Robinhood and Coinbase are now the world’s most popular iPhone apps

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Usually, the top slots of the iPhone App Store are taken up by the familiar icons of TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram, but not today. 

According to Sensor Tower’s tracking, the top spots now belong to two investment apps: Robinhood and Coinbase. TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat and Instagram have to make do with slots 3-6. 

It’s a similar  picture on the Google Play Store. Here, Coinbase is sixth and Robinhood seventh, while the slots above are taken up with various free games and video calling favorite Zoom.

To be clear, Sensor Tower’s rankings track momentum rather than the total volume of downloads in order to make the charts more reactive to the app world’s movers and shakers. But even with this caveat, the leap for Robinhood and Coinbase is pretty astonishing, and reflects the sudden enthusiasm for casual app-based investment that has gripped the internet in recent months.

Robinhood made waves back in January when it was the center of the so called “meme stock” boom that saw the r/wallstreetbets subreddit driving shares in GameStop up from $17 to a high of $347.51. This briefly saw Robinhood putting restrictions on the trading of certain shares, which pushed many onto alternatives like Webull (73rd on Sensor Tower’s rankings). 

At the time of writing, GameStop shares sit at a much lower $154.69. But that's still 810% up on the initial value. The interest now isn’t purely around GameStop, with certain r/wallstreetbets users attempting to drive up the value of the AMC theater chain, Bed Bath and Beyond, and the beleaguered BlackBerry company.   

Coinbase is a bit more straightforward: it’s a cryptocurrency trading platform that aims to simplify the process of buying the likes of Bitcoin, Ethereum and Litecoin by hosting the user’s wallet onsite. With Bitcoin recently hitting over $64,500 a coin, there’s no real mystery as to the app’s popularity here, although things have dipped a little since that high, and the currency sits just under $62,000 at the time of writing

While the two apps aren’t directly related, the fact that their sudden burst of popularity has come at the same time likely isn’t a coincidence. Both allow inexperienced investors to turn a small amount of money into something much larger in a very short amount of time. For experienced investors, this kind of volatility is a red flag, but recent success stories in cryptocurrency and meme stocks mask the huge risk of losing everything. The social media apps that usually occupy the top slots, for all their faults, don’t carry that particular risk.

If you are tempted to download Robinhood and Coinbase, our advice is clear: only invest what you can afford to lose. 

Alan Martin

Freelance contributor Alan has been writing about tech for over a decade, covering phones, drones and everything in between. Previously Deputy Editor of tech site Alphr, his words are found all over the web and in the occasional magazine too. When not weighing up the pros and cons of the latest smartwatch, you'll probably find him tackling his ever-growing games backlog. Or, more likely, playing Spelunky for the millionth time.