Top apps 2023: Music, Entertainment, Travel, Fitness, and Food
The top apps in most big categories seldom change, because it’s really challenging to outgrow the giants like Instagram, TikTok, Amazon, Snapchat, Facebook, Spotify, or Telegram. Just looking at music, for instance, Spotify has about 115 million monthly average users — 60 million daily average users — and gets around 180,000 new app installs every single day. And that’s just iOS … the Android version of the Spotify app gets about double those numbers.
Hard to compete?
In fact, bordering on impossible, at least for new apps and services. But it does happen.
The reality is that with 14 million apps on Google Play and the App Store as of 2023 and 3,500 new apps every single day, it’s a very rare upstart app is going to come in and dominate the market in a category like Music overnight. It takes time, money, a great service, lots of luck, thousands of smart decisions, and ideally more than a splash of pixie dust. Just think: even viral sensation TikTok took 2 years to hit the top charts in multiple countries. And even smash global hit Pokémon Go, perhaps the fastest-growing app of all time (260 million installs in the first 6 months) took 5 years to top $1 billion in annual revenue.
Recently we looked at the top 50 mobile games.
Now I want to check out the biggest and most interesting new players in 5 categories, using intelligence from both Data.ai and Apptopia and — straight up — some level of judgment between top downloads versus top grossing versus largest active userbase. Is there science and data behind these rankings? Sure. Fair warning: there’s also a touch of opinion because we don’t have perfect data on earnings and rankings of all these apps. Just one reason: many monetize in ways app analytics platforms can’t easily capture, such as e-commerce. All data is from the United States.
We’ll check out these 5 categories:
Top entertainment apps of 2023 so far
None of the top 10 entertainment apps of 2022 so far are going to surprise you. Essentially, they’re all fairly well-known streaming entertainment apps from major American or global brands.
|Top 10 apps in entertainment, mid 2023|
2. Watch TNT
5. Zeus Network
8. YouTube TV
10. Peacock TV
9. Character AI
What was surprising to me, however, is the range of apps that supposedly all fit in the “entertainment” category The current top 10 are basically streaming video apps, and for these top lists I’m leaning more on download ranks than top money-making ranks, because most of these will be pushing payments off-platform to maximize revenue.
But there’s also Webtoon, which offers comics to read online, and TikTok, which we’ve sometimes defined as “social media” but isn’t really very social at all, and Crunchyroll, which allows customers to watch anime and read manga online.
Notice that Max, the new HBO Max, is tops on both iOS and Android, indicating that HBO is working overtime — and spending significant sums — to gain customers. BET+, the streaming arm of the popular BET channel, hits the top 10 on iOS this year as well.
Some of the newer competitors working hard to make it into the top apps in Entertainment include some big names that are undoubtedly already huge — think Amazon and Netflix — but are maybe taking a break on aggressive user acquisition right now. Or, they’ve maxed out their markets to an extent.
|Top 10 next apps challenging in entertainment, mid 2023|
10. Pocket FM
|1. Sling TV|
4. Amazon Prime Video
6. Peacock TV
7. Lie Detector Test
Top music apps of 2023 so far
Look, we all know who the big players are: Apple, Spotify, Amazon, Google with YouTube Music, Pandora, iHeart.
But there’s also a large number of significant players who aren’t quite as well known: Pocket FM, TuneIn Radio, Sirius XM, SoundCloud, and some that you might not expect, like BandLab, which is a creator app for music and beats. A significant new entrant this year is nugs.net, which offers live music concert streaming. Not showing up in the top list so far this year are apps like Cosmic Sounds or CitySounds for less conventional background or ASMR sounds.
Again, a lot of app monetization in this category happens off-store, so the top grossing lists aren’t necessarily great indicators of which apps are making the most money.
|Top 10 music apps, mid 2023|
2. YouTube Music
5. Amazon Music
3. Ultimate Guitar
4. TuneIn Radio
5. Pocket FM
6. Dreame FM
It’s always interesting to see how high Google’s (OK, Alphabet’s) YouTube Music ranks in Apple’s iOS mobile ecosystem, and how high Apple Music ranks in Google’s Android ecosystem. This year, Apple Music has dropped out of the top 10 (so far at least) and shows up below, on the challenger list.
Apple Music doesn’t show up on on the iOS list because it’s preinstalled. Also many purchases of Apple Music on iOS are hidden inside omnibus Apple subscription packages like Apple One, which offers music, news, storage, health and fitness features, and more for one set price.
|Top 10 next apps challenging in music, mid 2023|
5. Rap Fame
10. Apple Music
Notice the once-massive name in music, Napster, showing up on the challenger list, as well as Deezer, Apple’s Shazam, and Audiomack.
Top health & fitness apps for 2023 so far
You wouldn’t be surprised by very many of the top health & fitness apps so far in 2023. Strava is well-known. Fitbit is a Google company and essentially the Apple Watch of the Android world. Peloton, Weight Watchers, Flo, and Noom are all, if not household names, nearly there.
AllTrails is an interesting app here. It’s for a very niche segment — outdoor enthusiasts who like to hike — but it’s one of the undisputed leaders in its space. Interestingly, Android users seemed to like hiking more last year; iOS users are spending more on AllTrails this year.
|Top 10 health & fitness apps, mid 2023|
9. Lose it!
8. Calorie Counter
The other big sub-category in health & fitness apps, of course, is mental wellness. Calm and Headspace are the heavyweights in that sub-category, but up-and-comers like I Am – Daily Affirmations and Motivation: Daily Quotes which were big last year have disappeared off the top list.
Interesting in a similar category: an AI friend in Replika, which just missed out being ranked in health & fitness. Everyone needs friends for mental health, and maybe — just maybe — AI can help with that.
Also interesting is Sweatcoin, a crypto move-to-earn play in the health & fitness category which has fallen off the lists. Feelsy is another neat play in this category: helping people deal with stress and anxiety.
|Top 10 challenger apps in health & fitness, mid 2022|
8. Workout Planner
5. Muscle Booster Workout
Note, I’ve taken apps mostly from the top grossing lists for Health & Fitness, because this category is particularly vulnerable to short-term trends. Blood pressure and blood sugar apps — some with near-identical names — seem one of the hyped kind of apps so far this year.
Top food & drink apps for 2023 so far
Most-downloaded apps in the food & drink category are, I think, a pretty good proxy for the apps that are making the most money. They’re not perfect, because while McDonalds is tops in downloads according to Data.ai, the average Grubhub or Uber Eats delivery is likely to be higher value.
But they’re better than top-grossing apps, because we’re not talking in-app purchases for food, unlike categories like games or streaming or health and fitness. The top-grossing apps in this category tend to be apps like NYT Cooking, Epicurious, Wine Searcher, WineRatings+, and Full Raw. But they are not likely to be making more than Uber Eats or DoorDash.
|Top 10 food & drink apps, mid-2023|
3. Uber Eats
7. Taco Bell
9. Panda Express
10. Crumbl Cookies
3. Uber Eats
4. Taco Bell
7. Burger King
9. Domino’s Pizza
Note the utter dominance of the big three: McDonald’s, DoorDash, and Uber Eats. iOS users love Starbucks and cookies; Android users love Taco Bell and Burger King.
|Top 10 challenger apps in food & drink, mid 2023|
3. Paprika Recipe Manager
4. BLW Meals
7. Real Plans
8. Recipe Keeper
9. Cocktail Flow
2. Meal Planner
4. Real Plans
5. Menu Maker
7. Fivesec Health
8. Forks Plant-based Meal Planner
One clear and obvious difference in food and drink apps is that some are delivery apps for any kind of food, while most of them are branded apps for specific restaurants that are likely to be overwhelmingly used as mobile-order-and-pick-up apps.
It’s also interesting to see the number of recipe-management apps that are making good revenue, and Brewfather, which helps people brew their own beer.
Top travel apps for 2023 so far
There’s mostly big names at the top of the travel apps for 2023 so far. To get the apps actually making the most money, I think you have to ignore the top grossing list and go for the top downloads list. The reason is simple: most travel purchases are not in-app purchases … and when you buy a flight, choose a hotel, order a car, or book an Airbnb or Vrbo … that revenue isn’t easily visible via app analytics services.
Uber is much bigger on iOS than Android, while Airbnb is pretty big on both, and both iOS and Android users seem to prefer United Airlines.
|Top 10 travel apps, mid 2023|
5. United Airlines
6. American Airlines
7. Fly Delta
7. Google Earth
8. United Airlines
9. American Airlines
10. Southwest Airlines
Interestingly, Flightradar24 makes it on the top challengers list, and it has plenty of company from other flight tracking services in the top apps that didn’t quite make the list. Perhaps this is a consequence ce of the much-publicized Elon Musk jet tracking episode?
|Top 10 challenger apps in travel, mid 2023|
|1. Southwest Airlines|
4. Spirit Airlines
5. Google Earth
6. Hilton Honors
8. Marriott Bonvoy
10. My Disney Experience
4. Spirit Airlines
5. Hilton Honors
6. Six Flags
9. Marriott Bonvoy
As you’d expect, these list is dominated by major brands in hotel chains and booking services for hotels and airlines, with a sprinkling of transportation vendors and digital identity for travel.
VRBO is now styling itself as “verbo:” that’s how they’re pronouncing VRBO in TV ads now. Which reminds me of the first SXSW conference where Airbnb won an award.
I was present in the audience, and the MC of the awards show — a rich, famous actor who would never have stayed in an Airbnb, or ever imagined staying in an Airbnb (this was 2011 or so) — did a double-take on the name and eventually pronounced it “air-buh-nub,” to the delight of the more tech-savvy audience.
(This, by the way, is the sort of keen industry analysis you come to the Singular blog for.)
Top apps 2023: summary
Achieving a top spot out of the 14 million apps already on the two major global app stores and beating out the 100,000 new apps that show up every single month is a gargantuan task. So huge kudos to those companies — especially the challengers who aren’t from a multi-billion-dollar global tech company — who have managed it.
The one thing we know about mobile: the only constant is change.
Which means that top apps this year might not be top apps next year. And hope springs eternal for new entrants in all these categories.