Apps lifting the smart boat

Smartphone apps. (Reuters)

Smartphone apps. (Reuters)

There is no better indication of what consumers are doing on their smartphones than the apps they most commonly download. 

It’s a well-known fact that many apps are tried once and never used again. At the same time, however, it is likely that the proportion of apps in continual use will be related to the number of times they are downloaded. In other words, the more an app is downloaded, the more likely it is to become one of those must-haves that are used every day.

On all three major app stores, namely Google Play for Android, the Apple App Store for iOS, and the Windows Store, the top three free downloads are all social or messaging. 

Moreover, for Android, the fastest-growing smartphone platform in South Africa, the top five apps fall into this category, and for Windows, the top four, according to the SA Social Media Landscape 2015 study by World Wide Worx and Fuseware. 

The headline findings of the study were released in September, but the final report, released this week, provides surprising insights into the extent to which mobile devices and their apps capabilities are driving social media. 

The top paid apps for both Android and Windows are games, while for iOS fitness apps take the first and third positions, as well as one other position in the top 10. 

Does this mean iOS users are more health-conscious? Not necessarily: fitness app downloaders tend to download multiple apps to try them out and see which work best. The drop-off rate is likely to be higher for these than for social apps, which are downloaded specifically to be used every day.

The iOS and Android listings also provide top grossing apps, and these indicate where the deepest commitment lurks on smartphones and tablets. On both platforms, it emerges that games dominate revenue. All top ten Android apps and nine out of ten iOS apps are gaming apps.

Again, this is not an indication that the apps are more popular than social apps, merely that the latter can be used effectively and to their fullest without making any in-app purchases, whereas further functionality can be unlocked in games through payment, which feeds off the addiction that many players develop in games like Candy Crush and Clash of Clans.

The top apps on each platform (BlackBerry stats were not available at the time of compiling the report) in South Africa are:

Google Play (Android)


1. WhatsApp 

2. Facebook Messenger 

3. Facebook


1. Minecraft 

2. Poweramp Full Version Unlocker 

3. Nova Launcher Prime

iOS (iPhone, iPad, iPod)


1. Facebook Messenger 

2. WhatsApp 

3. Instagram


1. All-in fitness 

2. iTheme 

3. 7 Minute Workout Challenge

Windows Phone 


1. Facebook 

2. BBM 

3. WhatsApp

1. iStunt 2 

2. Asphalt 5 

3. Sonic 

4 Episode 1

Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee, and subscribe to his YouTube channel at



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