Instagram and four other apps that hit it big

Instagram went from zero to a $1 billion acquisition in just 18 months. Here are four other iPhone and Android apps that struck gold fast.

Karly Domb Sadof/AP
Facebook is spending $1 billion to buy the photo-sharing company Instagram in the social network's largest acquisition ever. Instagram lets people apply filters to photos they snap with their mobile devices and share them with friends and strangers.

Last month, Apple logged its 25 billionth app download. The mobile software revolution has turned small teams into unexpected millionaires, often 99 cents at a time. Here are five success stories:

1. Instagram: This photo app adds striking filters and easy sharing options. With 30 million iPhone and iPad downloads, and 10 million Android downloads in just 10 days, Facebook scooped up the company with a $1 billion acquisition.

2. Draw Something: This mobile rendition of Pictionary has racked up 30 million downloads in five weeks. The simple game became a word-of-mouth phenomenon on iPhone, iPad, and Android devices, earning the developer up to six-figure revenues per day. Game giant Zynga quickly bought the company behind Draw Something for $180 million. 

3. Instapaper: Programmer Marco Arment wanted an easy way to store long-form online articles to read later. When his Apple app took off, Mr. Arment made enough to leave his job and manage Instapaper full time.

4. Temple Run: A month after the game launched, its two designers dropped the price from 99 cents to zero. Revenue quadrupled. How? New exposure – 35 million downloads and growing – led to more players buying in-game items.

5. Angry Birds: With 700 million downloads since 2009, Angry Birds launched a Disney-style empire of clothing, toys, and an upcoming theme park in Britain.

For more on how technology intersect daily life, follow Chris on Twitter @venturenaut.

Sources: Reuters, NPR, Gamasutra.

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