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Top Apps of 2016: Spotify, Line, and Netflix Led the Year's Biggest Earners

Sensor Tower Store Intelligence data reveals which apps lead downloads and revenue on the App Store and Google Play for 2016 and its fourth quarter.

2016's Top Mobile Apps Hero Image

We begin our look back at the state of the App Store and Google Play during 2016 and its fourth quarter this week with the top apps on both stores for those periods, based on our Store Intelligence data. In the following charts, we've ranked the top 10 apps by worldwide downloads and net revenue on both platforms for both the full year 2016 and Q4, but first we'll begin with a look at overall app revenue growth for last quarter, which saw both stores paying developers approximately $8.7 billion worldwide.

App Revenue Growth - Games Included - Q4 2016

Worldwide net revenue from all apps (including games) across the App Store and Google Play grew 67 percent over Q4 2015, from approximately $5.2 billion to approximately $8.7 billion. As illustrated by the chart below, this reflected growth of 60 percent worldwide for Apple's App Store, from $3.4 to $5.4 billion year-over-year, and 82 percent growth for Google Play, which saw revenue paid to developers increase from $1.8 billion to $3.3 billion for the same period.

Q4 2016 Apps Worldwide Revenue Growth

Looking at new installs of apps from both stores, downloads of all apps worldwide during Q4 2016 totaled approximately 19.2 billion and there were more than 80 billion app downloads during 2016 in total. In terms of year-over-year growth, total downloads for Q4 2016 increased by about 17 percent compared to 2015.

Top Non-Game Apps by Downloads and Revenue - 2016

2016's Top Mobile Apps by Downloads

With games and the hit cycle they exist in removed from the equation, it's not surprising to see the top apps of 2016 are very similar to those of a year before. The most notable difference in the year past was Uber's ascent of the worldwide rankings, as the ride share service continued its global expansion and rollout to more metros within the U.S.

2016's Top Mobile Apps by Revenue

In terms of worldwide net non-game app revenue for the year, Spotify reigned supreme, but Netflix was a close contender for the crown on iOS. The real standout we saw across all three rankings, however, was LINE Manga, the eponymous chat platform's comic reader/storefront, which launched in late 2015 and has been a growing source of revenue for the company ever since.

Top Non-Game Apps by Downloads and Revenue - Q4 2016

Q4 2016's Top Mobile Apps by Downloads

The top non-game download rankings for Q4 closely mirrored 2016 as a whole, with the same familiar icons occupying the top 10. It's worth noting that Bitmoji, acquired by Snap, Inc. during the past year, has managed to maintain a strong position on iOS in the wake of its integration with Snapchat. We're seeing a case similar to Facebook and Messenger where a significant number of Snapchat users are seeing Bitmoji as a must-have "add-on" to their chat app of choice.

Q4 2016's Top Mobile Apps by Revenue

Finally, LINE, the app whose success clearly inspired Apple to bring apps and stickers to iMessage, continued to ride sales of its stickers and other purchasable items up the charts, becoming the No. 1 non-game app in terms of net revenue for Q4 2016. On iOS, however, it lost out to Netflix, which, for the first time, managed to reach the No. 1 top grossing position for all iPhone apps in the U.S. last quarter—for a short period, at least.

Next up in our look at the past 12 months in the app economy will be mobile games. We'll bring you the top downloaded and earning titles for both Q4 and all of 2016 early next week, along with our analysis of download and revenue growth compared to 2015. Then, our upcoming Q4 2016 Store Intelligence Data Digest will explore late 2016's app store trends even further—be on the lookout for it later this month.

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Randy Nelson

Written by: Randy Nelson, Head of Mobile Insights

Date: January 2017