By Brad Spirrison Courtesy of TechCrunch
Nearly six years after the debut of the iPhone, mobile applications are beginning to mature. The best mobile apps of 2012 – with a few notable exceptions – are more about refined practicality rather than anything revolutionary.
So while this year’s list lacks medium-defining breakthroughs like Instagram and Shazam, it showcases new and meaningfully updated apps that simply work better than their competitors. In this age of algorithmic aggregation, we also salute titles that have a decidedly human touch.
Of course, any attempt to rank the “best” apps within any period of time will be questioned and debated. Ask 100 different people to rank their favorites, and you’ll likely get 100 different variations.
The apps we selected were either released or significantly updated between January 1 and December 21 of this year. Titles that debuted on iOS or Android in 2012 that were previously available on another platform are eligible for inclusion. All of our selections were sourced, ranked and finalized by Appolicious advisors and members of our community. In all, about a dozen members of the Appolicious editorial team offered their favorites. We also surveyed the most active and influential users of Appolicious sites and applications. We did not account for the number of app downloads or overall popularity. Our qualitative assessment is based primarily on the production value, utility and creativity baked into each cited application.
Google Maps (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Android free)
While Tim Cook was a runner-up to President Obama for Time Magazine’s Person of the Year 2012, the app of the year comes from Apple’s primary nemesis. Google Maps was far from broken when Apple, for business reasons, elected to go with its own Map app for iOS 6. When the iPhone 5 came out, users tapping into the iOS 6 Maps app couldn’t see the Statue of Liberty. This was just one of countless Apple Maps fails. Of course, it’s easy to lambaste Apple for laying an egg here. Yet the larger point is that we take for granted the reliability, clarity, and ease of use of Google Maps. This stuff is hard. That is why we are thankful that Apple earlier this month approved a brand-new version of Google Maps for iOS 6 devices. New competition from Apple, which will inevitably improve its mapping capabilities, pushed Google to develop the best map app yet for any device.
Camera Awesome (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad free)
During our mid-year check-in, we had Camera Awesome as the best new app to come out during the first half of 2012. Developer SmugMug is not resting on any laurels. Since that time, Camera Awesome became universally available on all iOS devices and is inspiring many of us to snap pics with our iPads. Camera Awesome – which is superior to the pre-installed iPhone camera and all other third-party photography apps – also integrated with Tumblr. The app’s “1-Tap Share” feature is now accessible with all major social networks.
Slices for Twitter (iPhone, iPod touch $4.99 Android free)
From reading commentary during live news and sporting events, to sharing information about public transportation during Hurricane Sandy, to finding out what your friends are up to this weekend, Twitter in 2012 emerged as a (if not the) primary resource for real-time news and information for mainstream users. With millions of feeds to follow, however, it’s challenging for five-year veterans and newbies alike to keep this vast flow of information organized. While there are many third-party apps that help users categorize who and what they follow on Twitter, Slices is the best one for smartphones right now.
Flipboard (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad, Android free)
The worldwide leader in socially curated news had a busy year after being named our favorite app of 2011. Highlights from 2012 include Flipboard’s arrival on Android devices, YouTube, and Google+ integration, as well as a picture-perfect partnership with the New York Times. I’d argue that it’s better to read all the news that’s fit to print via Flipboard than anywhere else.
Khan Academy (iPhone, iPod touch, iPad free)
Touchscreen devices will revolutionize education in the months and years ahead. In early 2012, Salman Khan took his library of more than 3,500 lesson-specific educational videos to iDevices. The Khan Academy app enables users to easily navigate their way through comprehensive and engaging tutorials on subjects that range from raising venture capital to the Baroque period in art history. Khan Academy also lets users view the transcripts from each lesson, and easily find and drill down on passages that are most insightful.