As mobile devices constantly evolve, so do the applications that are created for them. Our smartphones and tablets now can perform nearly any imaginable task -- they are our channels for entertainment, communication, financial management, and guides for what to eat, where to go and how to get there -- and of course, they are our mouthpieces to project our thoughts, ideas and opinions no matter where we are in the world.
When smartphones began to gain popularity after Apple’s iPhone was released in 2007, the ad slogan “There’s an app for that” quickly caught on. And today, it may ring true more than ever. While 2012 may not have birthed groundbreaking applications like Instagram or Google Maps, it has seen some noteworthy advances in the quality of apps available for our electronic daily companions. In no particular order, check out our list of the best of 2012 in apps.
Camera Awesome (free for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad). While Instagram may hog the spotlight when it comes to social camera apps, this Tumblr-integrated photography app shouldn’t be neglected. Camera Awesome, which was created by Photo Sharing website SmugMug, helps users improve the quality of their digital photos by offering features that automatically level your photos and allow for color adjustments.
Flipboard (free for iPhone iPod touch, iPad, Android). Flipboard isn’t new to the smartphone scene, but this news curator app saw some significant updates over the past year. Flipboard breaks down news into various topics of interest such as technology, design, fashion, style, news and cover stories, among others. These categories are displayed in a tiled interface, and users can flip through stories by swiping up on their device’s touch screen, just as the name implies. The stories featured on Flipboard are selected based on social activity, meaning that each article has already been shared or retweeted multiple times. So what makes this app stand out in 2012? Although it made its debut in 2011, it landed on the Android platform in 2012 and began to implement Google+ and YouTube this year -- and it also struck a partnership with the New York Times.
Angry Birds Star Wars ($0.99 for iPhone, iPad, free for Android, Windows). Rovio’s mobile gaming blockbuster got a new twist this year, and it may be one of the best Star Wars spinoffs we’ve seen in a long time. In true Angry Birds fashion, players still fire little round birds at their pig nemeses, but this time light sabers and lasers are involved.
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Slices for Twitter ($4.99 for iPhone, iPod Touch, free for Android). It’s no secret that Twitter has become a source of both breaking news and social commentary since its debut, and Slices makes sure users get the information they need when they need it. With so much information being shared each second, it can be difficult to find certain pieces of information quickly. With Slices, tweeters can browse a Twitter directory by category, making it easier to follow live events and “slice” activity into manageable feeds.
Death Dome (free for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android). This is possibly one of the best translations of a PC-based fighting video game to the mobile platform. Rather than using arrow keys to perform attacks, the directional buttons are used to dodge attacks from enemies. To attack an opponent, players swipe the screen when their challenger is vulnerable. Complete with in-game power ups, smooth controls and compelling graphics, Death Dome is a must for mobile game lovers.
Xbox SmartGlass (free for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android, Windows Phone). This app from Microsoft demonstrates how gaming is becoming more closely tied to mobile devices. SmartGlass essentially acts as a remote control for the Xbox gaming console. It lets users turn the video game system on and off, select apps, perform commands, and also acts as a “companion” while playing games. While the app is still new and is missing some functionality, such as the ability to search by using the smartphone keypad, it still marks an innovative step for Microsoft.
Pocket (free for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android). The ultimate “read it later” app, Pocket lets users essentially keep Web content in their “pocket” for another time. When browsing articles on the Internet, Pocket will save content and sync it with a user’s phone, tablet, or computer so it can be accessed anywhere at any time.
100 Floors (free for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android). This might be one of the most addicting, mind-bending games that Android and iOS have to offer. The idea is simple -- open the elevator door and move to the next floor. But as the game progresses, each puzzle gets increasingly difficult and more advanced. Before long, users will find themselves looking up cheats and tutorials on YouTube to make it to the next floor.
Songza (free for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android). Listening to music on the go was commercialized with Apple’s iPod many moons ago, and now that idea is manifesting itself in new ways with different apps. Songza borrows the idea of curated playlists from similar apps like Pandora, but adds a personalized touch by offering playlists catered to particular moods and times of day. Unlike competitors such as Spotify, users will not be interrupted by ads even after hours of listening.
Google Chrome (free for iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android). Google’s very own Web browser became available for iOS and Android mobile devices this year. It synchronizes website history, bookmarks, passwords and tabs across devices, and offers a smooth alternative to Apple’s stock option Safari.
Love an app that isn’t on this list? Share it in the comments below.