New twists help top apps shine in 2013
SNAPCHAT, Vine and Candy Crush Saga earned coveted spots on smartphones last year, making them among the most downloaded apps of the year.
There are more than a million apps on Apple's App Store and the Google Play store, the two dominant marketplaces for apps, which see billions of downloads each year.
Last year, the most downloaded apps were new takes on communication, gaming and entertainment, according to mobile-app experts.
"2013 was a really interesting year in terms of maturation, milestones and new trends," said Mr Craig Palli, chief strategy officer at Fiksu, a mobile-marketing company based in Boston. "The most downloaded apps were in familiar categories, but offered new twists," he added.
While old favourites such as Instagram, Facebook and Twitter - available for iPhone, Android and other devices - continued to be popular ways of communicating with friends, Snapchat eclipsed them in downloads last year, becoming the sixth-most downloaded free app of the year on the App Store, according to Apple.
"Snapchat went from being a niche app to achieving much more critical mass, so much so that Facebook was reportedly willing to spend billions of dollars to acquire the company," said Mr Palli.
With Snapchat, users can send photos and videos that disappear shortly after they are viewed.
Vine, a video-sharing app released last year by microblogging company Twitter, was the fourth-most downloaded free app for the year. The app - for iPhone, Android and other devices - allows users to share videos under six seconds in length. Nielsen estimates that over six million people in the United States were using the app in October.
Snapchat and Vine fall into a category that mobile-analytics firm Flurry calls camera-enhanced messaging, which it said grew eightfold last year.
Games were another popular category, with Candy Crush Saga for iPhone, Android and Kindle Fire securing its position as the top downloaded free app, and as the top revenue-grossing app.
It has been downloaded over 500 million times since its launch last year, according to its creator King, based in Britain.
But last year's biggest trend, according to Mr Palli, was the emergence of apps as a way to control companion devices, which he believed would continue to grow this year.
On Christmas Day, apps that pair with devices were among some of the top downloaded apps on the App Store.
The Fitbit app, for iPhone and Android, pairs with an electronic wristband to track metrics such as steps taken, distance travelled and calories burned. It was the 16th-most downloaded app on Christmas Day, according to Mr Palli, who monitored the Apple rankings.
Other apps that pair with devices, such as Chromecast, UP by Jawbone, and GoPro, were also among the top downloads that day.