Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check h Paul Sawers was a reporter with The Next Web in various roles from May 2011 to November 2014. Follow Paul on Twitter: @psawers or check him out on Google+.
In a year that saw Apple finally pass the one million milestone in terms of live applications in the App Store, it’s fair to say there’s a deluge of file-managers, smart calendars, budgeting tools and funky cameras to sift through to get to the real gems.
Here’s a quick snapshot of some of the more notable apps and services to launch for Apple’s mobile platform in 2013. For the most part, these are all available globally, though a handful are restricted to certain markets – these are clearly marked.
So, in no particular order…
PRODUCTIVITY: GET THINGS DONE
2013 may have been the year of the snake according to the Chinese calendar, but from an app reviewer’s perspective it might just have been the year of the calendar itself. Well, the smart calendar that is.
Readdle relaunched a fully re-imagined Calendars app that packed a punch, while Sunrise and Tempo had compelling propositions of their own.
To-do list startup Any.DO also spun out a brand new calendar app called Cal, which represented the “first in a suite” of standalone apps from the Israel-based company. More to come from them soon, we expect.
It’s worth noting that although it is indeed a ‘standalone’ app, insofar as it’s a separate entity to Any.DO, there is actually a fairly tight integration between the two apps – so you will be asked to sign-in using your Any.DO credentials.
Cal syncs with all the major calendars on your iPhone, including Google, Exchange & iCloud, but it’s when you start adding items to your calendar where things get interesting.
It asks to use your current location, so it can deliver additional details for each entry. For example, if you enter a location name such as ‘Concert at Finsbury Park’, Cal detects it. It will even plot it out on a map for you and offer to help you navigate your way to any event.
Recordium was one of my favorite iOS apps of the year, serving up a powerful audio-recording tool that lets you highlight, tag and edit clips on the fly.
You can ‘edit’ the audio as you go along – so as the recording is taking place you can click the little highlighter icon to mark specific segments that you may wish to revisit later – this could be a particularly intriguing quote, demo or anything. By hitting the little ‘cross’ icon, you can also choose to add notes, pictures or tags.
You can revisit any clip and see all your annotations – clicking on each one reveals its contents. You can also move each annotation to a different part of the audio, say, if you want to mark the beginning of a key announcement.
Recordium also features a very easy-to-use trimming tool to carry out audio snips on the fly – you can create entirely new files based on these snippets, moving any associated annotations with it. Or if you want to trim out that annoying video demo or audience Q&A, you can do so.
A really terrific app.
Following the introduction to Android back in July, Kim Dotcom finally launched Mega for iPhone four months later.
The cloud storage service lets users manage and move files, as well as upgrade accounts with more storage space via a Mega Pro subscription, costing $10.99 per month or $119.99 per year. Mega Pro provides 50GB of storage and 1000GB of bandwidth transfers.
IFTTT finally launched for iOS back in July, bringing a set of new channels specific to Apple’s platform and a sweet mobile-focused service for building and using its automated actions.
IFTTT, if you’re unfamiliar, is a utility that you can use to hook multiple Web services together to perform automated actions for you. Want a text message every time you get an email from a friend? Care to have your photos automatically shipped off to SkyDrive as they’re shot? There’s a ton more stuff you can do too.
A Launchpad LA accelerator company, Atlas is geared towards helping users take control of time and be better at collaborating with their colleagues.
Atlas makes it possible to display a person’s calendar publicly (with key details hidden) and invite people to send up to three available slots when they could potentially meet. The invitee receives a notification on their mobile and can accept or decline as they see fit.
Atlas syncs with most calendar platforms (e.g. Google Calendar, iCal, Yahoo, and Outlook), including the native one on Android and iOS devices, and the newest ones like Tempo, Sunrise, and Fantastical. The company tells us that any calendar set up on the phone will have read and write privileges.
Google launched Quickoffice for iOS this year, making it available gratis for all its Apps for Business customers.s
Google’s Quickoffice is meant for business users that have to share files and collaborate with users who don’t yet use Google Docs. “From Word to Excel to PowerPoint, you can make quick edits at the airport or from the back of a taxi and save and share everything in Google Drive,” said Google.
Composite might just be the ultimate iPhone app prototyping tool for Photoshop, which connects with your Photoshop mock-ups and converts them into fully interactive prototypes in seconds, with no need to do any exporting or anything else.
With Composite, all you need is Photoshop (CS5+ or Elements 10+), the $9.99 iPhone app, and you’re good to go.
If you own an iOS device, there’s no shortage of apps available to help you jot down text-based notes; Evernote, Byword and Simplenote all do a pretty decent job. Write for Dropbox deserves to be added to that list though.
It’s an incredibly quick and elegant solution that uses natural navigation and extensive sharing features to optimize your productivity.
Documents by Readdle
In January we called Documents by Readdle a lean but powerful file-management app for iPad, one that supports document-viewing and media playback. It later arrived for iPhone/iPod touch too.
In a nutshell, the app lets you read, listen, watch, annotate and download almost anything you want to your iOS device.
Viz lets you create quick charts and graphs directly from an iOS device.
The app allows users to easily create charts by inputting data and selecting the type of chart they’d like to use from a choice of Bars, Pie, Cloud, Scrapers and Parliament.
Once chosen, the user can then tweak the color scheme before confirming the changes and being presented with the option to either share it via a social network (Twitter, Facebook or Instagram) email it to someone, or save it as an image file (JPEG).
All this talk about apps might make you feel like building one yourself – but to do so, you’ll need to learn how to code, right?
The Hour of Code app by Codecademy targets total newcomers with the basics of computer programming. Its relatively short repertoire covers the absolute basics, such as how programs are written and a few examples of what can be achieved with just a few lines of code.
The lessons cover strings, operators, and many other building blocks associated with computer science. You won’t be publishing an app once the 60 minutes are up, but it’s a brilliant taster that should get students and teachers alike interested in the subject.
Mailbox was probably one of the biggest email-client success stories of the year. We loved it the moment we set our eyes on it – so did Dropbox, so much so it gobbled Mailbox up.
Mailbox takes advantage of three main actions – for every mail item, you’re able to move it to your archive (check it off), delete it or postpone it until later. Much like a list of items that you can complete, remove or time shift until you’re ready to deal with them. The time-shifting mechanism allows you to choose between general times like later today, tomorrow morning or this evening, or specific dates that you choose.
Available initially for iPhone only, it eventually arrived for iPad too. And though it was Gmail-focused to begin with, it now also supports iCloud, me.com, mac.com, and Yahoo Mail accounts.
Believe it or not, Yahoo is still one of the more popular email services in some countries – particularly the US. So its arrival for iPad this year will have been welcome news for many.
As you’d expect from any tablet-optimized app, Yahoo Mail has a full-screen ‘reading mode’, meaning you can use the device’s full real estate when reading emails or viewing photos. One tap, and you’re there.
You can also scroll through email messages like turning the pages of a book – no need to exit back to your main inbox (via the gift shop).
Cloze brings together all your relationships from email and social media into a single view.
Prior to last February, it was only available as a web-client, but with the roll-out for iOS, it ramped things up considerably and broadened its appeal.
The basic premise behind Cloze centers on three core ideas: unite contacts, email, and social data under one area, create less noise through smart filtering of “non-humans and those you don’t know well”, and place people first; the channel and time come second.
Molto / Incredimail
More than ten years after Incredimail first launched its email client for Windows computers, it finally moved beyond Microsoft’s omnipresent desktop operating system and into the modern touchscreen, tablet-centric era, kicking off with the iPad.
As we wrote on its launch, Incredimail for iPad is more than an email client and could become the ultimate unified messaging app. It later rebranded as Molto and arrived for iPhone and Android tablets too.
The app is designed to deliver your messages from any of your existing email accounts with a social feel that emulates social networks and mobile messaging apps.
Swizzle for iOS promises to clean up all your email offers into one simple digest.
Download the app, enter your email address and it’ll redirect you to authorize Swizzle to scan your mail. It will identify the junk and offer emails, a process that’ll take anything from a few seconds to a few minutes depending on how much email you have.
Once it has done its thing and picked up on all the senders that seem to contact you with newsletters, offers, vouchers and all sorts of other promotional content, you’re then presented with a list of offers.
Sift [US only]
Similar to Swizzle, Sift turns your mass of email deals into a catalog-like magazine.
Sift also now includes a Shopping Circles feature that lets users create a virtual wishlist from millions of items across thousands of stores. The appeal for consumers here is that the seas of offer emails become easy to browse and genuinely useful. On the downside, however, it is still limited to users in the US.
This was actually one of my favorite apps to launch in 2013, and perhaps hasn’t had the level of fanfare it deserves.
Dollarbird is what you get when you cross a smart calendar app with a budgeting app. Indeed, it uses a familiar calendar layout to help you track and forecast all your spending.
An absolutely imperative feature here too is the ‘recurring’ tab. This is often missing or well-hidden in expenses apps, and it’s useful to be able to tap this when setting up an expense, so that it automatically populates your calendar for future weeks/months.
There’s also a reminder/alarm function, which will ping up a message whenever you’re due to pay something. This can be set for up to four days prior to it coming out of your account.
Two dollars well-spent.
BUDGT is another beautifully designed app that helps you keep to a budget and manage expenses on a monthly basis.
BUDGT automates all of the associated maths and routine calculations, while making the process of documenting expenses a little less soul-destroying. On both counts, it really does succeed.
BillPin is a handy little app for splitting bills between friends and tracking who owes what.
Yes, it’s perhaps aimed primarily at social butterflies, those who regularly rack up bills eating out and getting merry, but it can be used for splitting accommodation expenses and generally manage cashflow between multiple people.
The app syncs a device’s address book and uses Facebook to discover friends and tag them into bills, even if they haven’t downloaded the app.
Level [US only]
Level is a real-time money meter app that wants to be your Fitbit for personal spending.
The services inks up with your bank accounts to deliver real-time metrics on your spending, savings and general financial standing. Available for the US market only, Level gives a snapshot of all your available ‘spendable’ income for that day, week, and month.
Level isn’t about sticking all your purchases in categories, such as ‘travel’ and ‘groceries’ – there are other apps for that. It basically analyses and calculates a user’s total income, recurring bills and recommended savings each month. Based on this, it delivers the ‘spendable’ balance broken down by day, week and month. And every time a transaction is complete, these numbers are updated accordingly.
Currency conversion apps exist in something of a saturated market, but that doesn’t mean there’s not room for one more. Indeed, a new app called Currency launched this year, and it’s a beautiful thing.
The app comes replete with more than 160 currencies, so it likely has you covered. It also has an offline mode, but obviously for you to have up-to-date conversation rates, you will need to connect from time-to-time.
However, Currency is all about the interface and usability – trust us on this one.
Google Wallet [US only]
Google Wallet finally arrived for iPhone this year, exactly two years to the day after it launched on Android.
You can scan your debit and credit cards into the app, and use them to send money to anyone in the US who has an email address, and you can store credit and debit cards, loyalty programs, and more. It can also be used to pay for things on Google Play, and shop on some mobile websites.
BillGuard [US only]
Launched in the US back in April 2010, BillGuard sells itself as the world’s first ‘people-powered antivirus system for bills’. However, it was an entirely Web-based endeavor until it hit iPhone a few months back.
BillGuard’s predictive algorithms alert users of unexpected charges such as hidden fees, billing errors, scams and fraud on credit card bills. It also issues alerts when a similar dubious charge has been flagged by other users, or receives a complaint elsewhere on the Web. As such, the ‘BillGuard brain’ becomes more accurate over time.
TRAVEL, NAVIGATION AND LOCATION
Available for iOS, Web and Android, What3words lets you find and share very precise locations via Google Maps with just 3 words. Say wha’? Read on.
It sells itself as a new universal address system, designed to make it easier, and more accurate, to describe exact locations anywhere on Earth.
The UK-based startup has basically partitioned the whole planet into 57 trillion 3m x 3m squares, and assigned each square a unique 3 word address. This will work anywhere that’s searchable on Google Maps – parks, monuments, buildings, residential addresses and everything in between. So, rather than saying “I’ll meet you at The Fox & Hounds pub, 29 Passmore St, London, SW1W 8HR” – or any shorter/longer variant – you would plug these details into What3words to learn that “Dimes Random Tunnel” are the three allocated words for this precise location.
These are the three words you would use to tell people where you’re meeting, which could be over the telephone, by Twitter, Facebook or email – all channels What3words makes it easy to share through.
Banjo launched an iPad-optimized version of its location-based service to help people get involved in events happening around the world from the comfort of their own home.
The company kicked off by using the service during the National Football League (NFL) playoffs, for those who like or follow the sport, but it’s not limited to sports — it can work with any live event. It integrates all the usual social networks to serve up an an on-the-ground view of what’s happening at any time, and lets you see where your friends are and what they’re doing.
Field Trip (Google)
Google launched its location-aware Field Trip tour guide app for iOS this year, having launched initially for Android back in September 2012.
Field Trip runs in the background on your phone, triangulating positions via cell phone towers, and only notifies you when you get close to something interesting. This can include local businesses, historical facts, landmarks, art, and any cultural artifact.
Babberly (formerly Jabberly)
Babberly (then called Jabberly) launched its iOS app way back in February, letting users ask questions about a particular location and get answers quickly from those on the ground.
So if you want to know what the top burger joint in your locale is, or where the best cocktail bar is Babberly’s worth a shout.
Angry Birds Friends
A new installment of Rovio’s hit franchise arrived back in May with Angry Birds Friends, offering a Facebook-powered social twist on the game that pretty much every single person in the galaxy has played by now.
As with the version that has been available on Facebook since last year, the game lets you connect up your Facebook account to compete against friends to achieve the highest score on each level.
Angry Birds Go
Rovio launched its Mario Kart-style Angry Birds racing game in December, hitting iOS, Windows Phone, Android, AND BlackBerry in one fell swoop.
The Angry Birds franchise is really growing arms and legs now, and based on our tinkerings with this game, it has another hit on its hands.
You’re best password-protecting this baby, as your kid could run up a fairly hefty bill through in-app purchases.
Back in March, Angry Birds developer Rovio released a new video game, inspired by the then-upcoming DreamWorks Animation film The Croods.
Players take control of Grug, a prehistoric caveman who has to “survive the wild” by trapping and taming imaginative creatures such as the “Girelephant” and “Molarbear”.
QuizUp is striving to be the biggest trivia game in the world, and judging by its inaugural app (for iPhone) it stands a good chance of doing so.
Featuring 100,000 questions across 300 categories, QuizUp follows the likes of Words With Friends by letting you pit your wits against both buddies and strangers from around the world. It also includes one-to-one messaging, discussion boards, and localized leaderboards by city, state and country.
When you choose to play a stranger, it will eke out the most suitable candidate based on your playing history – so if you’re a noob, you’ll likely be put up against a fellow noob. From here on in, you’ll be fighting against the clock to answer each question, for which you have ten seconds for every one of the seven rounds.
It also offers in-app purchases to let you ‘level up’ faster – these XP (experience points) boosters cost $1.99 (double boost), $3.99 (triple boost) and $5.99 (quadruple boost), and means you’ll gain more XP when the boosts are on for each game you play.
Pet Rescue Saga
King, the maker of the hit game Candy Crush, launched an iOS version of the popular Pet Rescue Saga that launched first on Facebook last October.
It calls on players to save animals from two evil snatchers by eliminating colored blocks from the board. Much like King’s earlier cross-platform titles, the game tracks progress and purchases between its mobile and Facebook apps.
Dots is a highly addictive mobile game created by Betaworks, landing first for iPhone before arriving for iPad later in the year.
The idea of the game is rather simple in nature — which probably is what makes it so addictive. Players connect dots in a linear fashion, meaning that you tap a dot of a specific color and connect it with as many dots of that same color.
Ahead of the FIFA 2014 World Cup in Brazil next summer, EA launched FIFA 14 as a free download for iOS and Android.
Though this year’s version is free (last year FIFA 13 cost $6.99), it’s targeting revenue from in-app purchases such as unlocking game modes and buying points to form your fantasy team.
➤ FIFA 14
Star Wars: Tiny Death Star
Disney unveiled its first Star Wars-themed game for mobile in November, in collaboration with game studio NimbleBit.
Star Wars: Tiny Death Star is an 8-bit builder game – players find themselves on the dark side of the force helping Emperor Palpatine and Darth Vader build a fully-functional Death Star.
Of course Star Wars wouldn’t be what it is without the Rebel Alliance, so players must prevent Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, and others from escaping.
From the creators of to-do list app Clear comes Hatch, a Tamagotchi-like game bringing virtual pet cuddliness to your iPhone.
Hatch may exist within the App Store’s ‘Games’ category, but it doesn’t see itself as a game. Or an app, for that matter. It’s a living, breathing animal that needs love.
We first previewed Hatch way back in December last year, posing the question: What does it take to make the iPhone feel alive? The answer, it seems, is to transform your iPhone into a cuddly creature.
Having initially been iPad-only, DrawQuest finally made the journey to iPhone and iPod touch in November.
DrawQuest is a social drawing app from 4Chan founder Chris “moot” Poole’s startup Canvas, and launched for iPhone with new features, including a zoomable canvas and the ability to create your own drawing challenges.
Launched way back in February, Drawp threw its hat into the social drawing ring with a neat kid-focused iPad app that lets young ‘uns share their doodles only with those in their parent-approved network.
The founders say they created the app to help address “the need for parents, family, and friends to remain involved and responsive in all aspects of a child’s life.”
The app also works offline, which is good news for kids in transit or any scenario sans Internet connection.
Temple Run 2
Temple Run 2, the follow-up to the massively popular Temple Run, landed in the App Store way back in January.
The game follows the same form as its predecessor, with the main characters traversing across all manner of landscapes as they flee the dreadful temple beasts that chase them. It’s a simple concept but it’s one that works well, as players use swipe-based commands to jump, slide, turn and move out of the way of objects in their way.
Okay, not a game as such, but if you’re into gaming, then First is a slick, 8-bit inspired community mobile app for discussing video games. A social network for gamers, in other words.
First is built around real-time conversations. Just like a traditional message board, it’s possible for anyone in the community to start a video game-related thread by posting either a headline, photo, URL or YouTube clip. The post will then appear within the app for other users to read and comment on.
MEDIA & WEATHER
Digital reading platform Readmill finally optimized its app for iPhone and iPod touch, almost a year-and-a-half after it first launched for iPad.
Readmill serves up a sweet, social way to read, letting you highlight quotes within a book and share these snippets across the social sphere. With that in mind, it also acts as a social network of sorts, letting you ‘follow’ other bookworms.
It supports most of the major ebook formats including ePub, PDF and Adobe DRM, and lets you buy and bring your books from stores such as Kobo and Feedbooks. Your whole library is stored in your personal cloud, with the reading experience synchronizing across devices, meaning you can pick up from where you left off last night in bed, while on the train to work.
ReadQuick has been helping iPad users read quickly for a while already, but following August’s update, iPhone-users could get involved too.
ReadQuick taps the likes of Pocket and Instapaper to display your saved articles one word at a time – at a pace set by you. It also has a built-in browser that lets you access and save directly to ReadQuick, and tells you how long each article should take to complete based on the stipulated words-per-minute rate.
Oyster [US only]
Oyster launched a limited preview of its Netflix-style service for ebooks in September, offering unlimited reading of more than 100,000 titles for a set monthly fee. Launching initially for iPhone, it the all-you-can-read subscription service then landed on iPad too.
Oyster costs $9.95 a month and gives unlimited reading of its library – it removed the invite-only limitation of the service and added a 30-day free trial alongside its launch for iPad in October.
If your favorite shows or sports are being ruined by Twitter and Facebook spoilers, try Spoiler Shield for iPhone.
You can choose from more than 30 pre-selected TV series including things like Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones, to make sure you don’t read anything you’d rather not.
Paragraph Shorts is a curated iPad magazine, serving up a selection of hand-picked short stories in text, audio and video.
Each week, the guys at Paragraph Shorts select seven stories from the likes of The Paris Review, The New Yorker, The Moth, The Guardian and others, and present them in a beautiful magazine for the public’s consumption.
Lettrs turns your iPhone into a personal writing desk, transcriber and post office.
The Web-based incarnation of Lettrs serves up a virtual writing desk to write your letter, with a slew of handwriting-esque fonts and paper-types to choose from. When you’re done, you can choose to deliver it digitally – email, Twitter, Facebook, or send as a physical letter.
Physical letters are dispatched from Lettrs’ base in the US, so it costs slightly more for non-US users. But, you can also print it out yourself and send if you’re so inclined.
The iPhone app mimics much of the functionality of the Web-based version, letting you create and deliver personal letters anywhere in the world. It also has a built-in spell-check feature that corrects your spelling as you go-along. Users can also tap their iPhone camera to upload a handwritten letter and deliver it via the lettrs system, though you will need to ensure this is done in clear lighting sans shadows.
Finally, there’s also a microphone feature, letting users dictate directly into the app which is then converted to text – this feature is only enabled on iPhone 4S and iPhone 5/5s.
Top of the Morning
Top of the Morning is a minimalist morning assistant that tells you the time, date, weather and calendar events, not to mention a snapshot of the news and stock market data. And it’s a really beautiful app to boot.
You can set event reminders to display ‘all incomplete’ or ‘only today’, and choose which calendars are displayed if you have multiple set up on your device.
YoWindow sells itself as a ‘new generation’ weather application, one that features a living landscape that reflects the actual weather outside.
YoWindow is a pretty straight-forward weather app – as soon as you launch it, and give your permission to use your location, you’re good to go. It not only shows you what the weather looks like, it plays a relevant soundscape too – and you’ll be pleased to know it can be switched off.
Okay, Yahoo Weather wasn’t an entirely new app, but the refresh did bring in some big changes and a major overhaul.
The app taps Flickr (also owned by Yahoo) to bring beautiful, relevant images to its local weather forecasts. Users can also submit their own weather-related snaps to the Project Weather Group and see their handiwork appear in-app next time it’s raining in their locale.
VIDEO & PHOTOS
Launched way back in January, Twitter’s GIF-like looping video app was probably one of the hits of the year.
Seriously addictive, Vine is a great match for Twitter’s short-form communications platform, and helps capture moments in time in a way that photographs simply can’t match.
ConnecTV launched a Vine-like iPhone app for sharing 6-second video clips from live TV.
The app works by detecting which program you’re watching and grabbing footage from the show. You then select a six-second clip, add meme-style text commentary, and then share across the app and relevant social networks.
YouTube-rival Dailymotion launched a standalone video-recording app this year, as it looks to encourage user-generated content on the platform.
It has a record/pause/resume button which does exactly what you’d expect, and when you’re done you click the ‘tick’ button. You can then trim the clip to your desired size, choose a filter (if you want), and then upload. You will of course have to connect your Dailymotion account, while you can also connect your Facebook and Twitter profiles too.
This is more about the significance than the functionality though. The Paris-based company claims to be the second biggest video-sharing service on the Web behind – you guessed it – YouTube. It was a notable move from the company, and brings it into line with YouTube with its Capture app.
Takes turns your photos into actual moving images – but it doesn’t simply turn your snaps into a music-backdropped slideshow.
All a video really is, is a collection of many single-frame images stitched together to make them move. But Takes doesn’t require you to take 24 photos for a second’s worth of video. It fills the gaps between images using the motion-sensing technology built into your iPhone.
Explory is a multimedia storytelling app from the creators of Flash.
Explory is more than a photo-slideshow app. You can also add in video, text, audio narration, and music, throwing everything together into a massive multimedia melting pot. One killer feature is ‘Story Ideas’, which creates Explories on your behalf. It automatically stitches related content together from your device, saving you the hassle of handpicking the various media elements.
PicLab notched up more than 100,000 downloads in its first two weeks of launch, and even became the top photo app in Indonesia. In a nutshell, it lets you easily add typography, masks and other effects to your photos and share them across the social sphere.
PicLab won’t take you long to figure out. You can snap a photo there and then, or pull content in from your camera roll. With your desired base-picture in place, you then double-tap the screen to edit the text.
You can select font type, color and position, including alignment. There are many different masks to choose from, and you can get as creative as you like.
All in all, a really nice app and one that has proven uber-popular around the world.
Facetune is an intuitive and easy way to touch up and tweak portrait photos.
Editing tools available include whiten, smoothing, details, reshape, patch, tones, red eye, defocus and filters. You can pull from your photo gallery, take a new photo, or hone your skills with a demo photo. When you’re done editing, you can share to Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Flickr, Mail and Instagram, or save to your camera roll.
It may be a bizarre art-form, but levitation photography has become a minor phenomenon in recent times – one that Levitagram for iPhone is capitalizing on.
In a nutshell, Levitagram offers an easy way of editing photos to make the subjects appear like they’re, well, levitating.
Of course, this isn’t revolutionary. Apps such as Juxtaposer already enable such trickery, but for a dedicated app that focuses on one thing, and does it as well as it does, it’s really not a bad effort at all.
If you’re an aspiring artist looking to get your handiwork out there, Sktchy for iPhone could be for you.
Anyone can upload a portrait photo of themselves, and all the sketchers of the world are invited to transform it into a work-of-art. Though it’s worth noting here, artists can’t create their piece within the app itself – they must create it by hand or through another piece of software, and then either snap a photo of it with the app, or import it to their library.
TouchCast is an iPad-optimized video-authoring tool, delivering a Web/video cross-breed replete with navigable apps superimposed directly atop the footage. Huh?
You can create what are unsurprisingly known as TouchCasts – a recorded video skit on anything you like. There are templates to get you going, such as News Cast, Business Cast, Sports Cast and more. Or, you can just build your own one from scratch. The templates are great though, featuring a customizable, scrolling ‘Breaking News’ banner. It really would work a treat for citizen (or professional) journos.
Things start to get really interesting with video apps (vApps). TouchCast lets you create videos that are layered with live Web pages, video clips, maps, Twitter streams and other facets of the digital world.
When the good folks from Brooklyn-based Simple Simple – the same guys who produced the beautiful Currency app – got in touch about their latest offering, we couldn’t resist checking it out.
It’s an all-in-one camera and photo editor, featuring more than thirty movie-centric filters, a myriad of fonts, and other creative effects.
Landcam is the second app out of Simple Simple’s labs, and although it doesn’t bring anything groundbreaking to the iPhoneography table from a feature perspective, it does follow the same beautiful design approach followed by Currency.
PIP Camera is a lovely app dedicated to photo-in-photo effects.
There’s a pretty extensive selection of effects to help you create a photo-in-photo look, that are really quite realistic.
Bubbli is a recently-launched iPhone app that lets you create and share impressive 360-degree photospheres.
To get things going, you will need a little guidance to learn how to hold your iPhone camera properly, but it’s fairly simple to figure out. By tilting the camera and pivoting in a circle around your phone, you’ll capture a bubble-shaped panorama of your surroundings, which should look a little something like this.
Obvious Engineering’s Seene app launched back in October to let you create and share 3D photos on your iPhone.
Seene records an image from four different angles to generate its 3D images. The recording process has a steep learning curve, but the results are quite cool. If you’ve captured your subject properly, you’ll be able to rotate your phone to view the scene from different angles.
MUSIC & AUDIO
Google Play Music
More than four months after Google launched its on-demand music streaming service, All Access, on the Web and as part of the native Google Play Music app for Android, both Google Play Music and All Access was launched for iOS
The free version of the app provides access to your existing library stored through Google Play Music. This can either be done by purchasing singles and albums through Google’s digital storefront – only available on Android and the web – or by syncing your local library with the Music Manager client.
You can upload up to 20,000 songs this way, either from iTunes or another designated folder. It’s a long-winded workaround, but an inevitability of getting Google Play Music into the App Store.
However, Google Play Music for iOS also supports All Access, the company’s $9.99 per month on-demand streaming service. You can’t upgrade to All Access within the app though. Again, you’ll need to head over to the Android or the Web app to sign-up. As soon as it’s been activated though, it’s just a matter of diving into the settings menu and refreshing your account credentials.
Soundwave offers a way to share what you’re listening to in real-time. Listen to a song on your device’s native music player, or through Spotify, Rdio, YouTube, Deezer or 8tracks, and it will add it to your profile, complete with cover art.
However, discovery is the main thrust of what Soundwave is about. Users can follow one another and see each other’s activity in a feed as they listen to music. In most cases, you’ll be able to get an instant 30-second preview of songs that other people are listening to. Tap on any song and you can browse related content on YouTube and SoundCloud, or buy a download if you’re particularly moved by it.
You can also pull up a map view. Users are geo-tagged via their device’s location, meaning that they can draw a circle around an area on a map and see what Soundwave users have been listening to in that area. Don’t worry, it’s anonymized.
Bloom.fm [UK Only]
Bloom.fm first emerged back in January with a stunning iPhone app that offers listeners both on-demand streaming and randomized, infinite ‘radio’ playlists similar to Pandora and Last.fm. Available only in the UK, the app is restricted through a trio of subscription packages set at £1, £5 and £10 per month. It recently launched for Android too.
The app sports a very quirky-yet-beautiful design, consisting of geometric shapes that merge to form flowers, petals and bees which users can interact with to play themed radio stations, individual tracks and records, custom playlists and anything stored in their local library.
Bloom.fm is a treat of an app, and yes, it’s a shame it’s only available in the UK for now.
We’ve previously called Earbits a new breed of artist-focused Internet radio. And it recently moved beyond its Web roots by launching its very first iOS app.
Earbits is an ad-free music-streaming service that’s funded via labels, bands and promoters who use the platform to buy airtime in targeted channels. An in-house team hand-pick independent artists (there’s no Rolling Stones on there) from around the world and, besides music, they also serve up photos, live show information, merchandise and more.
While Songkick lets you find live music based on your music collection, ShowScoop fills the gap afterwards, letting users rate how a band or artist performed.
It also integrates with Instagram for users to illustrate with photos on both ShowScoop and Instagram simultaneously.
Radical.FM [US Only]
Radical.FM launched an iOS app [US only] in August, marking the company’s first foray into native app streaming. It differentiates itself from others in the market by offering access to its 25 million song catalogue on a ‘pay what you can’ basis.
Unlike rival services like Spotify or Pandora, it uses human-curated suggestions, rather than leaving it to pure algorithms.
The feature set does try to be different, including things like ‘Custom Genres’, which allows a 30-second snippet of a track to be heard before adding it to a station. Once added to a custom station it will then play back the entire track in the selected order.
➤ Radical.FM [US only]
Swell Radio [US/Canada only]
Swell is focused on podcasts and talk-based radio, and it really is a nice app/service – though it is only available for users in the US and Canada.
Leveraging content from NPR, American Public Media, ABC News, and from podcasts such as the BBC, CBC, Comedy Central, TED Talks, ESPN, and more, Swell’s programming depends on the listener’s preference — the more they listen, the more fine-tuned the recommendations become.
Back in March, we brought you news on Traktor DJ, noting that it’s an iPad DJ app you’ll actually want to use.
The app represented the latest in a long line of Traktor-branded products, which includes software, mixers and other accessories. Costing $20 (later reduced to $10), it was no gimmick either, and we noted that Traktor DJ is very much in keeping with other Traktor products. It later arrived for iPhone too.
JoyTunes, an Israeli-US mobile gaming startup hopes to become the Rosetta Stone of music education, and as such it debuted its new piano practice app called Piano Mania.
The app covers single notes and fully-fledged musical masterpieces, and is designed to help you read sheet music, progress up the ranks and, well, learn to play piano. But it’s not the only one out there…
…Shapes Music is also a fun and interactive way to learn the keyboard on your iPad.
Tapping music videos from YouTube, Shapes Music promises to help you learn your way around the ivories…directly from your iPad screen. The keys are overlayed across the video as it plays, and features interactive narrations too, to guide you through the learning process.
Jukely [US only]
Jukely, an app that recommends nearby concerts based on the music tastes of you and your friends, emerged from its New York City beta this year to launch in ten cities across the US.
Austin, Chicago, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Portland, San Francisco and Seattle were the inaugural launch cities, but the startup promises to add more conurbations soon.
Rormix helps you find new music videos from unsigned artists based on bands you already like. So, a search for ‘Beyonce’, for example, will turn up artists that sound similar to the iconic singer.
The team at Rormix hand-pick the bands included to ensure a certain level of quality, and future plans include incentivizing users to become influential tastemakers within the app by offering tickets and merchandise.
Moment.us [UK only]
Moment.us wants to play you the right song for right now.
What is the right music to listen to on a rainy Wednesday afternoon in London or Chicago? Open the Moment.us iOS app and it will generate a playlist of music for you based on factors like your location, the weather, the time of day, day of week and data from other users of the app. The app is currently only available in the UK due to music licensing issues.
NWplyng (or Nowplaying) lets you identify and share what you’re listening to with friends on the app’s own network, and on Facebook, Twitter and Foursquare, awarding you badges en route.
Users list tracks by searching manually, or by letting the app’s music recognition component hear and identify the track from any audio source, similar to what Shazam does. You can also share more of your musical moments by attaching comments, location data and pictures to the tracks.
Serendip connects users with potential music soulmates – those who share similar musical tastes and, on the back of this, creates a continuous playlist based on the music they’re sharing.
It identifies your existing Twitter/Facebook contacts already using Serendip, and automatically follows these friends within the app, unless you choose not to. The onus is now on you to tell Serendip what your favorite artists are – this gets the ball rolling, and lets you connect with like-minded music fans.
Serendip also recommends some DJs to follow, based on the artists you indicated you like. You’ll see a stream of people with similar tastes to you, and the idea here on in is that you’ll discover new music, or rare/career-defining performances from your favorite artists.
It also taps YouTube and Vevo to serve up video delights. So if someone has a penchant for a particular performance from Jools Holland twenty years ago, you can watch within the app for yourself.
HEALTH, FOOD & FITNESS
In the same month that Nike launched its all-new Fuelband, the sports giant also rolled out its brand new Nike+ Move app, to take advantage of the iPhone 5s’s M7 chip, a motion coprocessor that tracks the accelerometer, gyroscope and compass.
The Nike+ Move app uses the M7 chip to convert your movement into NikeFuel — a metric created by Nike to tell you how active you are. More specifically, Nike+ Move measures when, where and how you move and lets you compare these stats with your friends or other Nike+ Move users around you.
Nutrino is a virtual personal nutritionist – you tell the app your exercise level and eating habits and it offers up suitable meals.
These meals are added to a shopping list, and if you’re in a popular chain restaurant or cafe, the app can offer up recommendations tailored to the menu on offer.
Whisk incorporates “advanced semantic and linguistic analysis” to interpret recipes and automatically add them to an online shopping basket which can then be delivered direct to the consumer’s door. It’s an interesting concept for sure.
You can save recipes as your favorites, or go straight to the checkout. Here, you can tell it exactly how many folk you’re catering for, which serves up (pun intended) the exact amount of ingredients required. You can adjust your shopping list if you already have certain ingredients, or ‘let whisk choose items for you’.
Argus is a unified health app tracking app for your daily exercise, diet, sleeping pattern and more.
The service supports all sorts of metrics in a single interface, and by tapping the plus symbol in the upper right corner of the home screen you’ll surface a dizzying list of activity types, including popular forms of exercise such as running, cycling and walking.
However, it’s the addition of body weight and heart rate monitoring, as well as water, coffee and food intake that makes Argus a much broader tool for improving personal health and wellbeing.
Here’s a selection of other random apps that make it into our top 2013 apps based on their general look and feel.
Map of the Internet
This makes it in purely because it’s cool. Map of the Internet is the handiwork of the good folks at hosting provider Peer 1, and it does exactly what it says on the box.
The app visualizes the myriad of networks that constitute that thing known as the Internet. It shows Internet Service Providers (ISPs), Internet exchange points, and organizations that help route traffic across the online sphere, such as universities. If this sort of thing floats your boat, it’s a beautiful thing.
Okay, Timeless may be a timer app, but it’s beautiful, simple and a joy to use.
It lets you set multiple timers using nothing but taps and swipes. This could be for if you’re cooking a meal, waiting for something to come on TV and everything in between. Timeless is really all about the usability and the ‘look and feel’, and on this front it delivers.
Konvert for iPhone is a beautifully-designed app that includes most of the units you’d ever need, covering angle, area, base, length, distance, mass, pressure and more.
It’s all about flips, taps and swipes and it’s easy to switch between centimeters and miles, or inches and yards. It’s a gem.
Wake is a beautiful iOS alarm clock app that lets you slap, flip, shake and swipe yourself out of bed. And it’s a beautiful thing.
Wake is the handiwork of Toronto-based design agency Tiny Hearts, the same folks behind another app we covered a couple of years ago called Pocket Zoo.
The Animator’s Survival Kit
It may be a little on the niche side, but the Animator’s Survival Kit is a spellbinding iPad app for budding animators. The opening title sequence will have you hooked from the start:
The app is the handiwork of Richard Williams, the genius behind the original 2009 print version of The Animator’s Survival Kit – a book that brings techniques, tips and tricks to budding animators. He has also won countless awards across his career, including Oscars, but he’s perhaps best known for his work on 1988′s Who Framed Roger Rabbit.
If you’re looking to check it our for yourself, the free incarnation gives you two full chapters from The Animator’s Survival Kit – ‘More on Spacing’ and ‘Dialogue’ – and incorporates 14 animated examples.
The full version is available to download now for $34.99, but there is a free ‘lite’ version to let you try before you buy.
Tydlig is a funky take on what a calculator perhaps should look like on smartphones.
It lets you return to, highlight and edit any number in your sequence – when you change that number, the result updates automatically. Also, with a result selected, you can hit any operation – e.g. divide, subtract or add – and create a linked number beneath it, which lets you kick-off a new sum related to the original one.
Tydlig is a beautifully designed app that brings a rich array of features to the table – the only real downside we see is the $4.99 fee. That’s not a lot of money for what this is, but without a free incarnation, it may be too much for those who prefer to suck-it-and-see before laying their money on the line.
Meanwhile, be sure to check out our top Android apps from 2013 too.
Feature Image Credit – Kim White/Getty Images
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