A selection of apps as displayed on an iPhone screen against a solid yellow background.
Image: Rahul Chakraborty

What are the most popular productivity apps around the world?

Protocol Workplace

Welcome back to our Workplace newsletter. Today, we dive into the productivity apps people are downloading around the world. Turns out a lot of us are working on the go, and care more about protecting our privacy. Also, Airtable doesn’t want the “productivity” label; CEO Howie Liu wants it to be an app development platform. And influencers are struggling to get paid on time.

Productivity around the world

If I could summarize what I’ve learned about productivity in one word, it would be “subjective.” Everyone works differently and has different criteria for their favorite productivity apps. Still, there are some apps most of us have coalesced around (think Google Drive or Zoom). I was curious about what productivity apps are most popular among consumers across the world, so I asked data.ai for some insights.

Data.ai sent me the top 10 productivity apps by downloads, monthly active users and consumer spend in Brazil, France, Germany, India, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and the United States.

  • Google One, the cloud storage subscription service, is the most popular app by consumer spend in each country. No surprises here: We need our mobile storage!
  • The app category with the most growth in six of the eight countries is mobile cleaner/antivirus.
  • Microsoft Outlook is the most popular app by monthly active users in the U.S. and U.K. Waze is most popular in Brazil and France.
  • Public service apps, or governmental portal apps, made the top 10 downloaded productivity apps list in Brazil, France, Japan and South Korea.

What do these data points tell us? In general, global consumers are taking more control over digital privacy, and working more on the go.

  • Lexi Sydow, head of insights at data.ai, noted that the rise of password management and authenticator apps means that consumers are more aware of cybersecurity concerns.
  • Microsoft Outlook’s popularity in the U.S. and U.K. indicates a shift toward mobile work. “In fact, we see the average person checks their Gmail app nearly nine times a day on their mobile device Monday-Friday in the U.S. during Q2 2022 on Android phones,” Sydow said.

The different popular productivity app genres show differences in “cultural norms or infrastructure across countries,” Sydow said. For example, the prevalence of public service apps might show governments’ digital innovation. Mobile cleaner and antivirus apps are often used more on Android devices, Sydow said, making them more widespread in Android-dominant countries like South Korea and Brazil.

Productivity is one of the spaces to watch when analyzing our relationship with our phones. Sydow said it’s a “first mover” category when people first purchase mobile devices. “We are also expecting our devices to do more of the heavy lifting for us — our personal life admin tool and portal to connect us to some of our most secure information and access points,” Sydow said. All over the world, our phones are our lifelines to work and productivity.

— Lizzy Lawrence, reporter (email| twitter)

Airtable wants the enterprise

Airtable is clearly not your average productivity company. In fact, it may not be a productivity company at all. Years ago, when Airtable was referenced as a “spreadsheet on steroids” in the press, CEO Howie Liu wasn’t exactly enthusiastic — he felt the company offered much more than that.

To this day, Liu eschews the comparisons to productivity apps such as Asana, Trello, Notion or Monday.com. Instead, he wants people to draw comparisons between Airtable and enterprise software giants like his former employer Salesforce, or even ServiceNow.

“We are trying to position ourselves more against ServiceNow or Salesforce, not from a CRM standpoint, but from a platform standpoint,” said Liu. “We always intended to become an app builder.”

Read the full story.


Chip shortage could undermine national security: The global shortage of semiconductors has impeded the production of everything from pickup trucks to PlayStations. But there are graver implications than a scarcity of consumer goods. If the U.S. does not ensure continued domestic access to leading-edge semiconductor manufacturing, experts say our national security could suffer.

Read more from Micron

Influencer debt

$20,000: That’s what one creator and her cousin paid for a YouTube video automation software, the New York Times reported Wednesday. When that software helped her earn less than $10 a day on her channel, she dropped the contract as soon as she could.

Meanwhile, Triller creators told the Washington Post that the company has been slow to make promised payments. They also allege the deals are so restrictive that creators who thought they’d be flush are now struggling to make ends meet.

This week’s stories are capturing a general theme in the influencer world right now: malaise and disappointment. Many people trying to get rich this way are instead getting scammed and ending up in debt or struggling to pay the bills.

Some personnel news

Anyone else having a bad case of Great Resignation whiplash? It’s hard to keep up with which tech companies are growing, shrinking, floating or sinking. We’re here to help.

↓ Robinhood laid off 23% of its staff on Tuesday. Combined with the 9% of its workforce that it laid off in April, more than 1,000 employees have been cut.

↓ SoundCloud is slashing 20% of its workforce. In an email to employees, the company reportedly said the cuts were “necessary given the challenging economic climate and financial market headwinds.”

↓ Walmart is cutting around 200 corporate roles amid restructuring, affecting departments including merchandising, global technology and real estate teams.

For more news on hiring, firing and rewiring, see our tech company tracker.

More stories from us

How Tonic Audio’s Allison Clift-Jennings decided to move her startup to London.

What to know about hackers in China and how you can protect your company from them.


Chip shortage could undermine national security: To ensure American security, prosperity and technological leadership, industry leaders say the U.S. must encourage domestic manufacturing of chips in order to reduce our reliance on East Asia producers for crucial electronics components.

Read more from Micron

Around the internet

A roundup of workplace news from the farthest corners of the internet.

What Twitter’s move to shutter offices signals for Big Tech. (Wired)

Turning old office buildings into apartments is not as easy as it sounds. (Washingtonian)

Nick Clegg becomes latest Meta executive bound for London. (The Financial Times)

Thoughts, questions, tips? Send them to workplace@protocol.com.

Recent Issues