App charts – the most popular smartphone media apps in the UK

  1. One Click Wonders – the media and entertainment apps people have to have at their fingertips
  2. One Click Wonders – the multimedia apps at the fingertips of 16-24s
  3. App charts – the most popular smartphone media apps in the UK

After looking at the most popular apps overall and among 16-24s in our previous two blog posts, this week we’re going category-by-category to explore the most popular media and entertainment apps in the UK in a bit more detail.

Social media, messaging and video calling

Humans are inherently social creatures, but the last year and a half has seen us rely on our devices to help us stay connected. As a result, 93% now have at least one social app on their smartphone home screen, with the average person having four within one tap. If you saw our previous blog posts, you’ll already know the dominance of Facebook-owned apps at an overall level, so within this category it’s no surprise to learn that they’ve claimed all of the top spots.

The proportion of UK online adults making video calls doubled during the first lockdown of 20201, propelling Zoom into the top 10 home screen apps within this category. Despite being slated as one of the apps to watch (with Facebook in talks about a buy-out before the pandemic hit), Houseparty has only made it onto the home screens of 5% of adults. But despite the buzz around Zoom and Houseparty, FaceTime remains the most popular video calling app, on the home screens of 24% of UK adults.

Video streaming

Video streaming apps are the next most popular category on our home screens, with their popularity driven by content hungry younger audiences who are less likely to command control over the main household TV set. Overall 71% have a video streaming app on their home screen, but this rises to 92% among 16-24s before falling steadily to 44% among those aged 55+.

The average person has three video streaming apps on their home screen, with YouTube and Netflix most likely to claim two of these spots. BBC iPlayer holds its own amid a sea of subscription services, while the other public broadcasters have claimed space on the home screens of between 8% and 14%.

Audio

68% of UK adults have an audio app on their home screen, with the average person having instant access to two. Again we seen a large discrepancy by age, with 92% of 16-24s having an audio app on their home screen, compared to just 44% of those aged 55+.

The category is dominated by music-focused apps, although many of these now also provide access to podcasts – a diversification strategy that Spotify credits for its recent surge in subscribers, with a doubling in podcast listening hours globally in the fourth quarter of 2020. In terms of purely spoken-word apps, Apple Podcasts is the most popular, followed by Audible (on the home screens of 6% of UK adults respectively).

News

In the past year and a half, as we grappled with lockdown measures and ever-changing regulations, we’ve relied on news organisations more heavily than ever to keep us informed about the COVID-19 pandemic. As part of its tracking study looking at how audiences are accessing news and information about the pandemic, Ofcom reports that traditional media brands (broadcasters, newspapers and radio) are the number one preferred source2. As a result, 64% of us have a news app within one tap – with these apps equally popular among younger and older audiences.

BBC News is the clear favourite, but more than 1 in 10 have instant access to the aggregation apps provided by Apple and Google. Apps from newspaper brands The Daily Mail, The Guardian and The Sun claim sixth, seventh and eighth place respectively, while Buzzfeed sits in ninth place among all adults (5%) but rises to fifth among 16-24s (8%).

Gaming

1 in 2 UK adults have a gaming app on their home screens (50%), but it’s another category divided in popularity by age: 77% of 16-24s have instant access to a gaming app, compared to just 25% of those aged 55+. It’s also an incredibly varied category for younger audiences, with a long tail of apps popular with just a small proportion of people.

But the popularity of the gaming app most likely to be on our home screen, Candy Crush, is largely driven by an older audience. Half of those who have instant access to Candy Crush are aged 35-54, despite this age group generally being less likely than younger adults to have gaming apps on their home screen.

Our survey asked about over 200 media and entertainment apps, across the categories explored in this post and several more – if you’d like to find out where your app ranks, drop us a line!

A note on the data: between 4th – 7th June 2021 we ran an online survey among 1,002 smartphone owners aged 16+, representative in terms of age and reflective of the UK across gender, region, SEG and ethnicity. 136 of these were aged 16-24. App categories asked about included social media, messaging, video calling, video streaming, music, podcast, audiobook, radio, sport, health/wellness, news and gaming.

Sources

1 Ofcom (2020), Online Nation 2021 Report

2 Ofcom (20201), Covid-19 news and information: consumption and attitudes

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