In 2020, smartphone penetration among Canadian adults hit 87 percent. It’s fair to say most of us feel like we’ve lost a limb if we are without our phones. But it’s not that we’re constantly making calls. This is, of course, the age of the app, and the type of apps that are most popular speak volumes about today’s society. 

No simple way to measure popularity 

It’s no great surprise that in terms of volume, games swamp all other categories. That’s inevitable when you consider that there are thousands of mobile games out there and a keen gamer might have 100 or more games downloaded on his or her handset. What’s more, the types of games are extremely varied. For example, just the subgenre real money casinos for Canadians brings dozens of competing platforms each with hundreds of games. That’s before you’ve even looked at word games, or first person shooters or sport games.  

In comparison, someone is only likely to have one or perhaps two apps for maps, or for banking. So instead of looking at the number of apps downloaded, we have interrogated the data at statista to examine popularity by reach. In other words, this tells us what percentage of smartphone users in Canada use apps in each category. By looking at the numbers from the perspective of users rather than apps, an interesting picture emerges.  

smartphone apps

Social media apps have the greatest reach 

88 percent of smartphone users use social media apps. Given that an incredible 95 percent of Canadian use social media, that is perhaps unsurprising. However, it also tells us a little more about how we use social media, as well as how we use our phones. Facebook is the most used social media platform, followed by Twitter.  

Just hold that thought for a moment and glance down at the category of apps with the second greatest reach. This is messaging apps, of which Facebook Messenger is right up near the top.  

Looking at reach in this way is immediately giving us more rounded insights than simply listing apps by category. What we can conclude from those top two categories combined is that we mostly use our phones for staying in touch with our friends, family and acquaintances. That sounds right, it is almost comforting, an affirmation that a phone is still a phone at heart. What is very different compared with the pre smartphone age is how we do it. Not through voice calls not through texting – but at the same time, using a combination of media including voice, text, video and more. 

Entertainment and video 

Here, we are talking about apps like YouTube, Netflix and Disney+. These speak volumes about the way we consume entertainment in 2022. Prior to the mobile age, it was all about bigger screens, surround sound speakers and being immersed in what you are watching. Today there is still a place for that sort of experience. Indeed, there are plenty of heated discussions online about whether it is “right” to watch a full movie on your smartphone, but the point is people do it – and it’s becoming increasingly common.  

It’s also fair to point out that the majority of entertainment and video content that is being enjoyed by more than 70 percent of smartphone users is not feature films but shorter video content. In other words, the stereotypical cat videos are as important a part of cyberspace as they have ever been. 

Map apps have 70% reach 

In fourth place come maps, with 70 percent reach. Banking and shopping apps are the only other types of apps that are used by more than half of smartphone users. We can essentially call these utility functions, and one good map app on a smartphone instantly renders the old SatNav market obsolete. What’s more, it is as useful when you out on foot or even planning an overseas adventure.  

There’s a common perception that smartphones have changed our lives. When it comes down to it, we use them partly to carry out some the functions of other tech like a TV or laptop. But by far the most common purpose is for staying in touch with friends and family. Smartphone apps just give us more varied ways of doing so than the telephones on which they are built.  


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