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4 apps that could become the next Snapchat

USA TODAY logo USA TODAY 3/20/2017 Jefferson Graham
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LOS ANGELES — Snap's IPO showed that you can still take a hot social app and turn it into a $24 billion company

Is there another app set to take the world by storm, one that could turn into another Snapchat, Airbnb, Uber or Waze?

Perhaps.

There are over 2 millions apps each in both the Apple iOS App Store and the Google Play Store for Android, yet the top apps by downloads are consistently the same. Facebook, Instagram and Netflix top the charts. 

Yet, deeper in the charts lie some up-and-comers. 

AppAnnie market research firm looked at downloads for the December to February period and gave USA TODAY a top 20 of combined iOS and Google Play. We culled the older apps like No. 1 Facebook Messenger and No. 20 Hulu. What's left were four relatively new and trending apps: Bitmoji, Wish, Musical.ly and Letgo. And we give an honorable mention to Houseparty, which is one of a handful that AppAnnie says showed major market share growth and is leading a hot new category, group video chat. 

It’s been a long time since a new app became a new worldwide craze, with two exceptions. Pokémon Go was a short-lived smash last summer, and before that, Messenger climbed to the top of the download charts when Facebook told members they wouldn’t get messages on mobile any longer unless they downloaded the app. Messenger still rules, while Pokemon is currently No. 158 on the charts.

The trending apps

- Bitmoji. Investors looking to Bitmoji as the next Snapchat will be disappointed, as Snap already owns the parent company, Bitstrips. It snapped up Bitstrips in March 2016 for a reported $100 million.

The Bitmoji app brings a new look to the emoji, allowing for the creation of cartoon avatars.

“I love how I can have entire discussions using just bitmojis,” says fan Disha Raychaudhuri, a student from the University of Southern California.

The app lets you use the avatars “anywhere you chat,” but if you opt for it on  Snapchat, you can check out the “Friendmoji,” a double avatar that only works in Snapchat. Bitmoji is currently No. 2 on the iTunes chart and on AppAnnie's Top 20 list for December to February. 

--Wish The dollar store of apps, Wish sells bargain merchandise from China that costs $1 and up. If you order, you'll need patience, because it may take a while to arrive. Items include $6 ties, Rayban sunglasses knock-offs for $15, an imitation GoPro-like camera for $42 and 64 GB memory cards for $4. (A sample order attempted this week with the app shows arrival time of April 5-9th.)

The app has been around since 2013 and is currently No. 23 on the iTunes chart and 14 on the combined chart. Wish's parent company, Contextlogic, is based in San Francisco. 

--Musical.ly The app, based in China, first launched in 2014 and gained an underground following with teens using it to lip synch in 15 second clips to hit songs. The company says it has over 200 million users for the Musical.ly app, and also owns the hot companion, Live.ly for live streaming. Musical.ly is No. 69 on the iTunes chart but No. 16 on the combined AppAnnie list.

--Letgo Online classified ad leader Craigslist is such a relic of the desktop era, going “mobile first” for selling stuff was an obvious play, right? Besides Letgo, there’s also Offerup, SocialSell and Facebook. Letgo has raised $375 million in funding, and is attracting users without taking a cut. It ditches the need for e-mails and phone calls—a Craigslist staple—by using an internal chat program, and photo recognition software that can identify items after smartphone snaps. The company is based in New York and Barcelona.

--Houseparty. The company that produced the short-lived live streaming app Meerkat, which took the South by Southwest festival by storm in 2015, has an actual hit on its hands with Houseparty, a group video chat of which there are many. Google’s Hangouts, AirTime, Fam, Facebook Messenger and Musical.ly’s Live.ly also let you bring in multiple guests.

Houseparty, however, is “just a really easy way to video chat with your friends,” says Jake Ingrassia, a student at the University of Southern California. “It allows you to speak to whoever’s on there at that moment.”

Houseparty, currently No. 8 on iTunes top app downloads chart in the Social Networking category,  lets you bring up to 10 people for a group chat (or “party.") That’s a hefty number—Facebook Messenger and Live.ly allows 6.

But if it’s a great party, who’s counting, right?  

Top apps on iOS and Google Play

Dec 2016 - February 2017, US

  1. Facebook Messenger

  2. Bitmoji

  3. Facebook

  4. Snapchat

  5. Instagram

  6. Netflix

  7. Pandora Radio

  8. Spotify

  9. YouTube

  10. Uber

  11. Amazon

  12. WhatsApp Messenger

  13. Pinterest

  14. Wish

  15. Twitter

  16. Musical.ly

  17. Google Maps

  18. SoundCloud

  19. Letgo

  20. Hulu

Source: AppAnnie, December 2016-February 2017

Readers--what’s your pick for the next up and coming app? Let’s chat about it on Twitter, where I’m @jeffersongraham. And don’t forget to subscribe to the daily #TalkingTech podcast on iTunes and Stitcher.

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