The Apps That Owned The iTunes Store This Year

This year was the most successful year ever for Apple’s App Store. We look through the data to see which apps moved you this year–and ask what 2014 might hold.

The Apps That Owned The iTunes Store This Year
[Image: Flickr user Themeplus]

Apple’s App Store which once again cemented its app dominance in 2013 with 63% of the international app market, versus Google Play’s 37%, according to app analyst firm Distimo in its 2013 Year in Review report.


So which apps were the year’s most popular? And what do they say about changing consumer habits over the past 12 months? With help from Apple’s recently released iOS “Top 10” list, and additional data from Distimo’s recent report, we’ve combed through the available info for insights about the app year that was 2013.

The Games We Played

When it comes down to sheer number-crunching dominance, make no mistake about it: Games developers ruled the App Store roost in 2013. Breaking the figures down, an incredible 63% of iOS revenue was generated through games–with Candy Crush Saga, Temple Run 2, and the ubiquitous Angry Birds apps all raking it in. (Angry Birds holds the distinction of being the first App Store video game property to have its movie rights snatched up by a Hollywood studio.)

Launched in April 2012 for Facebook and November 2012 for smartphones, Candy Crush Saga was 2013’s most notable hit for two potentially important reasons. For one thing, it is a free download, meaning that its impressive status as the year’s “highest grossing” app on both iPhone and iPad comes purely from in-app purchases. To developer King cofounder and chief creative officer Sebastian Knutsson, Candy Crush Saga’s success also says something about the broadening casual user base of mobile platforms.


“We were aiming to have a Top 10 game: That was the ambition,” he told the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper. “We exceeded our ambitions by quite a margin! The truth in the industry at that stage was that casual games could never be the top game: you could have a nice hit, but you could never be number one. We disproved that by making a game that hit the top and kept growing.”

A similar “freemium” tactic was adopted by strategy video game Clash of Clans, created by Helsinki, Finland-based uber-developers Supercell. The pay-to-advance concept behind Clash of Clans (and fellow Supercell stablemate Hay Day) meant that Supercell was reportedly generating $2.4 million per day for the company in the first half of 2013.

The Year Of Productivity

Games may have come up trumps, but that’s not to suggest that communication and productivity apps didn’t also have their place in 2013.


It was a good year for short-form videos and photos over text–with Snapchat, Vine, and Instagram all receiving more downloads than the “old guard” represented by Facebook: which reportedly made Snapchat’s founders a $3 billion acquisition offer earlier this year. Twitter did not feature on the App Store Top 10, although it should be noted that it does own Vine. What Snapchat, Vine, and Instagram have in common is their ability to streamline the way we communicate: something I have written about several times over the past year.

While the most popular social networking tools proved overwhelmingly to be free ones (88% of all downloads in this category were free apps), productivity apps proved able to monetize well–with 70% of downloads being for paid apps, versus the freemium business model which did so well for gaming representing just 29% of downloads.

Given the larger form factor of the tablet versus the smartphone, it is little surprise that productivity apps were more heavily downloaded for iPad than iPhone. Multimedia note-taking app Noteworthy cracked the Top 10 Paid iPad Apps (no. 6), while Pages (no.2) became the de-facto mobile word processor for iOS, and iMovie (no. 8) hinted at a possible audience for the kind of higher-end paid creative apps that might one day make the rumored iPad Pro a reality.


Navigation apps, while not cracking the Top 10 most downloaded in any app categories, proved highly lucrative as business models: with by far the highest percentage of any app category (24%) falling into the “paid app, with in-app purchases available” category. (As a point of comparison, the majority of categories for this business model hover at around 3%.)

Appy New Year

Speculating about what next year holds for the App Store is a dangerous thing. After all, this year’s highest-grossing app had only been available for a couple of months when 2013. Who is to say what the next monster app will be?

But there are also a few hints about how things might change. For one thing, there will likely continue to be breakout apps. As Distimo points out about 2013, this was a year in which more apps caught on more quickly than ever before: with a number of new titles reaching 1 million downloads within only a couple of days of release.


The freemium trend for free apps with in-app purchases will also continue to speed up–with paid apps representing a smaller and smaller percentage of total App Store purchases. This will only be exacerbated as fast-growing markets like Japan, South Korea, and China (all of which have shown more of a preference for freemium over paid than is even seen in the U.S.) represent an increased proportion of the overall customer base.

But thankfully 2013 has shown that smart innovative productivity apps do monetize well–and even in a world where Apple gives its software away for free, and the App Store has more than 1 million apps available, users will still pay for the right app so long as it does something they need.

Full List: Apple’s List Of Top Apps For 2013


iPhone App of the Year: Duolingo

iPhone Game of the Year: Ridiculous Fishing: A Tale of Redemption

iPad App of the Year: Disney Animated


iPad Game of the Year: BADLAND

Top Free iPhone

  1. Candy Crush Saga
  2. YouTube
  3. Temple Run 2
  4. Vine
  5. Google Maps
  6. Snapchat
  7. Instagram
  8. Facebook
  9. Pandora Radio
  10. Despicable Me: Minion Rush

Top Paid iPhone

  1. Minecraft – Pocket Edition
  2. Heads Up!
  3. Temple Run: Oz
  4. Angry Birds Star Wars
  5. Plague Inc.
  6. Afterlight
  7. Free Music Download Pro – MP3 Downloader
  8. Bloons TD 5
  9. Sleep Cycle alarm clock
  10. Plants vs. Zombies

Top Free iPad

  1. Candy Crush Saga
  2. YouTube
  3. Temple Run 2
  4. Calculator for iPad Free
  5. Skype for iPad
  6. Netflix
  7. Despicable Me: Minion Rush
  8. iBooks
  9. Facebook
  10. The Weather Channel for iPad

Top Paid iPad

  1. Minecraft – Pocket Edition
  2. Pages
  3. Temple Run: Oz
  4. Plants vs. Zombies HD
  5. Angry Birds Star Wars HD
  6. Notability
  7. Angry Birds Star Wars II
  8. iMovie
  9. The Room
  10. Bad Piggies HD

Top Grossing iPhone Apps

  1. Candy Crush Saga
  2. Clash of Clans
  3. Pandora Radio
  4. MARVEL War of Heroes
  5. Hay Day
  6. Big Fish Casino
  7. The Simpsons: Tapped Out
  8. Modern War
  9. Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North
  10. The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-Earth

Top Grossing iPad Apps

  1. Candy Crush Saga
  2. Clash of Clans
  3. Hay Day
  4. DoubleDown Casino
  5. Big Fish Casino
  6. Modern War
  7. Bingo Bash HD – Free Bingo Casino
  8. The Simpsons: Tapped Out
  9. Slotomania HD – FREE Slots
  10. GSN Casino