Clara Vetter
Friday, 19 February 2021
3 min read
Clara Vetter

Most used smartphone apps of 2020 – Whatsapp, Instagram and Facebook at the top

We analyzed smartphone usage data of 1070 participants* in 2020. Social media platforms dominated the most used apps of the past year by usage time. Number one is WhatsApp, people used it on average 35 min per day, followed by Instagram, YouTube, Chrome and Facebook. As visible in the graph below, the decline in average daily usage duration does not follow a linear trend. Usage duration drops steeply between Facebook, the fifth most used app, and Maps, the seventh most used app. Further, the difference in usage duration between rank 6 and 20 is only two minutes.

Most used smartphone apps in 2020
Fig 1 Most used smartphone apps in 2020*

Women spend almost twice as much time on Instagram as men

Women and men do not differ a lot in their app usage preferences – with one exception: Women spend more time on Instagram than YouTube and Chrome, men the other way round. On average, women spend more time in the top 5 apps, except in Chrome. The biggest discrepancy occurs for Instagram: While women use Instagram about 29 min daily, men only spend about 15 min on the social media platform.

Most used smartphone apps in 2020 by gender
Fig 2 Most used smartphone apps in 2020 by gender*

Generation Z prefers Instagram, Millenials still use Facebook

WhatsApp is the number one app across all age groups. Usage duration of the other apps differs between age groups: Facebook is used longer by older people, while usage duration of Instagram declines in older age groups.

Most used smartphone apps in 2020 by age group
Fig 3 Most used smartphone apps in 2020 by age group*

Students are on Instagram, working people on Facebook

Comparing the top apps of students and employed people, we observed similar trends: Students use Instagram a lot more than employed people, whereas employed people prefer Facebook. This is not surprising, considering that students in our sample were on average 23 years old, working people averaged 33 years of age.

Most used smartphone apps in 2020 by employment status
Fig 4 Most used smartphone apps in 2020 by employment status*

Whatsapp remains at the top — for now?

One main take away of our results is that WhatsApp is used the most, regardless of demographics. Also, the remaining overall top five apps Instagram, YouTube, Chrome and Facebook are popular throughout all demographics. Perhaps the most obvious difference can be observed with regard to the preferred social media platform: Instagram is used longer by women, younger people and students. Facebook is still the second most used app for people above 30 and employed people.

It remains to be seen whether Whatsapp continues to reign supreme in 2021. After anouncing a privacy policy change in their terms of usage, Whatsapp is bleeding millions of users to more privacy-focused competitors like Signal and Telegram. We will investigate this in a future blogpost.

Disclaimer: 2020 app usage data is influenced by the Corona pandemic and various light and strict lockdowns. For a look at how the march lockdown impacted most used apps, check out this previous blog article.

* Real-time data collected via Murmuras app for scientific purposes with fully GDPR-conform consent of participants. Discrepancies in absolute values are due to incomplete demographical data in the full dataset of 1070 people (e.g. some people did not disclose gender or employment status)