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Meesho, MX Player to Free Fire, the top apps in India for 2021: App Annie report

Indians spent an average of 4.7 hours in front of their mobile phone in 2021 with apps such as Instagram, YouTube, MX TakaTak, Meesho, Free Fire and Ludo King coming out on top in various categories, according to App Annie

Top Indian apps, Top India gaming apps, India gaming apps, App Annie report, App Annie report on appsApp Annie's annual report give a close look at the top apps in India, across each category. Top (L to R) Logos of Garena:Free Fire, Instagram and MX Player seen. Bottom (L to R) Logos for Meesho, Ludo King, and Bridge Race are seen. (Image created by Abhishek Mitra/Indian Express)

Indians spent an average of 4.7 hours in front of their mobile phone in 2021 with apps such as Instagram, YouTube, MX TakaTak, Meesho, Free Fire and Ludo King coming out on top in various categories, according to App Annie, a top mobile app analytics research firm.

App Annie’s ‘State of Mobile’ 2021 looked at various categories of apps, downloads, consumer spending for consumers across the world, and in India, on their mobile phones. Here’s a look at the top points in the report, including the leading apps in India, across categories.

Gaming apps in India

Globally hit games such as Roblox and Genshin Impact saw further growth in 2021 with increased consumer spending. In India, consumer spending on mobile games grew as well to $0.17 billion, which is a significant increase from $0.4 billion in 2020. Mobile game downloads in India also grew significantly to 9.33 billion in total.

The games which saw breakout consumer spending in India were Top War: Battle Game, followed by Genshin Impact, Evony, and Match Masters. The game with breakout downloads in the country was ‘Bridge Race’, which was also a worldwide hit. This was followed by FAU: G, and Legend Squad 3D for the Indian market.

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The games with breakout Monthly Active users (MAU) in India were Free Fire, PUBG: New State, and Bridge Race.

Top Indian games The games in India with breakout downloads and in other countries. (Image credit: AppAnnie)

Overall the top game in India in terms of consumer spending was Free Fire, followed by Call of Duty: Mobile, Coin Master, Candy Crush, and Teen Patti. The top game in India in terms of overall downloads was Ludo King, followed by Free Fire and Carrom Pool.

Top games overall Top games overall in India. (Image credit: App Annie)

Social, Dating apps: top trends globally and for India

App Annie notes that the time spent on the top 25 live streaming apps outpaced the social market overall year-over-year by a factor of 9. These apps are also driving consumer spending given consumers are ‘tipping’ their favorite content creators.


Globally, TikTok was the winner in per user engagement among the top five social apps which had the most time spent in 2021. But in India, it was Meta’s (formerly Facebook) apps that were benefitting given the TikTok ban in 2020. Both Facebook and Instagram saw their engagement deepening by 15 per cent and 35 per cent respectively in 2021 in India.

Top Indian apps, Top India gaming apps, India gaming apps, App Annie report, App Annie report on apps, India top apps, Top apps 2021, Instagram, YouTube, MX TakaTak, Meesho, Free Fire, Ludo King The top social apps in India in terms of downloads. (Image credit: App Annie)

Instagram led the Indian market in terms of downloads in the social category, followed by MX TakaTak, Facebook, Snapchat, and Moj. WhatsApp messenger was number eight on the list. The top app in terms of consumer spending in this category was Tango Live which is a live streaming app, followed by Truecaller, and Who (Call&Chat), which is another live streaming app.

For dating apps, while consumer spending continued to grow driven by markets such as the US, Japan, the UK, and China, India saw a decline in contrast. App Annie notes that “despite its population size, India is one region that saw declining consumer spend on dating apps, although it is still up 18 per cent since 2018.”


It adds that “India is a unique market where, although users of dating apps may not be spending heavily, more than 75 per cent of Indian daters have started going on hobby dates and more than 50 per cent are thinking of dating as a way to explore.”

Globally, Tinder was the leading app in terms of consumer spending in the dating category. It also maintained this lead in India. However, in terms of downloads, the leading app in India was CuteU followed by ZeepLive.

Finance apps

In India, finance apps crossed 1 billion downloads in 2021 with 28 per cent year-on-year increase. Apps such as Binance, and WazirX saw the highest increase in usage year-on-year. According to AppAnnie, “understanding the flexibility of their offerings that go beyond trading cryptocurrency assets is crucial for any app publisher that tries to emulate their successful adoption worldwide.”

While US-based publishers dominated the cryptocurrency space, taking up half of the top 10 most downloaded cryptocurrency apps worldwide, India was a rising contender in 2021 as well.

For instance, CoinDCX Investment reached number nine worldwide among the most downloaded cryptocurrency apps, even though it launched in the fourth quarter of 2020. While PhonePe led the India market in terms of breakout downloads, it was followed by Bajaj FinServ, CoinSwitch, Upstox Pro, CoinDCX Investment, and WazirX in the list.


Streaming apps

Thanks to the pandemic, more and more people are indoors, and streaming services continue to gain from this. App Annie expects Netflix to cross more than one million local downloads and a robust audience in over 60+ countries. Meanwhile, Disney+ (which is Disney+Hotstar in India) has also managed to rival Amazon Prime Video’s global footprint, even though it launched only at the end of 2019.

Also as data showed, content can help boost downloads. While Made for Love (TV Series) coincided with a 61 per cent increase in downloads of the HBO Max app, Squid Game’s release in September 2021 saw a 6 per cent boost for Netflix app downloads.

Video streaming apps The leading video streaming apps in India and APAC region by downloads. (Image credit: AppAnnie)

Interestingly for India, MX Player was the primary driver of growth for total hours spent on streaming video apps. Disney+Hotstar was the leader in downloads in the Indian market, followed by MX Player, Zee5, Daily Hunt, JioTV, Amazon Prime Video, SonyLive, Voot, BOOYAH Live, and YouTube Kids. Netflix is not in the top ten list for India in terms of downloads.

However, in terms of consumer spending, while Disney+Hotstar was the leader, YouTube, and SonyLive were number two and three. This was followed by Zee5 and Netflix.


Health and Fitness

Meditation apps continued to make gains in the Health and Fitness category. According to the data, Calm remains the most downloaded meditation app both in 2020 and 2021 worldwide, with Headspace and Meditopia rounding out the top three.

Further, both Calm and Headspace saw total time spent in their Google Play apps increase by 12 per cent and 15 per cent year-on-year respectively. These two were the top apps in India in terms of consumer spending as well, followed by CultFit, Flo (Ovulation and Period tracker), and Strava.

Top apps for jobs in India The business/job apps were a big hit in India. (Image credit: App Annie)

Apps for jobs, Retail shopping

Another interesting trend was that job searching platforms like Sonic and Apna were the number one breakout apps by downloads in the UK and India, respectively. In India, apps such as WhatsApp Business, PhonePe Business, Kormo Jobs, Hirect, saw breakout downloads as well.

In shopping/retail category, Flipkart had breakout monthly active users (MAU) followed by Meesho, Amazon, Ajio Shopping, and Myntra. Newcomer Shopee was number seven on the list overall for India. However, Meesho led in terms of breakout downloads, while Shopee was number four. Flipkart was number six, while Amazon is not listed in the top ten.

Shopping apps top India The breakout shopping apps of APAC in terms of downloads. For India, Meesho was on top. (Image credit: App Annie

Increase in time spent, downloads

App Annie’s report notes that 2021 saw massive growth in consumer spending on mobile phone apps, with the US witnessing an additional $43 billion in the year, which was a 30 per cent yearly growth. In markets like India, there was stand-out growth when it came to app downloads.

Further, nearly seven out of every ten minutes on mobile were spent on social and photo and & video apps this year. Apps such as YouTube, TikTok continue to see an increase with consumers even turning what was considered as ‘non-mobile’ time into time spent in apps and games, notes the report.

Gen Z is social and video first

The report notes that Gen Z (born in mid-1990s to early 2010s) is more into photos, video, entertainment, and social apps. The top apps for Gen Z users were Instagram, Spotify, Netflix, Snapchat, and TikTok. For millennials though, finance and shopping apps remain big. The top social apps for them were Facebook, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, and eBay. This is looking at monthly active users in a particular age group.

First published on: 13-01-2022 at 17:38 IST
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