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If you are relying on a mobile app for revenue generation, you will need to understand what the most profitable apps are. Gaining an understanding of which apps are the most successful at generating revenue, what categories of mobile apps are the most popular with users, and how the profitable mobile apps monetize their app idea is the best place to start a development project. 

Before you begin your mobile app development project, you also need to consider the rules governing the App Store and the Google Play Store. Google and Apple each set their own policies for how app revenue is split between developers and the store, which apps are allowed to be on their stores, and more. 

Let’s take a closer look at which mobile app categories are the most popular with users today and which mobile apps are the most profitable. 

What are the Most Popular App Categories?

Before app development begins in earnest, you should understand which types of apps are the most popular with users. This information could influence the type of app you decide to create and bring to market, or it could help you tweak your app idea to include features that are already very popular with users. The most popular app categories are:

  • Entertainment 
  • Social Media
  • Gaming
  • Dating 
  • Health

Does your mobile app fit into one of these broad categories? Is there a way to make changes or update your idea so that it fits into one of these categories? These are the apps that are the most popular and, therefore, the most successful at generating a profit. 

Entertainment

People love to be entertained. Most of the top apps in both the App Store and the Google Play Store revolve around media entertainment. Entertainment is a very broad category and envelopes a number of different services mostly based around streaming content, whether it be TV shows, movies, music, or live sports. The difficulty associated with entertainment apps is creative content. Either you need to create it, let your users create it, or you need to acquire the streaming rights, which can be expensive. There are ways to blend all three of these content creation methods, think YouTube, but most entertainment apps either create their own content or acquire rights to stream content on their app. 

Social Media

Social media apps are extremely popular with people, brands, and businesses. Not only are social media apps used for personal communications, but they are also used to access the Internet, share ideas with interest groups, share media, play games, and so much more. Businesses can use social media to market their products and connect with their customers. Brands can use social media to generate awareness. People use social media apps every day to communicate, be entertained, and learn new things. 

Gaming

Gaming apps have always been popular in both app stores. Game app purchases have gotten so popular that Apple has created a separate service called Apple Arcade that allows users to access a huge library of mobile games for a small monthly fee. Gaming apps can generate revenue in a number of different ways, including:

  • Ad content
  • Ad-free experiences
  • In-game content and gifts
  • Upfront cost 

Dating

Dating apps have gotten extremely popular with users over the last decade. Helping people find quality personal connections in their area is a service that people are willing to pay for. As more people move indoors to deal with the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, the attraction of dating apps is even more alluring for people who are looking to socialize and meet new people without the risk of going out to crowded public areas and events. 

Health

The MedTech industry has exploded with a host of wearable technologies and connected health and fitness apps. Health apps have given people the opportunity to track key health metrics and take control of their daily fitness efforts. As wearable technology gets more advanced, the market for great health apps is only going to get bigger. 

Which Mobile Apps are the Most Profitable? 

Now that you have a better understanding of the most popular app categories, you likely won’t be surprised to learn which apps generate the most revenue. Whether you are working on iOS app development projects or Android app development projects, you could learn something from each of the entries on this list of the most profitable apps:

  • Netflix
  • Spotify
  • Tencent Video
  • Tinder 
  • TikTok
  • Facebook 
  • YouTube

While the majority of successful apps are cross-platform, you don’t have to start developing one if your target audience is mostly using one type of device. For example, whileApple accounts for less than 15 percent of the smartphone market, the App Store leads the way in revenue generation for developers. Why? The iPhone is more popular in high-income regions like the United States and Japan. Both of these regions tend to spend more money on mobile apps. 

Keep that in mind while you look at the most profitable apps in the world. 

Netflix

Most people don’t associate Netflix with a mobile app. However, up until 2018, when Netflix stopped selling subscriptions through the App Store and Google Play Store, Netflix was by far the highest-grossing mobile app in terms of profits. Netflix is by far the most profitable mobile app of all time. The company consistently generates billions of dollars in revenue every quarter through its subscription service. The COVID-19 pandemic has only made the app more profitable, and by pulling subscriptions from the various app stores, Netflix saves itself hundreds of millions of dollars in fees every year. Apple charges a 30 percent fee on all app purchases/subscriptions. This is why you see a number of large subscription services like Netflix, Spotify, and HBO pulling their subscriptions from the App Store. This entertainment app continues to be the gold standard when it comes to profitable mobile apps. 

Spotify

This entertainment app changed the entire music industry. Spotify generates its gargantuan revenue in the same manner that Netflix does through a paid subscription. The interesting thing about Spotify is that they also offer a free version of their service, which includes advertisements, so they are able to gain additional ad revenue. This mobile app also pulled its subscriptions from the App Store and Google Play Store too in an effort to maximize profits. 

Tencent Video

This app is just like Netflix in that subscribers pay a monthly subscription fee to stream television shows and movies. Tencent is a Chinese company. This streaming service is very popular in China, Japan, and Korea. This entertainment app doesn’t quite reach the Netflix level of revenue generation, but it still generates billions of dollars in profit every single year. 

Tinder

This is the first non-entertainment app that has made our list of most profitable mobile apps. Tinder is the popular dating app that completely changed the way we think about dating apps and the modern dating experience. Not only is Tinder extremely popular, but it is also very profitable. This mobile dating app creates revenue by selling premium accounts, extra swipes, super likes, and more. While Tinder has been around for nearly ten years, its popularity and ability to generate profits continue to grow. Tinder’s swipe left, or right User Interface has made modern dating game-like and endlessly entertaining. 

TikTok

This is one of the newest social media apps to hit the market, but in a short amount of time, it has become extremely popular with users around the world. Like most of the major social media players, TikTok primarily generates revenue through advertising. However, TikTok also utilizes in-app purchases like a lot of mobile games. While in-app purchases are not nearly as lucrative as advertising, they still provide an additional revenue stream for the social media app. 

Facebook

It is impossible to mention social media apps and not talk about Facebook. What can’t this app do? Not only is Facebook the largest social network in the world, but it also offers a marketplace for people and businesses to sell goods and services, a live streaming platform, and much more. Facebook also owns popular social media app Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp. Facebook primarily makes money by selling advertising, but there are a number of other services that Facebook has monetized in order to diversify its revenue streams. This is the most ubiquitous social media app in the world. Facebook has more than two billion users globally, and it continues to grow. 

YouTube

Is this an entertainment app or a social media app? YouTube fits into a few different app categories, but one thing is for certain, this mobile app generates a ton of profit. YouTube is one of the most unique apps on this list in the way it generates revenue. YouTube has advertising like all the major social media players, but it also has paid subscribers for its premium music and video services, ad-free content, and rental revenue from popular movies and television shows. This app is one of the top profit earners every year, and its user base continues to grow. 

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