What are the essential apps you couldn’t live without?

Let’s face it, most of us depend on apps to organise almost every aspect of our lives. From keeping up with news, connecting with friends old and new on social media, managing our finances, monitoring fitness and planning travel, apps are all around.

We’ve come a very long way since the early days of apps. The first app is widely considered to be Nokia’s inbuilt mobile phone version of the arcade game Snake in 1997. But now, you can get an app for pretty much anything, and the numbers are growing daily.

It’s estimated that there are around 3 million apps available on the Google Play Store, and another 2 million on the Apple App Store. And a staggering total of around 218 billion mobile apps were downloaded to smartphones in 2020.

But amongst all these, which are the most popular apps? And which are the essential apps? The apps that we simply couldn’t live without?


Top Apps in the UK in 2020

According to the app media and information brand Business of Apps, the ten most popular apps in the UK during 2020 were:

  1. TikTok
  2. NHS Covid-19
  3. Zoom
  4. WhatsApp
  5. Instagram
  6. Microsoft Teams
  7. Google Meet
  8. YouTube
  9. Snapchat
  10. Facebook


Some of the above trends were driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. The NHS track and trace app became necessary for admission to many venues, and saw over 10 million downloads in the first three days after its launch in September.

Likewise, the surge in online working and teaching led to the popularity of Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Google Meet, which may not perhaps have otherwise hit the Top Ten.

So there were some essential apps in 2020 that were circumstantial. But how are things looking so far in 2021?


Top Apps in the UK in 2021

The most downloaded apps from the early part of 2021 are as follows:

  1. TikTok
  2. Facebook
  3. Instagram
  4. WhatsApp
  5. Telegram
  6. Moj
  7. Zoom
  8. Snapchat
  9. Messenger
  10. MX Takatak

As you can see, some of the apps driven by the Covid-19 pandemic no longer feature, but there are a few new kids on the block.

  • Messenger: Facebook’s messaging service; widely used for both personal and business communication. 
  • Telegram: a popular free cross-platform messaging app.
  • Moj and MX Takatak: video creating / editing / sharing apps from India.


Apps for everyday living

But there are also other apps to consider. Apps that may not make the Top Ten in terms of downloads but are classed as essential apps for other reasons.

According to the website Expatica, which describes itself as the expat community’s online home away from home, here are some of the most essential apps you would need if you are moving to the UK:

  • BBC iPlayer and BBC Sounds – the BBC’s streaming services for TV, radio, music, and podcasts.
  • Citymapper – provides public transport information in several larger cities.
  • Just Eat – food delivery app.
  • Rightmove – the UK’s leading online property search platform.
  • Time Out – the international culture and entertainment guide.
  • Uber – the market-leading ride-sharing app.

There are also many other apps that are also incredibly useful for day to day living, banking, shopping, energy, organisation, travel, accommodation and entertainment. To name but a few.

Not to forget games of course! Let’s take a look at some of the most popular games apps so far in 2021.


Apps for games

Games apps come and go in popularity, perhaps more than many other genres of app. Who can forget the Pokémon Go craze of 2016! Interestingly Pokémon Go started as an April Fool’s joke by Google in 2014. But it became so popular that Niantic Labs ran with the concept and developed Pokémon Go.

In 2021 there are so many games apps to choose from that it’s difficult to know where to start. Whilst many are designed for both IOS and Android, some are only available for one of the platforms. 

A few of those currently proving popular on one or both platforms are as follows. They are only a few amongst many. 

But for each of these games, and all the others too, just how long will their popularity last?

  • 911 Emergency Dispatcher – simulation game about dealing with every emergency you receive.
  • Among Us – multiplayer game where astronauts have to decide who is the bad guy.
  • Crash Bandicoot: On the run! – help Crash Bandicoot and sister Coco to save the multiverse.
  • GeoGuessr – the app drops you in a random location and you have to guess where you are.
  • Sky Children of the Light – multiplayer game in which players explore and solve puzzles with temporary friends.
  • Super Fowlst 2 – arcade-style platform game, in which you are a chicken killing demons.


So which apps can’t you live without?

In this article we have only been able to take a very quick look at a handful of apps. We have only scratched the surface of this huge area; an area that is constantly and rapidly changing and growing.

But from looking at all the above, and the many millions of apps available, one thing stands out. In both 2020 and 2021 – before, during, and after pandemic restrictions – the most popular apps are all to do with different kinds of communication. For some this is making and sharing videos, for others it is messaging, and for others social media interaction on different platforms. 

Despite being able to get apps to do pretty much everything in our lives, those that enable us to communicate and socialise with others win hands down. 

So far it seems that these are the essential apps we simply couldn’t live without.

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