by Matt Kapko

Facebook and Google dominate list of most popular apps (again)

News Analysis
Jan 03, 2017
Enterprise ApplicationsFacebookGoogle

The eight most popular mobile apps in the United States are made by two tech giants. Facebook and Google dominated the app market in 2017 and continued a duopoly that's existed for years.

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Credit: Thinkstock

Facebook and Google closed out 2016 with a near duopoly in popular mobile applications. Both companies’ mobile apps expanded their dominance of the 10 most popular mobile apps in the United States by significant margins, according to research from Nielsen. The media measurement firm calculated the average unique audiences for apps between January 2016 and October 2016 and provided year-over-year percentage changes for the 12-month period that ended in October. 

A Facebook and Google world …

Facebook makes the two most popular mobile apps in the United States, Facebook and Facebook Messenger, as well as Instagram, the second-fastest growing app and the No. 8 most popular app, according to Nielsen. Facebook’s average unique audience on mobile during the period grew 14 percent year-over-year to 146 million users. Facebook Messenger’s audience grew 28 percent from the previous year to 129.7 million users. And Instagram jumped 36 percent from 2015 to 74.7 million users, Nielsen says.

Google owns the middle of the pack, much as it did in May when comScore tracked mobile app performance in the United States. After Facebook and Facebook Messenger, it has the next five most popular mobile apps among U.S. smartphone users, Nielsen says. The company’s mix of video, search, entertainment and utility apps all grew and maintained their respective positions from third to seventh in the company’s top 10 rankings. 

Google’s most popular app, YouTube, the video platform and network it acquired more than a decade ago, reached an average unique audience of 113.7 million users and grew by 20 percent during the 12-month period, according to Nielsen. Google Maps grew its audience by 22 percent from 2015 to 105.7 million users. Google Search increased its audience 9 percent to almost 104 million users, and Google Play ended the year with an 8 percent growth rate and an average unique audience of 99.8 million users, according to Nielsen. Finally, Gmail continued to grow, at a double-digit rate of 18 percent year-over-year, to almost 88.6 million users, Nielsen reports.

Business as usual for biggest mobile apps, but …

Nielsen’s latest statistics offered few surprises. Facebook’s dominance grew at a steady rate throughout the year, and if Instagram continues to rise it could topple some of Google’s apps during the next couple of years. Facebook ended the third quarter of 2016 with 1.09 billion mobile daily active users globally and 229 million monthly active users in the United States and Canada. Instagram, which is almost exclusively mobile, surpassed 600 million monthly active users last month, and it added 100 million users during the last six months of 2016. Facebook acquired Instagram for $1 billion in 2012 when the app had about 30 million users.

Apple, Amazon and Snapchat are in the best positions to upend the Facebook-Google duopoly. Apple Music claimed the ninth spot on Nielsen’s rankings with 68.4 million users. Amazon rounded out the top 10 with 65.5 million users, along with a 43 percent year-over-year growth rate, according to Nielsen.