Winning Strategies of World’s Most Popular Mobile Apps

Well, you have been standing on your feet constantly for God-only-knows-how-many-hours to develop your dearest app. But, despite putting in countless hours, you still have got your fingers crossed. You are very well aware that as of March 2017, Google Play hosts 2.8 million apps, closely followed by Apple’s App Store with 2.2 million apps, making the industry huge with several new apps hitting the market every day. You even know that this explosive growth of mobile apps isn’t stopping any time now. For now, it seems difficult to catch up right? Can you make it to the list of popular mobile apps?

Okay, all that you need to do is spare some time and learn what the biggies have done. Application of one or a combination of all the given strategies is sure to make your app tick and, in all probability, will help your app top the list, moving forward

WhatsApp Marketing

Jan Koum – WhatsApp Founder

As ludicrous as it may sound, of the million apps swarming the app store, only 15% of the apps make it to the top list. Meaning, others are zombie apps. And according to Business Insider, it’s almost impossible for newly launched apps to find any audience, much less rack up thousands of downloads.

But, if you are still positive about building an app that would give you those dreamy downloads: March on. Most of the apps fail because of the ‘restlessness’ shown on the part of the developer. So, remember, once you’ve launched your app, muster all the courage you can and some more, right before the app launch.

Let’s take a look at the winning strategies of World’s Most Popular Mobile Apps. The strategies may sound old school for you, but to remind you of an old cliche, old is gold.

1] Snapchat

Snapchat’s strategy was plain and clear. Target the college friends at Standford University. However, things didn’t go their way and, finally the app landed in the hands of some high school students. And, thankfully, the teenagers didn’t disappoint them. Today, Snapchat has become one of the most popular medium of communication among teenagers.


What makes this app stand out?

The group messaging functionality of this app is what that makes it so popular among students. Users can easily send snaps or messages to multiple friends at the same time. And, more importantly, the group snaps appear in the form of personalized messages. Snapchat Spectacles made a big entry in 2016 which has an inbuilt camera capable of recording 10 seconds of video. By 2016, 10 billion videos were being sent every day through this app.

However, the frosting on the cake is that the snaps don’t last. It disappears the moment it appears, if you want it that ways (or you can fix a time limit for the snaps to disappear). So, in case, you want to send extremely private messages with zero digital life, Snapchat is the go-to app. Got it.

Snapchat Launched: September 2011

Number of Snapchat users: 166 million DAU ( May 2017)

2] Spotify

Just like Snapchat, digital music service app Spotify betted big on word-of-mouth publicity and it worked. Spotify’s sole strategy was to enroll users through invitation, and in the process, create a huge buzz for its product. The word-of-mouth marketing strategy helped Spotify take on top competitors like Rdio and Rhapsody easily.


What makes this app stand out?

You can listen to over 30 million songs, anytime, on any device with Spotify. Just one account is required for you to listen to music on your smartphone, tablet, computer, or television.  Plus, everything in Spotify is very well socially integrated. As in, if you are listening to a song on Spotify, your friend on Facebook will be immediately notified. Spotify also offers community support. For instance, the answer to a particular question is not available in the help section, he can put forward that question to the community.

Spotify Launched: 2008

Number of Spotify Users-  Over 100 Million (June 2016), 50 Million Paying Subscribers.

3] Instagram

Instagram appBefore the app launch, founder Kevin Systrom approached renowned tech bloggers and his official contacts to do all the talking for his app. In fact, he went ahead and requested Twitter’s co-founder Jack Dorsey to try out the test version of the app. And it worked. Highly satisfied, Dorsey took the app to the next level by sending photos to his Twitter followers. Word spread. The result: Two articles on TechCrunch, before and after the app launch.

What also worked in the app’s favor was that it was launched immediately after the release of the iPhone 4, which came with improved screen and the camera. Plus, the company also ensured that users could push their photos into Facebook and Twitter (a pioneering future at that point in time) rather than lock those photos in the app. The app was named “one of the most influential social networks in the world”.

What makes this app stand out?

The company’s tricky strategy of uploading the photos in a super-fast way took the cake. That said, in reality, it was hiding its slowness, by using smaller pictures and then uploading them the moment the photos were taken. Launched in 2017, multi-video posts allows sharing of up to 10 minutes of video in a post.

Instagram Launched:  2010

Number of Instagram Users – 700 million (2017)

4] Facebook

Facebook App


What makes this app stand out?

Since its launch, Facebook has continued to make significant improvements and upgrades making it an ideal platform for both business and personal users. Facebook’s biggest winning factor today is its live and recorded video. Mark Zuckerberg’s vision centers around three main elements – artificial intelligence, increased connectivity, and virtual and augmented reality.  His bold decision is helping the company to move fast with the changing scenario.

Launched – Feb 2004

Number of Facebook Users –  1.94 billion monthly active users (March 2017)

5] Evernote

Being a noting-making app, it didn’t have to try too hard and had over a million users on the first day itself. Yes, I repeat, a million users on its inaugural day. How did they do this? Simply, by calling in the press and talking about its closed beta approach.

Evernote App

TechCruch followed it up with an exclusive story on it. The word spread like wildfire. In a few days, Evernote received a thousand signups for its beta. The first set of users was so excited using the app that they started evangelizing about the goodness of the app. After all, the app seemed Godsend to them, being high-customizable and all.

Downloads doubled.

Plus, Evernote ensured that it was the showcase app for all the new devices that were being launched. Whenever a new device or platform was launched, the company had an app ready to be submitted.

What makes this app stand out?

It is reckoned as one of the best note-taking apps. More importantly, it helps you sync your documents across different devices – be it your tablet, smartphone, and any other device that has an internet connection. You can even save an article link you like for later reading. You can even remember things that you tend to forget by making notes and taking snaps. What’s more, you can even create a folder to store information gathered from books, magazines and their likes in one place.

Evernote Launched:  2008

Number of Evernote Users  – 200 million (May 2017)

 6] WhatsApp

What WhatsApp owners did only a few app founders dare to do so. It gave a boost to blogging and media, rather focused on building a great product. With a zero marketing budget, the app gained traction through word-of-mouth publicity. In the meantime, the founders also ensured not to scale their company beyond their means. It had only 55 employees, of which 32 were engineers before it was taken over by Facebook for $19 B.


What makes this app stand out?

Simple features, which ensure that even a layperson can use this instant messaging app. For instance, its messaging service can be activated with just a swipe, while other services are just three taps away. And most importantly, the app sends updates to all the operating systems at the same time instead of months apart. With nearly 50 billion number of messages sent out every day, this app stands as one of the top most popular messaging apps as of today.

WhatsApp Launched: 2009

Number of WhatsApp Users – Over One Billion (April 2016)

7] YouTube App

The popularity of YouTube lies in its flexibility. “If you’ve never visited YouTube, you have missed out on the hottest thing on the Internet today,” says, Michael Miller, in his book, “YouTube for Business.” That precisely says the popularity of this video player and editor. From a mere desktop version, YouTube has easily slipped into the hands of mobile users making it viewable anywhere and everywhere. Nearly 40% of its traffic comes from mobile app view.

YouTube App

What makes this app stand out?

The app is designed well that users have fun exploring the HDR videos easily and quickly in just a click. The recent update on May 2017 makes the navigation further simple. With a capacity to play videos at sixty frames per second, YouTube stands today as one of the top rated apps other than its desktop version. With a strong belief in, freedom of expression, information, opportunity and freedom to belong, the app is a big hit with billions of users today.

Launched: YouTube desktop version was launched in Feb 2005. YouTube Mobile was launched in June 2007 as a pre-installed app for Android users. As an app for iPhone, YouTube was launched on 2012.

Number of Users: 12.5 million downloads of the app (May 2016). Approximately 400 hours of content are uploaded each minute on YouTube and nearly one billion hours of content is watched every day on YouTube.


8] Angry Birds Game App

Yep, how can we not include Angry Birds App in this lineup? But only a few might be familiar with the fact that before developing Angry Birds for $1,00,000, Ravio Entertainment had 52 failed apps in its backyard and bankruptcy was knocking at its doors. And since the company was totally ignored by the U.S. and the U.K. Markets, Ravio decided to target smaller App Store markets for Angry Birds Marketing. In the meantime, the U.K. app store offered to feature Angry Birds as the Apple’s Game of the Week. Ravio leapt at the opportunity and released a YouTube trailer to promote the app. Also, built a free Angry Birds lite version for iPhones and more than 40 additional Angry Birds level. The rest, as they say, is history. Angry Birds become the #1 downloaded mobile game app in the U.S., U.K. and Chinese markets. On May 9, 2012, Angry Bird celebrated its one billionth download.


What makes this app stand out?

In the words of Mikael Hed, CEO of Ravio Entertainment, “a good game should be easy to pick up and play, but hard to master.” It should be addictive, cheap or free, portable and simple. Angry Birds Blast game was launched in December 2016 as its 14th game series. The spin-offs are likely to never end.

Angry Birds Launched: 2009

Number of Angry Bird Users – 2 billion (January 2014)

Final Thoughts:

Come to think of it, all the popular mobile app founders had their focus clear from the beginning. First off, develop an app that they were proud of. Second, leverage blogs and media to promote their app. However, an audacious few solely depended on word of mouth publicity. The result: these apps racked up millions of downloads over the years and Angry Birds over 2 billion.

OpenXcell is a market leader in app development and app marketing. So, if in case you are pursuing any serious app development and marketing plans for your organization, OpenXcell will be happy to help. We have the experience and wherewithal to make your app a super success.

This article was originally published in March 2015 but has been updated with the latest data.

Snapchat cost

Meenakshi Krishnan

Meenakshi Krishnan

Meenakshi Krishnan is a Content Consultant at OpenXcell, a pioneering Mobile App Development Company in India and USA. A techie at heart, Meenakshi is passionate about the start-up ecosystem, entrepreneurship, latest tech innovations, and all that makes this digital world. When she is not writing, she loves to read, cook and paint. Prior to this, she was working for a technology marketing company based in Norwalk as a content contributor. You can reach Meenakshi at LinkedIn and Twitter