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Google Play celebrates anniversary with lists of its most popular apps

Why it matters to you

The most popular content since Google Play's launch gives a good indication of the direction in which Google and mobile developers and users are heading.

Hard to believe it, but it’s already been five years since Google relaunched the Android Market as Google Play, adding music, TV, movies, and books to games and app sales. The company cites more than 1 billion active users of its entertainment platform across 190 countries since the service’s launch on March 6, 2012. To celebrate the landmark anniversary, Google published a list of the top five most popular products within each category.

Admittedly, most of the chart-toppers aren’t surprising, but they do make for a fun little stroll down pop culture history of the last five years. Candy Crush Saga fronts the list for games, followed by Subway Surfers, Temple Run 2, Despicable Me, and Clash of Clans. The middle three make a clear case for the success of endless runners, and it’s also interesting to note the curious absence of any Angry Birds games.

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Moving on to apps — which is perhaps the least shocking of all the categories — Facebook took the No. 1 spot, with Facebook Messenger close behind. Pandora, Instagram, and Snapchat round out the list. The last two are the youngest apps among the five, with Instagram having been released in April 2012 on Android, and Snapchat making its debut on the platform the following October. Not counting Facebook Messenger, which itself was spun out of the original Facebook app that released on the Android Market in 2010, these are at least two years younger than the other most-downloaded apps.

Entertainment is a little less predictable. Among his many accomplishments, English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran can claim the title of artist with the best-selling song on Google Play Music, thanks to the 2014 single Thinking Out Loud. In the album race, Adele takes first with her third full-length release, 2015’s 25. Pop superstar Taylor Swift is the only artist with both a song and album in the top five — Blank Space and 1989 took the third spot in both lists, respectively.

The Interview strained diplomatic relations between the United States and North Korea prior to the film’s release in late 2015, but the controversy spurred excellent digital sales on Christmas Eve while the film was temporarily withheld from theaters. It took first place among movies, followed by Frozen, Deadpool, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and Guardians of the Galaxy.

Finally, the romantic phenomenon that is Fifty Shades of Grey leads Google Play Books’ charts, ahead of the entire Hunger Games trilogy collection, A Game of Thrones, The Fault in Our Stars, and Gone Girl. All five have been adapted to major motion pictures or TV series, continuing Hollywood’s cross-media dominance.