The App Store is one of the iPhone’s best features. No matter how much you like the latest version of iOS, it can always be made better by the perfect selection of third-party apps. In fact, we’d advocate for replacing most of Apple’s default apps with more capable titles by independent developers (or even with apps from Google). The App Store is the perfect place to find software that makes your iPhone easier to use. But it’s also the destination for apps that will enable you to do more with your iPhone.
There are about 2 million apps currently available in the App Store (which gives you a lot of options). But no matter how eclectic or obscure your taste in apps, chances are good that you’ve downloaded at least a couple of the most popular apps of the year. Apple just released its list of the most popular apps of 2016. While some of them are pretty obvious, a few might surprise you. Read on to check out which apps iPhone users showed the most love for in 2016 — and see how many of the year’s top apps are on your phone.
2016 has been a big year for Snapchat. It’s brought new filters and features, including 3D stickers. Most recently, the company introduced Spectacles, a pair of smart glasses that enable wearers to capture and share photos and videos. At the beginning of the year, The Huffington Post’s Matthew Tyson wrote that Snapchat was “the thing you should be doing in 2016.” He explained that Snapchat had “begun its transition from a novelty visual app to a legitimate business tool.”
Facebook Messenger came in second on Apple’s list, perhaps thanks to the wide variety of changes that 2016 brought to the platform. In the past year, Facebook rolled out chatbots to Messenger and also enabled third-party apps and games to integrate their functionality directly into Messenger. You can now summon an Uber without leaving Messenger. You can play games. Or you can use the platform’s new end-to-end encryption feature to have secure “Secret Conversations” with your friends or family members.
3. Pokémon GO
If you were paying attention to the year’s biggest app launches, it probably won’t surprise you that Pokémon GO‘s July launch landed it on Apple’s list of the year’s most popular apps. The augmented reality game was developed by Niantic and relies on your phone’s GPS. In the game, you can locate, capture, and train Pokémon, which appear overlaid on the environment around you. Hundreds of millions of users downloaded it worldwide, and while its popularity has already waned, it seemed like you couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about Pokémon when everybody was playing.
In 2016, it became even more obvious that Instagram is here to stay. Writing for Forbes, Kathleen Chaykowski characterizes Instagram as the “$50 billion grand slam driving Facebook’s future.” As Chaykowski explains, “Instagram’s road to mass adoption has come through an intuitive app that has easy editing tools and a set of filters that allow anyone to turn smartphone photos and videos into edgy, nostalgic, glamorous, intimate or dramatic visual diaries.” In 2016, Instagram added a variety of new features, including Stories, which enables users to share photos and videos that disappear after 24 hours.
Facebook offers a famous (or infamous) year in review feature that enables you to look at the most “meaningful moments” from your year on Facebook. But the social network also shares the biggest news stories that were discussed on its platform this year, ranging from the U.S. presidential election to the Black Lives Matter movement to the Olympics to Brexit. From the rise of fake news as a visible problem to the spread of viral Live videos like “Chewbacca Mom,” 2016 was a pretty big year for Facebook.
YouTube is another wildly popular platform that makes a habit of reviewing what went viral in the last year. As Andrew Dalton reports for Engadget, YouTube in 2016 “was all about viral challenges.” 2016’s top 10 YouTube videos amassed a collective 550 million views and accounted for a combined 25 million hours of time spent watching. 2016 was a successful but controversial year for YouTube. The platform’s “demonetization controversy” and its clumsy censorship practices both made headlines. But despite some Twitter users’ #YouTubeIsOverParty, the app’s popularity makes it seem like YouTube isn’t going anywhere.
7. Google Maps
In 2016, Apple made several moves to try to catch Apple Maps up with Google Maps. But Google Maps is an extremely popular download among iOS users thanks to the platform’s ever-expanding feature set. In 2016, Google Maps gained some new updates and features. For instance, Google made it easier to see areas that include several points of interest. It added food delivery support to the app. The app added travel times and direction sharing features, plus a ride services tab, a Spotlight search integration, and a new pit stop feature. Another update made it easy to check how crowded a store is in real time.
Pandora may not be the streaming service that dominated headlines in 2016, but it was popular enough to land on Apple’s list of the most popular iOS apps. In 2016, Pandora went through a major rebrand. The company also revamped Pandora Plus, an ad-free radio streaming service that costs $4.99 per month and includes more skips and replays, plus offline listening. Late in the year, Pandora also unveiled its Spotify competitor: Pandora Premium, which offers on-demand access to a large music catalog. The service, which will launch early in 2017, will use all of the data that you’ve given Pandora over the years to show you songs, artists, and albums you may be interested in.
Netflix was not only one of the most popular iPhone apps in 2016, but also become the platform’s top grossing app for the first time. That milestone was attributed to the company’s choice to introduce an in-app subscription option, of which a growing number of users are availing themselves. Between the time that Netflix introduced the in-app subscription option in fall 2015 and the end of 2016, Netflix’s weekly net revenue grew from under $50,000 to nearly $2.9 million. Well-received original series like House of Cards, Stranger Things, Orange is the New Black, and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, plus revivals like Gilmore Girls and Fuller House, are Netflix offerings with particularly wide appeal.
10. Spotify Music
It’s probably not surprising that Spotify made Apple’s list of the most popular iPhone apps of the year. According to the streaming service, 2016 was “an amazing year in music.” Reviewing the year, Spotify reported that the most streamed artists on its platform were Drake, Justin Bieber, Rihanna, Twenty One Pilots, and Kanye West. Its most streamed female artists were Rihanna, Ariana Grande, Sia, Adele, and Fifth Harmony; and its most streamed male artists were Drake, Justin Bieber, Twenty One Pilots, Kanye West, and Coldplay. Among the year’s emerging genres, Spotify cited popular favorites including Ambient Fusion, Witch House, Indie Emo, Underground Latin Hip Hop, and Baile Funk.