Top trending apps in Korea for 2019

Google released a blog post (in Korean) highlighting the top Android apps in Korea for 2019. These are not necessarily the most-used apps, but those that jumped in popularity this year to become highly-trending and popular in 2019. Some have been popular for a few years now, and others are relative newcomers.

Anyway, I took Google's lists, linkified it, and included some basic English explanations of what the app is. Let's start with the overall top app for 2019.

2019 올해의 베스트 앱
Best App in Korea for 2019

당근마켓 - Daangn (Carrot) Market

"Danggeun Market" (dangeun means carrot, thus the logo) is a popular secondhand items marketplace app.

당근마켓. Image: Google Play

Korea's used items buying/selling marketplace used to be dominated by the old stalwart 중고나라 (Jungo Nara). But in the past year or two several startups have risen to usurp this market by focusing on convenience (especially with a mobile-first focus) and customer satisfaction with arguably better escrow protection and return policies. Two of the most popular right now are 당근마켓 (Carrot Market) and 번개장터 (Lightening Market). 

Just take a look at the user base of these apps. Notice not only the larger numbers among these newer apps but also the explosive growth. 

Used items market apps, 2018 vs. 2019. Image: Platum

From left to right we see:
당근마켓 (Carrot Market) -  번개장터 (Lightening Market) - 중고나라 (Jungo Nara) - SK엔카 (Encar, for used cars) - 헬로마켓 (Hello Market).
The blue numbers on the left are number of users in October 2018, and the yellow on right for October 2019.

I wonder if economic conditions, especially among the younger workers, plays a role in the rise of second hand goods markets. I can remember a few years back when the whole concept of "second hand" items was viewed with extreme disdain. Seems like maybe attitudes are changing. I've personally bought nearly 10 phones "second hand" in my time here and all have been in great condition.

Now on to the Top 5 lists among various categories of apps.

Top Entertainment and Self-Help apps in Korea for 2019. Image: Google

2019 올해를 빛낸 엔터테인먼트 앱
Top trending Entertainment apps for Korea for 2019

  1. V LIVE
    Naver's own live-streaming and K-pop behind-the-scenes video streaming app. Many K-pop stars and celebrities offer exclusive live content via this app, and it has a good English interface. Very popular app especially in the SE Asian region. VLIVE is expanding to other regional markets too and is posed to be a nice moneymaker for Naver too. 
  2. 하쿠나 라이브 - HAKUNA Live - Meet, Chat and Play Live
    Interactive live-streaming app, lets you talk with friends and broadcast your stream. 
  3. WAVE - Video Chat Playground
    Mobile online game playing app with video chat and streaming feature. 
  4. 위버스 - Weverse
    Chatting and live interaction app for global fans. Similar to V Live but under Big Hit so it includes major artists like BTS. More here and here
  5. SODA 소다 - SODA - Natural Beauty Camera
    Beauty camera app with many easy to use features for selfies like make-up filters, beauty enhancement etc.

It's pretty easy to see that the main theme here among "entertainment" app is the interactive video element, whether celebrity based or just with friends or random strangers. The world is becoming more and more video-first. Maybe I ought to do this list as a YouTube video instead of a blog post since nobody reads anymore but I'll spare the world my ugly mug. 

2019 올해를 빛낸 자기계발 앱
Top trending Self-improvement apps for Korea for 2019

  1. 밀리의 서재 - 독서와 무제한 친해지리 - Millie's Library
    An unlimited reading subscription-based service for e-books and paperbacks
  2. Calm - Meditate, Sleep, Relax
    Sleep, restfullness, mindfullness, etc app. I see ads for this on YouTube all the time. Maybe it's hinting something to me. I didn't think this app would have Korean content but apparently it does
  3. VLLO - Easy and Powerful Video editing app
    Video editing "for your daily life"
  4. 키네마스터 - KineMaster - Video Editor
    Video editor with well-known PC version too
  5. 숨고 - 200만이 선택한 숨은고수 찾기 - Soomgo
    App for connecting you to various professionals and service people (plumbers, painters, etc)

Top Lifestyle, "Hidden gems" and overall Popular apps in Korea for 2019. Image: Google

2019 올해를 빛낸 일상생활 앱
Top Lifestyle apps for Korea for 2019

  1. 아이디어스 (IDUS) - 핸드메이드/수공예 장터
    Handmade crafts market. Similar to Etsy.
  2. 에이블리 - Ably
    App that consolidates "Instagram markets" to let you easily buy the features items in influencers' Instagram posts
  3. 카카오페이 - Kakao Pay
    Highly popular payment service from the makers of KakaoTalk
  4. 호갱노노 - Hogangnono
    Professional realtor service
  5. 당근마켓 - Dangeun (Carrot) Market
    Secondhand items marketplace app. Also the #1 overall "best" app for 2019. 

2019 올해를 빛낸 숨은 보석 앱
Top "hidden gem" apps for Korea for 2019

  1. 코끼리 - Koggiri (Elephant)
    Meditation and mindfulness app with psychotherapy-inspired music, similar to Calm.
  2. 놀이의 발견 - "Nolbal" (Play Discovery)App for parents, with info about kids' cafes, kids' classes, theme parks, coupons, etc. 
  3. 린더 - Linder
    Calendar for events from your favorite celebrities, brands, sports events, etc.
  4. vFlat
    Book scanner app (for scanning physical books to make e-books).
  5. 솜씨당 - Skills / Craftsmanship
    Info about local craft shops, day classes for craftsman, etc. 

2019 올해를 빛낸 인기 앱
Most Popular Apps for Korea for 2019

Note: All the apps on this list were already mentioned above. 

  1. 카카오페이 - Kakao Pay
  2. 당근마켓 - Carrot Market
  3. 위버스 - Weverse
  4. V LIVE
  5. SODA 소다

Something interesting you may notice from the Google Play links is how a large number of these apps were previously known by other names when they debuted, but rebranded.

Seeing as how Apple now makes up just 11% of handhelds in Korea, it's safe to say these apps really were the most trending and popular for 2019. Of course old stalwarts like the Naver app, Kakao Talk, YouTube etc., still dominate by shear numbers of daily users.

If you enjoyed this, you can find my other top lists from this year, and past years, here at this label:
🔗 10원 Tips: Year in Review