2010 was a great year for iOS—here’s my list of the apps I couldn’t live without the past 12 months. Even though we worked on several iPad projects last year, I didn’t use the iPad much outside of work, so while some of my favorites are universal apps, most of these are iPhone (and iPod Touch) applications.
My Favorite App of 2010
I was hooked immediately. So were millions of other people. Instagram is the perfect formula of photography and social networking. Even without the photo filters included, I think Instagram would have been successful—they’re like frosting on the cake. Instagram makes it easy to share your photos (and make them look even better) with friends and strangers, as well as find new friends to follow. Simple like and comment functionality adds just the right amount of social interaction. I spend way too much time every day thinking about photos to take for Instagram, and just as many browsing friends’ photostreams. If you have an iPhone and you aren’t using Instagram, you’re a damned fool. (You can find me in Instagram with the username garrettmurray.)
Favorite Photography Apps
TiltShiftGen (99¢, free demo)
I rarely use TiltShiftGen the way it was intended (to create the tilt-shift effect)—instead, I use it to give a nice depth to photos taken with the iPhone that otherwise look very flat. TSG’s simple blur functionality (radial or linear) allows for changing both the strength of the blur as well as the distance, and it’s dead-simple to use. Granted, you have to be careful not to go overboard, but TSG is invaluable for classing up normal, flat iPhone photos.
Recently re-released to the App Store after many months away for breaking App Store rules, Camera+ returned with a new UI (which is much better than version 1’s) and new features. Camera+ is perfect for taking photos in less-than-ideal light situations because of its two-finger “touch exposure and focus” functionality, which allows you to use one finger to set focus and a second finger to choose where the camera should meter for light. This allows you to take more balanced photos than the native Camera app. In addition, Camera+ features lots of nice built-in filter and editing tools, as well as a new in-app-purchasable set of filters called “I <3 Analog” which includes some really great settings.
Favorite Apps I Use Daily
There isn’t much to say about Reeder, which is a testament to how good it is. It’s pretty much the perfect newsreader. The iOS app is sharp, simple and feature-rich without being in your face about it. (And the new in-beta OS X app is pretty great too.)
By now, nearly everyone either uses Gowalla or knows what it is. These days, I use it mostly as a way to track where I’ve been and less as a social game as it was once intended. I enjoy collecting items and pins, but more so I enjoy being able to see a list of everywhere I’ve been in the past few years. As a data junky, this kind of thing is fun to have. And Gowalla’s recent redesign is gorgeous.
Wikipedia presented beautifully with searching, tabs and more. I use Articles at least a few times a day to settle arguments, read about various historical events, and get behind-the-scenes information about the production of various movies I’ve recently seen.
Favorite New App of 2010
It’s crazy to say this, but Screens is a fully-functional, beautiful VNC app for iOS that actually works and works well. That I can control my computer from my iPhone is old news (apps like TouchPad and its competitors have been doing this for quite some time), but that I can actually see my screen and use my computer from across the room, on a 3.5-inch screen, without being frustrated, is amazing.
Infinity Blade ($5.99)
If you had shown me Infinity Blade even 5 years ago and told me it was running on a phone I would have punched you in the face and stolen your phone. Infinity Blade is an amazing technical achievement, with sharp, highly detailed graphics, great sound, and a smooth framerate. It also happens to be a fun game with a simple but solid leveling-up mechanic, inventory system and other RPG elements. The story is dead-simple (basically one line of script), but the battles are fun and I kept playing even after I beat it just to keep leveling up my character. Infinity Blade is not only a great game, but it truly feels like the beginning of some amazing things that will happen in the iOS gamespace in the next few months and years.
Mr. AahH!! (99¢)
Let’s ignore the title of this game for a moment, because it’s ridiculous. Putting that aside, Mr. AahH!! is a terrific play-when-you-have-a-spare-moment game. It’s addictive, simple, challenging and fun. Watch a little character swing from platform to platform and touch the screen when he should let go of the rope. Land him on platforms and try to get him as close to the middle as you can. Added challenges when wind and different levels of gravity are involved. Stupid-simple fun.
A beautiful game with a terrific atmospheric soundtrack. Osmos involves all sorts of challenges and includes a large number of levels with varying degrees of difficulty, as well as an unlockable arcade mode. There were levels I played that took me 40+ tries, but I never got frustrated—I just kept trying different strategies. A remarkably soothing gameplay experience, considering how complex some of the levels can be.
In a nutshell, StarDunk is a massively multiplayer online basket shooting game. There are a few additions (different ball types with different features, various in-game bonuses like shooting three balls at once for a time), but at its core, this is that carnival game of shooting as many baskets as you can in a set time, only with hundreds of other people playing at the same time. It’s addictive, simple, and fun. (You can play offline as well, if you don’t have an internet connection.)