Many of the Android apps we’ve recommended aren’t popular in the wider community. Of course, they’re all excellent—we wouldn’t suggest lousy apps—but often you can file them into the “niche” category.
So we wanted to take a step back and look at some of the all-time most popular Android apps in the Google Play Store. These are the ones that Android’s two billion active users have downloaded most frequently.
A Note on Stock Android Apps
We’re not going to include apps that come pre-loaded on stock Android devices. This means we’re excluding Google Play Services (5.959 billion “downloads”), Gmail (3.945 billion), Google Maps (2.488 billion), Google News (2.341 billion) YouTube (approximately 5 billion), and a few others.
We’ve used AndroidRank’s data to determine these numbers. Now, that’s enough preliminary info. Here’s the list!
4.119 billion downloads
It’s not surprising to see Facebook come out on top of the list. Despite seemingly endless scandals, questionable privacy practices, and the #DeleteFacebook movement, it still reigns supreme.
Not everyone is happy though. It has nearly 10 million one-star ratings. Perhaps it’s justified; the app is bloated with pointless features that few people bother to use.
Download: Facebook (Free)
2. Facebook Messenger
3.408 billion downloads
The presence of Messenger in second position reinforces the control that Zuckerberg’s empire has over the smartphone app marketplace.
Messenger has grown in popularity in the last 18 months, with the increased availability of bots making the service more useful than ever.
Download: Facebook Messenger (Free)
2.979 billion downloads
Do you notice a theme developing? Facebook apps hold all three of the top spots. The world’s most popular instant messaging tool has been under Facebook’s ownership since a $19 billion buyout in early 2014.
Download: WhatsApp (Free)
If you don’t fancy using a Facebook-owned app messaging app, try out one of the many WhatsApp alternatives.
1.843 billion downloads
Instagram is yet another Facebook-owned app, which the company acquired in 2012.
It has significantly fewer negative reviews than its big brother, with just two million (out of 61 million) giving the app a single star.
Download: Instagram (Free)
1.039 billion downloads
Finally, a non-Facebook app. Whether Skype can truly claim to be the best video-calling service is open to debate. However, after being the first such service that was widely adopted, it continues to benefit from significant brand recognition.
Download: Skype (Free)
For additional ways to communicate, check out these Android apps to set up automatic replies for everything:
6. Subway Surfers
1.025 billion downloads
At number six, we find our first game—and it’s not Candy Crush Saga! Subway Surfers is an endless runner game which sees you flee down a railroad in order to escape from a police officer and his dog.
Subway Surfers is also the last app on this list with more than a billion downloads.
Download: Subway Surfers (Free)
833.858 million downloads
It shouldn’t be a surprise to see social media dominate the most-downloaded apps. After Facebook and Instagram, Twitter is the third most popular social app on Android.
Download: Twitter (Free)
8. Clean Master: Space Cleaner & Antivirus
833.739 million downloads
The top seven apps might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s hard to claim there’s anything wrong with them.
Clean Master is the first app on this list that you should avoid at all costs.
Why? First, the developer—Cheetah Mobile—is infamous for piling bloatware and nag screens into its apps. Second, it doesn’t do anything useful. RAM cleaners and task killers are actively hurting your phone.
9. Candy Crush Saga
805.826 million downloads
You probably thought Candy Crush Saga would be the most popular game in raw downloads, but it comes in second.
Regardless, more than 800 million Android users love trying to line up different-colored candies. Maybe it’s time to find a new hobby?
Download: Candy Crush Saga (Free)
782.837 million downloads
Instagram might be stealing all of Snapchat’s best features, but the latter still manages to hoover up more than 150 million daily users.
However, as a percentage of the total downloads on Android and iOS combined, that figure remains low. Is it time to start worrying about the app’s future?
Download: Snapchat (Free)
771.520 million downloads
It’s not all about social networks and games. SHAREit is the first productivity app to make the list.
The app offers a way to transfer large files between devices in seconds. According to the developer, it’s over 200 times faster than Bluetooth.
Download: SHAREit (Free)
For other productivity tools, look at these Android apps that add features to the Google Play Store so you can find what you need faster:
12. Facebook Lite
731.282 million downloads
Now we’re back to Facebook. The Lite version of the app is aimed at users with low-end devices (1GB or 2GB of RAM) and those who only have access to 2G data networks.
There are a few subtle usability changes, but all the main features are present and work as expected.
Download: Facebook Lite (Free)
726.182 million downloads
Dropbox is the most popular cloud storage service out there, beating competitors like Google Drive, OneDrive, and iCloud. It lets you store documents in the cloud, access them from anywhere, and share them with other users.
Download: Dropbox (Free)
711.278 million downloads
As we mentioned earlier, there are a lot of WhatsApp alternatives. We like Telegram, so it’s perhaps a surprise to see LINE come in as the second most popular instant messaging app.
Asia drives much of its popularity. It’s in the top five communications apps in Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia. The app struggles to make the top 30 in most European and North American countries, however.
Download: LINE (Free)
680.635 million downloads
In contrast to LINE, Viber is much more popular in the Western world. The app offers instant messaging, video calls, 250-person group chats, and encrypted communications.
Download: Viber (Free)
592.048 million downloads
Flipboard is a curious app. It doesn’t garner the same number of headlines as many of its competitors, but—as the half a billion downloads prove—it’s hugely popular among users.
In case you don’t know, the app collates news, conversations, and compelling stories around any given topic, giving you a one-stop shop for the subjects you care about.
Download: Flipboard (Free)
17. Super-Bright LED Flashlight
587.693 million downloads
Is this the most surprising entry on the list? All Android phones offer a native flashlight feature these days.
Sure, Super-Bright LED Flashlight provides nine illumination settings, but that doesn’t seem enough to warrant almost 600 million downloads. What’s more, flashlights are one of the categories of apps you shouldn’t download.
If your phone is old enough that it doesn’t have a built-in flashlight, you can find other apps on Google Play that don’t require any permissions or ads. While this one has ads, it thankfully doesn’t ask for access to your contacts and location like many others.
Once again, non-European/American users make up the bulk of the downloads. It’s the number one productivity app in much of Asia, South America, and the Caribbean.
Download: Super-Bright LED Flashlight (Free)
18. My Talking Tom
578.344 million downloads
My Talking Tom is a virtual pet cat. The app offers mini-games, collectible travel stickers, and progression rewards. It’s fair to say that this is an Android app for kids.
Download: My Talking Tom (Free)
19. Google Translate
568.746 million downloads
You may wonder why this the first Google app on the list. It’s because we’ve excluded so many pre-installed Google apps. Without that distinction, Google would dominate the top slots.
Google Translate, however, is not pre-loaded on stock Android.
Download: Google Translate (Free)
20. Security Master
532.718 million downloads
Another app by Cheetah Mobile, and one to avoid at all costs. In the Play Store description, terms like “Junk Cleaner” and “Phone Booster” should immediately set alarm bells ringing.
The app offers a VPN, but you’ll find far better alternatives out there. There’s also an antivirus, but you don’t need an antivirus app on Android.
Popular Android Apps: How Many Do You Use?
So what have we learned from this whistle-stop tour through the 20 most popular Android apps of all time?
Our conclusions are thus:
- People love Facebook.
- People love social media.
- Popularity in Asia can easily drive worldwide fame.
- Candy Crush Saga is as popular as ever.
- Cheetah Mobile somehow remains influential.
If you’d like to learn about other Android apps, you should read our guide on the best Android apps not in the Play Store. We also have a short list of minimalist Android apps along with those that help you personalize your home screen. And these Astronomy apps should keep stargazers entertained.