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Most Downloaded Apps of 2012 - and What They Tell Us

As the year comes to a close, it’s a good time review what worked this year; what was hot; what got viral; what caught on. In the marketing and advertising business, the goal is to influence these trends to the benefit of your clients, what what better way to know how things might shape up in the future by looking what happened this year. One great way to do that is to look at apps, those downloadable things that can be concrete indicators of what trends are shaping the online marketplace.

Lucky for us, Google Zeitgeist published the top 10 searched apps of 2012. What can this list teach us about this year’s trends? And what can it help us understand about what might come along next year? (Note: These are not the best apps of 2012, just the most searched – you can find the 20 best apps here.)

Here’s a quick run-down of the top apps of the year and what we can learn from them, from 10 down to number one, to maximize the suspense.

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10. Facebook App

Yep. Hard to believe, but there are enough people out there who haven’t downloaded this yet. As bloated as this social media giant has become, people just can’t help themselves from googling "facebook app." Maybe the iPhone 5 release, the OS X Mountain Lion release and new product rollouts from Samsung and Microsoft had lots of people re-downloading this ubiquitous social media app?

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9. Amazon App

The steady drum-beat of total retail domination continues. With the Amazon app, you can shop in a competition’s store, find an item, and order it from Amazon while still in Target. Depending on traffic and which shipping option you pick, your purchase might be waiting for you when you get home.

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8. Google Maps App

Ah, yes. The great iPhone map app cluster-screw of 2012. It was almost yesterday when Apple bungled its first major rollout since the passing of Steve Jobs by removing the perfectly fine Google Map app and replaced it with something with more bugs than the Temple of Doom. Hence the flood of people running to Google hoping to find a solution. Now, they have one because Google Maps is back on iOS devices.

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7. Pinterest

Yes, it’s true. Women google just as much as men do. Maybe more. How else do you explain Pinterest beating out a map app for #7 on the most searched apps list of the year? Not that the Pinterest app is used exclusively by women, but it’s certainly geared to that audience, and the fact that Pinterest made a mark on this list is proof that the internet is not a boys-only zone any more. Next year should see a significant rise in online services geared to today’s wired woman.

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6. Angry Birds Space

What’s impressive is that five apps beat this one. What a huge success story this time-waster has become. And people still want more birds, even angrier than before, and if possible, in space. Angry Birds Space will go down as a remarkable case study in viral growth that tapped into ancillary revenue streams like apparel and toys to make this app this year’s Farmville.

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5. Socialcam

OK, Socialcam is Instagram for video based on an easy-to-understand model: shoot video, apply filter, share. It’s one of those no-brainers that leave people scratching their heads asking why they didn’t think of this one themselves. Socialcam found a niche and filled it.

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4. Draw Something

Draw Something is the Words with Friends of 2012, except that Alec Baldwin hasn’t been thrown off a plane for playing it -- not yet anyway. Anyone who has played this can understand its appeal: it’s like Pictionary (remember that?) only mobile and social. It is easy to see how Draw Something was the 4th most searched app this year on Google.

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3. Logo Quiz

Good news for marketers everywhere: people actually go out of their way to search for a game to play that tests their knowledge of corporate logos. Hooray, it’s Logo Quiz! Keeping consumers happily consuming since mid-2012.

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2. Instagram

Let’s see: in 2012, Instagram was bought by Facebook, was the #2 searched-for app on Google, and then blocked interactivity with Twitter. Sounds like a pretty good year, app-wise. What could have possibly beaten it out of #1?

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1. Temple Run

Temple Run is an addictive explorer-themed video game; basically, it’s Pitfall 2.0, except popular. Although it was technically released for iPhone in December 2011, it remained the top-searched app of all of 2012, and even birthed its first spin-off, the Disney-backed Temple Run: Brave, before July was finished. Not bad for a game you can’t beat. By the way, if you want to know the algorithm for how your score is tabulated on Temple Run, the formula is: points = (m) (d + 5c + t) with "m" number of objectives unlocked + 10; "d" being distance; "c" being number of coins; "t" being the coin multiplier of 600 times the whole number remaining of c/100.

What was your favorite app of 2012?

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