The most popular apps in 2021 mirrored our desire to be together

Surprise — the most-downloaded iPhone apps are TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube.

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Apple’s 2021 charts are out along with the App Store award winners, and the company has named “Apps that brought us together” as the official trend of the year. It comes after 2020’s trend of “helpfulness” and 2019’s trend of “storytelling simplified.”

Apple honored five apps for furthering the theme of togetherness: Among Us!, Canva (a collaborative, online graphic design platform), reproductive health app Peanut, Bumble, and EatOkra, a platform to discover and learn about Black-owned restaurants in your area.

The iPhone Game of the Year didn’t go to Among Us, though — it went to League of Legends: Wild Rift, a mobile version of the 12-year-old multiplayer online battle arena built from the ground up for mobile. And Toca Life World, a kids app that Apple deems a “virtual playground,” was chosen as iPhone App of the Year. The app, which has been around for a decade, allows its young user base to exercise creativity and goofiness — its App Store description includes “want to give grandma a wild hairstyle? Bring a sloth to the Skate Park?”

Toca Life WorldApple

Apple’s picks for 2021:

  • iPhone App of the Year: Toca Life World, from Toca Boca
  • iPad App of the Year: LumaFusion, a mobile video editing app from LumaTouch.
  • Mac App of the Year: Craft, a documents and notes app from Luki Labs Limited.
  • Apple TV App of the Year: DAZN, a life sports streaming app from DAZN Group.
  • Apple Watch App of the Year: Carrot Weather, a spunky weather app from Grailr.
  • iPhone Game of the Year: “League of Legends: Wild Rift,” a MOBA app built from the ground up for mobile by Riot Games.
  • iPad Game of the Year: “MARVEL Future Revolution,” a role-playing game from Netmarble Corporation.
  • Mac Game of the Year: “Myst,” a remastered version of the bestselling PC adventure puzzle by Cyan.
  • Apple TV Game of the Year: “Space Marshals 3,” a sci-fi Western adventure game from Pixelbite.
  • Apple Arcade Game of the Year: “Fantasian,” a role-playing game from Mistwalker.

Changing things up — Apple’s end-of-year App Store Awards are not new, but the company’s decision to highlight a lot of third-party apps may carry a new message this year, especially as some picks are direct competitors of Apple products (Craft rivals Pages and LumaFusion rivals iMovie).

The December awards come just a few months after a legal battle with Epic Games in which Apple was forced to loosen its grip on the App Store. Following a federal judge’s September ruling, the company may continue taking a 30 percent commission (“Apple tax”) on apps and in-app purchases, but it may not ban app developers from offering alternative payment methods to skirt the fee. This year’s awards illustrate that the tech giant, which announced self-service repair last month, is letting go of some of its long-held power — or, at least, that it’d like us to think so.

TikTok on top — Along with top picks, Apple released charts of most-downloaded apps in various categories. For free iPhone apps, Zoom and Disney+ have dropped from the top three to make room for YouTube and Instagram. TikTok jumps from second to first-place, and Google Maps and Amazon Shopping make their way into the top ten.

Top Free iPhone Apps:

Games, Games, Games — As for games, Among Us!, Roblox, Project Makeover, and Call of Duty: Mobile dominated free downloads on iPhone, while Minecraft, Heads Up!, Bloons TD 6, and Monopoly were the most popular in the paid category.

Top Apple Arcade Games:

You can check out all the lists in their entirety here.