge, according to a report by Nomura, reported by Recode. As the technology news site reveals, the main apps are seeing their download rates dwindle, as they find it harder and harder to keep demand up over time.  Thus, WhatsApp, Messenger and Facebook, even YouTube, Instagram and Spotify were down this year.  Only transport app Uber and social network Snapchat, are up compared to last year.

But let’s not kid ourselves.  While the most-used apps are the most downloaded ones, most-downloaded apps do not necessarily become most-used apps. According to a report by SurveyMonkey Intelligence, apps with a high number of downloads are not always the ones that their users use the most on a daily basis.  This is the case of Pokémon GO.  Although it is a worldwide viral phenomenon, mobile games enjoy relatively low retention rates, as users tend to grow tired of them after a while.

Music fans

In the music segment, the Pandora app has been extraordinarily popular.  Despite enduring harsh criticism over its financial results, its audience is almost twice the size than Spotify’s and has driven more downloads than Youtube, according to SurveyMonkey.  Another application that has become a huge hit among music lovers is Musical.ly.  With 80 million users, who can upload videos and lip sync to their favorite tunes, it aims to become a social network capable of competing with Facebook and Snapchat, according to the Xataka website.

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