Apple releases its picks for year’s best apps

Dec 9, 2010

If there’s anybody who’s been paying attention to the app market in 2010, it’s Apple (AAPL) — so it’s worth sitting up and paying attention when the company sets about marking off the top apps of the year. As part of its annual iTunes Rewind, Apple threw apps into the mix, running down what it […]

If there’s anybody who’s been paying attention to the app market in 2010, it’s Apple (AAPL) — so it’s worth sitting up and paying attention when the company sets about marking off the top apps of the year.

As part of its annual iTunes Rewind, Apple threw apps into the mix, running down what it thought were the best to come out this year and setting up lists of the best-performing apps of 2010. Most of the picks aren’t too surprising, but if you were looking for a buying guide for apps this year (maybe to suggest along with an iPhone or iPad that’s going as a gift for the holidays), this might be the definitive buying guide. After all, Apple ought to know a good app when it approves one for the App Store, right?

You can read about all of Apple’s picks, trends the company saw develop in the App Store, and the top 10 performing apps in each of several categories, in the Apple Rewind section on the iTunes home page. We’ve included a few choice bits here, including the apps Apple thinks are the best of the year, below.

iPhone App of the Year: Hipstamatic

If you’re surprised, you’re not the only one — there are roughly a gazillion photo-manipulation apps to be found in the App Store. But Apple things Hipstamatic bests them all, and it isn’t the only one.

Hipstamatic has create quite a buzz this year. The app uses various filters, in the categories of film, lens and flash, to create vintage and retro-looking images that do a pretty incredible job of emulating shots you’d find from 30 years ago. And something about those analog-looking photos captures an organic quality in the image that ultra-clear, sterile photos from modern cameras can lose.

We gave Hipstamatic 5 out of 5 bars, and Apple says it’s the best app to hit the iPhone this year. For all the other photography apps out there, not too many (if any) are like this one.

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iPhone Game of the Year: Plants vs. Zombies

Yeah, we pretty much have to agree on this one: Plants vs. Zombies was our No. 2 pick for best iPhone game of all time (No. 1? Osmos — Apple’s pick for top iPad game of 2010). PopCap’s tower defense masterpiece is fun and funny, addictive and challenging, fully realized and packing plenty of fun.

The reason Plants vs. Zombies excels so well is that it’s disarming but deep. You look like you’re getting into a goofy little cartoon of a game, but you’re really being challenged to think both long-term and short, planning your strategy in advance but being ready to change things up on the fly with quick thinking and action.

Angry Birds is cool, but Plants vs. Zombies gets in your head and requires you to use lots of different kinds of smarts to be good at it. There’s a reason people have been talking about PvZ all year — it’s really that good.

iPad App of the Year: Flipboard

Flipboard takes all those links you get from friends on social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter and arranges them into neat articles that can be browsed using touch controls on your iPad. It’s an elegant solution to what can be kind of a mess on a traditional computer, with links and windows lying everywhere and cluttering up your screen. Flipboard is a better way, which is why it garnered Apple’s top spot for iPad app of 2010.

And Flipboard is the kind of app that helps get content creators like newspaper and magazine publishers to find new ways of creating content for devices like the iPad. It suggests that there is a better, more elegant solution to making things available on the device other than just cutting and pasting from existing print publications.

This is an app that might be a taste of things to come, or a step on the path to the future of the way we consume the written word. For that, Flipboard is definitely deserving of a nod this year.

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iPad Game of the Year: Osmos for iPad

The iPhone version of Osmos is among my favorite games for the platform — we even called it the best paid iPhone game you can get — and it appears Apple had a similar reaction concerning the game’s iPad counterpart. I haven’t played Osmos for iPad, but I can imagine it: a great touchscreen game with the iPad’s 9-inch screen on which to display its distinct and beautiful art style and interesting gameplay? Yes, please.

Osmos does a great job of capturing simplicity and beauty. You control a single-celled organism (probably — exactly what you are is never clear), the goal of which, more often than not, is to absorb other cells around you by touching them. If you’re bigger than another cell, you absorb it; if you’re smaller, it absorbs you. Getting around and fighting to survive soon becomes a careful game of planning and precision as you do your best to eat without being eaten.

We gave Osmos for iPad 5 of 5 bars for being ambitious and gorgeous, right down to its ambient soundtrack. Apple agrees; there’s no reason iPad owners shouldn’t go check this out right now.

A few more quick hits from 2010

Apple also dropped a few stats on us for the year, including which apps were most downloaded in several categories. For the sake of brevity, we’re dropping just two sets here: top paid iPhone apps and top paid iPad apps. You can find all the rest on iTunes in the Rewind 2010 section.

Top Paid iPhone Apps:

1. Angry Birds

2. Doodle Jump

3. Skee-Ball

4. Bejeweled 2 + Blitz

5. Fruit Ninja

6. Cut the Rope

7. All-In-1 Gamebox

8. The Moron Test

9. Plants vs. Zombies

10. Pocket God

Top Paid iPad Apps:

1. Pages

2. GoodReader for iPad

3. Numbers

4. Angry Birds HD

5. Keynote

6. Glee Karaoke

7. WolframAlpha

8. Pinball HD

9. Friendly for Facebook

10. Star Walk for iPad

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Phil Hornshaw

Phil Hornshaw is a freelance writer, editor and author living in Los Angeles, dividing his time between playing video games, playing video games on his cell phone, and writing about playing video games. He’s also the co-author of So You Created a Wormhole: The Time Traveler’s Guide to Time Travel, which attempts to mix time travel pop culture with some semblance of science, as well as tips on the appropriate means of riding dinosaurs. Check out his profile.

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