Mobile App Download and Usage Statistics 2021

The mobile app industry is booming, coming as no surprise with over 3.6 billion smartphone users worldwide. Smartphone penetration is still growing steadily and shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon. We use our phones for almost everything, including shopping online, at home, at work, while walking down the street, and even in bed.

88% of our mobile phone time is spent on apps, which is encouraging for mobile app developers who want to penetrate the market. While this information is great, it’s not nearly enough to go on if you plan to develop or market an app. In order for your app to be a success, users need to download it and use it regularly. If you want to compete in this ever-growing industry, you’ll need to better understand how people are downloading and using mobile apps.

General Mobile App Statistics

  • By 2023, mobile apps are expected to generate over $935 in revenue
  • There are over 1.96 million apps available for download on the App Store
  • More than 20% of Millennials open an app at least 50 times per day
  • The Google Play Store has over 2.87 million apps available
  • 69% of all US digital media time is spent on mobile apps
  • On average, smartphone users use 10 apps per day

Mobile App Downloads

Without downloads, mobile apps won’t succeed. While this may sound like an obvious statement, it’s not one to be overlooked if you are developing an app. You can make the best mobile app on the market, but if people don’t download it, you won’t make any profit. To consider how you can get people to download your app, let’s take a look at the latest mobile app download statistics.

Global Downloads

Worldwide, people download apps in the billions. Mobile apps apply to smartphones and tablets, with growth in app downloads each year.

Statistic: Number of mobile app downloads worldwide from 2016 to 2020 (in billions) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista
In 2020, there were 218 billion app downloads. Why are people making apps? Because they want to make money. However, it’s worth considering whether or not people are willing to pay for apps. It may surprise you that 98% of app revenue globally comes from free apps. While the majority of app downloads are free apps, this doesn’t mean they can’t generate revenue.

As of March 2021, 96.7% of apps on the Google Play store were free, and 92.9% of iOS apps were free. Launching a free app is more likely to generate interest, and there are plenty of monetization strategies you can leverage to make revenue, such as in-app purchases.

Google Play vs. App Store

Apple iOS device users download apps via the App Store, and Android users download apps via the Google Play Store. Globally, there are more downloads via the Google Play Store than the App Store. Here are some key Google Play and App Store statistics for you to indulge:

  • The most downloaded app category on the App Store is games
  • The games category share of total active apps in the App Store is 21.53%
  • App Store mobile app developers earnings total $38.75 billion
  • The most downloaded Android app worldwide as of January 2021 was Telegram
  • 3.45 million smartphone apps are available on app stores in China
  • The global consumer spending on mobile apps in 2020 was $143 billion
  • The average consumer spend on mobile apps by the end of 2020 was $10.6

With the Google Play Store dominating the market, let’s take a look at the app categories that have the highest penetration rate among Android users:

  1. Tools — 99.81%
  2. Communication — 99.93%
  3. Business — 99.33%
  4. Video Players & Edit— 96.63%
  5. Travel & Local — 95.7%
  6. Social — 95.02%
  7. Productivity — 91.67%
  8. Music & Audio — 88.38%
  9. Entertainment — 83.85%
  10. News & Magazines — 81.11%
  11. Photography — 75.77%
  12. Books & Reference — 70.74%
  13. Lifestyle — 65.67%
  14. Personalization — 61.62%
  15. Games (Casual) — 58.86%
  16. Games (Puzzle) — 56.5%
  17. Games (Arcade) — 55.08%
  18. Shopping — 35.79%
  19. Games (Action) — 34.19%
  20. Weather — 32.46%

Mobile App Usage

How people use mobile apps is crucial to understanding more about the length of time people spend on apps, how many apps they have installed, and more. The average smartphone user spends 3 hours and 10 minutes on their phone each day. Out of this time, 2 hours and 51 minutes are spent on apps. This research confirms that the majority of time spent on smartphones can be accounted for using apps.

There’s an app for almost everything now; food delivery, banking, news, social media, video calling, etc. However, while the average person has around 80 apps on their phone, they only use around 30 apps per month. This means over 60% of the apps downloaded on a persons’ smartphone aren’t used. Why are people downloading apps and not using them?

Essential Apps

Earlier we looked at the app categories that have the highest penetration. While these apps are available, it doesn’t mean people are using them. Again, even if people are downloading apps, it doesn’t mean they are being used. However, there are some apps that people can’t live without.

apps people can't live without

According to the research data above, we can assume:

  • Facebook and Instagram are the most popular social media apps
  • Gmail is the number one email app
  • YouTube leads the market for video content
  • Google Chrome is the most used mobile internet browser
  • Google Maps is the most popular choice of navigation app
  • More people prefer to use WhatsApp and Messenger for communication

Although this doesn’t stop you from developing an app that competes against the top apps shown above, it does suggest that it would be a hard battle to win. Yes, you can build a communication or navigation app, but the likelihood of it beating what’s already out there is unlikely.

Mobile App Usage by Age

According to App Annie, 13-24 year-olds are the most frequent users of mobile apps, however, their session lengths are the shortest. This age range prefers social media apps, whereas 25-44 year-olds prefer social media and email apps, accounting for an average amount of apps and time spent on apps.

app usage by age
Image source:

While younger generations do spend more overall time on apps and are the most frequent users of apps, this doesn’t mean older generations don’t use them. 65+ year-olds are spending on average 51.4 hours on apps, so should still be considered when targeting age groups.

Mobile App Usage by Device

Mobile app usage differs by device, operating system, and other smart devices like TVs and watches. The top categories people use their smartphones for are:

  • Maps 96%
  • Instant messaging 96%
  • Music 96%
  • Photos 95%
  • Weather 84%
  • Games 81%
  • Personals 78%
  • Social networking 70%
  • Retail 47%

For individuals using tablets, the most popular apps are:

  • Games
  • Social networks
  • TV/movies
  • News
  • Music
  • Retail

App Downloads by Country

Between 2016 and 2019, the number of app downloads in China has grown by over 80%. However, other countries like India and Brazil have started seeing higher growth rates. The app download growth rate in India is 190% compared to the US which is 5%. This suggests that as technology advances and becomes more available in emerging markets, there is a lot of potential to target international consumers than ever before.

Statistic: Countries with the highest number of mobile app downloads from 2016 to 2018 (in billions) | Statista
Find more statistics at Statista

In Q2 2020, app markets in India saw a 30% increase in hours spent per month in non-gaming apps, compared to Q4 2019. In Brazil, this was 20%. While app downloads are steadily increasing in countries worldwide, China is always way ahead of the curve.


Like smartphones, mobile apps have become part of our daily lives. Whether used for personal or business use, most individuals would not be able to go a day without using an app for one thing or another. This trend only seems to be continuing in an upward manner, making the opportunity for development companies tenfold.

Understanding the app industry as a whole, including age demographics, time spent, and countries where app downloads are the most popular, is crucial to penetrating the market.

Georgie Peru
Latest posts by Georgie Peru (see all)

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