2020 will be a very strange year to teach in history classes in the future. In some ways, a lot of things happened in a very short space of time, and in other ways, nothing happened at all. We’ve been stuck indoors, and yet we’ve been more switched on to world events than we have at any time in the past few years. There’s been a controversial US election, wildfires in Africa, multiple health scares, and “Tiger King.” It’s been a rollercoaster – one with very few climbs and a lot of drops.
Each year, Apple publishes a list of the most popular apps downloaded from its App Store, and that list always tells us a lot about what people have been doing with their spare time during the past twelve months. This year the common theme is entertainment, which is very telling. Having spent much of the year unable to do much other than stay inside and watch TV shows and films or play games, that’s exactly what we’ve done – and we’ve done so in record numbers.
The list makes of interesting reading, and we’ve selected a few eyebrow-raising highlights for you below. As detailed as Apple’s stats are, though, try to remember that they don’t cover everything that people might do and use on their phones. 2020 has been a great year for the online slots industry, for example. For the past ten years, people have increasingly been turning to online slots rather than heading out to ‘real world’ casinos for their gambling fix, and that trend has continued unabated this year. Even though online slots are optimized for the mobile format these days, they’re generally available through slots website as opposed to apps, so the enormous popularity of online slots isn’t reflected by the list. The same can be said of anything that doesn’t come as an app.
The Most Downloaded Free App: Zoom
We’d say ‘no surprise here,’ but perhaps there is. When people needed to turn to video calls to stay in touch with their friends, they decided to migrate to a new app rather than using anything that was already available. Most people have access to Skype or Microsoft Teams (sometimes both) through their phones by default, but rather than using them, they elected to go with Zoom instead. Zoom became so popular at one point that it was being downloaded more often than Tik Tok – and if you’re under 30 or have children, you’ll know how popular Tik Tok is! We might not need Zoom forever, and its download numbers might drop like a stone in 2021 as the world returns to normal, but for a few short months, it was a lifesaver.
The Most Download Paid-For App: TouchReTouch
Oh dear. What a world of narcissists we’ve become. The app that most people paid to download last year wasn’t a news app, a health app, or anything that comes with tangible life benefits. It was a photo-editing app that allows you to airbrush your photographs before you upload them to social media. We can’t deny that it’s an exceptionally advanced photo-editing tool by the standards of anything you’ll find on a phone, but it’s a little worrying that so many people apparently can’t bring themselves to upload a simple photo without giving it a professional treatment anymore. We thought that net-based vanity had peaked with the invention of the selfie, but apparently not.
The Most Download Free Game: Among Us
What were you expecting to see here? “Fortnite,” perhaps? That’s out of the question for now, because “Fortnite” has been blocked as a download by Apple for several months because of a payment dispute. “Roblox” and “Call of Duty” were both strong contenders, coming in at second and third on the list respectively, but the most popular free game that iPhone users have been enjoying this year is “Among Us.” The cute murder-mystery themed game is aimed at children but has proven to be surprisingly popular with adults. One of them is high profile American politician Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has attracted up to half a million viewers online when she live-streams herself playing it. It’s hard to explain why this game is so appealing unless you’ve played it yourself – so all we can do is suggest that you download it and see if it holds any appeal for you. It’s free, so it’s not like you have anything to lose other than time!
The Most Downloaded Paid For Game: Minecraft
Somehow, no matter what else happens in the world or what’s new in the world of gaming, “Minecraft” remains popular. Its simple blocky graphics haven’t improved since it was released in 2009, and there have been almost no gameplay innovations in all that time before, but the simple charm of “Minecraft” keeps players coming back again and again, and is still attracting new ones on a massive scale. We guess people love to build their own worlds and get lost in them, and we can see how escapism of this kind would be popular in 2020. Having been online for so many years, “Minecraft” is now an enormous, sprawling world where almost anything that can be imagined has been created. If a location exists in the real world, you can be relatively sure that someone’s already re-created it in “Minecraft,” and they’ve probably done a good job. You can even build “computers” inside “Minecraft” and use them to run classic games from the 1990s. After more than a decade of operation, it’s now reached legendary status and will probably still command a large audience five years from now. Perhaps it will even survive for another ten.
In addition to all of the above, Apple confirmed the ten most popular games on its “Apple Arcade” platform, but the fact that mostly-unknown titles like “Sneaky Sasquatch” and “Hot Lava” are at the top of that list only serves to illustrate the difficulties the company has had with creating genuinely popular content and attracting players thus far. They’ve made it a priority for 2021, so that list will probably look very different (and much more familiar) this time next year. Aside from that, it appears that we’re all a bunch of game-playing, video-calling egotists. We have much to work on in the year to come!