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The mobile app market is busier than ever.
Android users have over 2.1 million apps available for download in the Google Play store.
Apple’s App store, the second largest app store, has over 2 million apps available for iPhone users.
That’s about 4.1 million apps total on the market today!
This made us think…
With all of these apps on the market – where in the world do they come from?
So we decided to research and curate a list of the top 50 apps on the U.S. app market across categories and platforms (iOS and Android), based on data from Apple’s App Store, the Google Play Store, and reputable sources such as App Annie, TechCrunch, and Mashable – and map out where these popular apps got their starts.
Our research approach was multi-layered:
If you’re into the gritty details, you can check out the raw data for our Top 50 Apps list here.
So now that you understand the method to our madness, can you guess where most of the top viral apps come from?
Let’s find out!
It’s no surprise that 36 of the top apps on our list come from the U.S.
The top social networking, messaging, and communication apps on iOS and Google Play all have their roots in Silicon Valley, California.
Coincidence? Definitely not.
Silicon Valley, the southern San Francisco Bay Area of California, is home to many startups and global tech companies in the U.S.
Instagram, Facebook, Messenger, and WhatsApp all had their humble beginnings in Silicon Valley (all also now owned by Facebook Inc.).
Did you know that 2.5 billion people across the globe use at least one of Facebook’s apps?
Without question, these U.S. / Silicon Valley-based social networking apps are dominating the market:
The top video streaming apps on our list originate from the U.S. as well: YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Video, HBO NOW, and ESPN. You can find the majority of these apps (all but HBO) in the chart below – ranked by highest number of monthly active users.
YouTube ranks first, followed by Netflix, and ESPN, across both Android and iOS.
Mobile video is really killing it. This is further proven by the steep rise of mobile video consumption since 2013:
We expect these U.S. based video streaming apps will stay on the Top 50 Apps for a while!
Another highly popular app you may have heard of (or have used yourself) is the Tinder dating app.
The Business of Apps predicted that Tinder revenue for 2018 would reach $800 million – double what it did the year prior. Although it’s unclear whether Tinder reached its goals, if the app’s consistent subscriber growth is any indication of trajectory, it should be well on its way to a solid increase in revenue:
Bumble is another popular dating app based out of Austin, Texas on our list. Although Bumble doesn’t have the same hype as Tinder, it’s a fierce competitor bringing in about $200 million in revenue in 2018.
Lastly, we’ll highlight the “uber” popular Uber, UberEats, Lyft, and the DashDoor apps. Check out some impressive stats from these service-driven apps:
Without question, the U.S. comes out on top for its list of innovative and globally-dominating social networking, messaging, video streaming, food delivery, ride sharing, and even dating mobile apps.
But… as you’ll notice in the following sections, other countries come out on top for gaming, photo editing, and emerging social networking app categories. Let’s take a look…
Most likely you’ve heard of the game Minecraft, but did you know it was based out of Sweden?
It was developed by Swedish developer Markus Persson and released by Mojang in 2011. In 2014, Markus went on to sell his game to Microsoft for a whopping $2.5 billion.
Not bad for something that Persson says he started as a hobby!
Here’s a screenshot of Minecraft on the App Store:
Similarly, Geometry Dash was developed by another Swedish developer, Robert Topala.
The game is a rhythm-based platform with 21 official levels and more than 40 million others created by players online. To play, players jump and fly their way through different obstacles and danger zones.
Here’s a screenshot of the game on the Google Play Store:
Candy Crush Saga (which I know you’ve heard of) is a free puzzle video game played by millions around the globe:
Unlike the Minecraft and Geometry Dash apps, Candy Crush Saga uses a freemium model, where gamers are upsold with add-ons, extra features, and upgrades. The popular series (which includes two other sister apps) brings in an average of $3.9 million a day for King, the company behind the Candy Crush franchise.
The last app from Sweden on our Top 50 is called Toca Hair Salon 3. It’s a light-hearted game designed for kids that lets them create characters, change up their hairstyle, and customize their look.
To our amazement, this one is quite popular for paid apps on both Google Play and the App Store (ranks at number 34 on iOS in U.S. as of April 15, 2019). Toca Boca, maker of the app, has won multiple awards including Editor’s Choice in Children’s Technology Review (for a total of six times) and the Telenor Digital Prize 2011.
Check out the cute characters on Toca Hair Salon:
If you didn’t know already: Swedish developers are exceptional at developing apps that not only go viral, but make money (tons of it)!
First up – Facetune, a portrait-editing app for iOS and Android devices, lets users easily tweak and touch up their facial features with a few simple swipes. The app was developed by Lightricks, an Israel-based startup company established by five entrepreneurs, four of them PhDs studying computer graphics.
Upon initial release, more than 10 million copies were sold (at between $3.99 and $5.99 each). This is by far, one of the most popular photo editing apps on the market.
According to a recent report from the Israel Venture Capital Research Center and ZAG-S&W firm, an estimated $1.44 billion raised was raised in high tech capital in the country in Q3 of 2017 alone.
Certainly, we can expect more viral apps to originate from Israel in the future.
Run Race 3D is free and offers users a thrilling adventure – passing level by scurrying down runways, jumping from wall to wall and climbing ropes quicker than your opponents.
It’s been named Apple’s “Best Free Running game”.
Toon Blast, a cartoon puzzle adventure, is a paid app and one of the App Store and Google Play Store’s top grossing games (as of April 2019). Developed by Peak Games, Toon Blast is a fun, social and engaging casual mobile game that is widely loved. The app has an insane 50,000,000+ installs on Google Play alone.
Istanbul, Turkey might be onto something 🙂
China has some of the top revenue-generating apps on the market (yet again, not shocking).
Most likely, you’ve heard of TikTok, or have seen it on your Instagram feed.
TikTok was originally founded under the name Musical.ly by longtime friends Alex Zhu and Luyu Yang in Shanghai, China. Musical.ly was acquired by Bytedance for an estimated $800 million in 2017, and shortly after was rebranded as TikTok, an app that Bytedance already owned. The app is free to download and lets users create and share 15-second videos on its social platform.
Over the past year, TikTok has been gaining real momentum across the globe. It’s all the rave among teens and adults too. According to SensorTower:
When it comes to apps that generate lots of revenue – China has it figured out.
Germany is next with two of the Top 50 Apps.
Construction Simulator 3 is a paid simulation game available on both Google Play and Apple Stores. The game captures its audience with 70 challenging missions and offers players the opportunity to work their way up from a small construction zone to the largest in the region.
Take a look at the game’s construction zones:
Pinatamasters, on the other hand, is free and comes highly rated on the App Store:
Germany is the originator of many top-rated physical games (i.e. board games and deck-building games), so it’s both unsurprising that they are behind two top-rated gaming apps, but also surprising that it’s only two!
London, United Kingdom is also home to 2 of our Top 50 Apps.
The award-winning game Stardew Valley allows gamers to build the farm of their dreams:
The Game of Life let’s players create the life of their dreams, from going to college to landing their dream job:
Stardew Valley and The Game of Life also compete with one another as one of the top apps in the paid category.
The concept of creating your own life, whether it’s farming or landing your dream job, seems to be appealing to many as these London apps compete among the top paid apps in the App Store and Google Play Store!
It’s fascinating to learn the origins of today’s top apps: Silicon Valley, London, Israel, Turkey, Sweden, Germany, China.
The U.S. wins for having the most categories, such as social networking, messaging, and video streaming – which we definitely suspected. If you’re looking to build an app in these categories, your best bet will be to pack your bags and get those creative juices flowing in Silicon Valley.
To our surprise, Sweden is making moves in gaming and with how they monetize their apps. Candy Crush Saga (from Sweden) makes an average of $3.6 million a day! Minecraft was sold to Microsoft for $2.5 billion. Reverse-engineering Sweden’s games to try and create your own cash cow wouldn’t be a bad idea!
Facetune has been on the top selling and most popular charts for years. They’ve mastered the art of AI technology and photo editing for selfies. We expect Silicon Wadi will be out with more viral apps in the future.
Things brings us to our final thought: Although the U.S. has historically dominated the app market, countries around the globe are starting to break through and offer some serious competition.
Let us know what surprised you the most in the comments below!