Facebook ends year as top U.S. smartphone app, but Messenger sees most growth

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Facebook appears to be as popular as ever among U.S.-based handset owners, with recently published data confirming it as the most-used smartphone app of 2015.

Research firm Nielsen said the social networking site’s app had 126.7 million average unique users each month this year, marking growth of 8 percent on 2014.

However, Zuckerberg and co. will be more pleased by Messenger’s progress, which sits behind YouTube as the third most popular app and saw the highest growth among the top 10 apps listed by Nielsen.

An average of just over 96 million unique users logged onto Messenger every month this year, 31 percent up from last year. Admittedly, that’s markedly lower than the 242 percent growth it enjoyed in 2014, but that had a lot to do with Facebook’s move in the same year to cut instant messaging from its main app, effectively forcing users to download its standalone offering.

With Facebook and Messenger sitting pretty at the top of Nielsen’s chart, the Menlo Park company will now be looking to grow Moments, the photo-sharing app it launched in June. And it won’t surprise you to know that the company is about to pull the same move with Moments as it did with Messenger, removing the ability to photo-sync from within its main Facebook app to encourage users to load up the standalone Moments app.

Other apps in Nielsen’s top 10 include Google’s Search, Play, and Maps, all showing year-on-year growth of less than 10 percent. Facebook-owned Instagram, in eighth spot, has 55.4 million monthly active users in the U.S., about 12 million up on last year, marking a 23 percent increase.

Apple’s also in there, in ninth position with Apple Music, and tenth with Maps, news that should please the Cupertino company as it continues investing time and money in knocking its Maps app into shape following its dismal launch in 2012.

In addition, Nielsen’s research, which uses data drawn from a total of nearly 40,000 mobile subscribers, lists Android as the top U.S. smartphone operating system, with 52.6 percent of the market. Apple’s iOS has 42.7 percent.

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