Mobile Apps

2014’s Top Google Play Picks: Fitness, Netflix, Frozen and More

Netflix, where House of Cards rides high, was the top-ranked entertainment app on Google Play in 2014. MyFitnessPal ranked first among health apps, and Facebook scored as the top social network. Frozen claimed No. 1 among movies, and its soundtrack was the top-selling album. The Walking Dead led the TV pack, suggesting Google Play's audience is nothing if not diverse.

Health and fitness was the fastest-growing category of apps on Google Play this year, according to a report Google published on Thursday.

MyFitnessPal was the most-downloaded app within that category, while Duolingo led the education category. Facebook was top among social apps named in the report, which listed the most popular apps, games, movies, music, news and books in 2014 on Google Play.

Netflix, home of the award-winning original series House of Cards, was the leader in entertainment apps, and Pandora was tops in music. NFL Mobile ranked No. 1 among sports apps, while Flipagram led photography. TripAdvisor was the most popular app for travel.

It’s Raining Mobile Devices

“Between Android Wear and other fitness devices, as well as even just using your smartphone as a health tracker, health and fitness has been an extremely important category this past year,” said Kevin Krewell, a principal analyst with Tirias Research.

“There’s been an explosion of devices, with just about every manufacturer coming out with a health tracker or smartwatch,” he told TechNewsWorld.

It has been a “breakout year” for health and fitness technology, agreed Tuong Huy Nguyen, a principal research analyst with Gartner.

A Death Greatly Exaggerated

The category was already significant last year, and a surge was evident at CES 2014, noted Nguyen, who expects to see another leap at next year’s trade show in January.

“There’s actual interest there,” he told TechNewsWorld. “I expect this trend will continue into 2015 as we see more devices emerge in that category.”

Facebook’s presence on the app list, meanwhile, shows that social technologies are still going strong, Nguyen suggested.

“It’s been common this year to hear people asking if social is dead,” he pointed out. “This proves that while it may not be as exciting as it used to be, people are still using it.”

No Productivity Apps

One notable absence on the report’s list of apps was the productivity category, said Chris Hazelton, research director for enterprise mobility at 451 Research.

“How has Google’s own Docs and Sheets been adopted?” he wondered.

“They’re probably not the major revenue drivers yet for Google, but it’s interesting they were left out,” Hazelton told TechNewsWorld.

The Big Freeze

Among the top games on Google Play this year were Candy Crush Saga, Don’t Tap The White Tile, Farm Heroes Saga, Subway Surfers and Clash of Clans.

“You have to remember that when you’re talking about mobile games, you’re also talking about casual gamers,” Nguyen pointed out.

“The opportunity is big there, but it’s also a little squirrelly — it’s hard to cater to a segment that’s doing something casually,” he said. “The winds change fairly quickly within the casual market. We may see a tossup there for next year.”

As for movie of the year, Frozen took that honor on Google Play while its soundtrack was named album of the year.

The most popular TV show was The Walking Dead.

Among the leading news sources were The New York Times, TMZ and Forbes Now. The top two books were The Fault in Our Stars and Fifty Shades of Grey.

A Mixed Crowd

The prominence of Frozen in the report, in particular, shows “a significantly young demographic among a lot of the people using Android,” Krewell pointed out.

Then again, the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey shows that an older crowd is actively using Android tablets as well, he suggested, even as teenager-oriented The Fault in Our Stars reflects another demographic altogether.

“I think you’re seeing tablets being used for watching movies by a lot of young people but also as an e-book by a larger demographic, including older people,” Krewell explained. “Android devices are being used in a lot of different ways by many different age groups.”

Katherine Noyes has been reporting on business and technology for decades. You can find her on Twitter and Google+.

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