According to the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) Asia, more people around the world own a mobile phone than a toothbrush. We like to think it’s because of the number of apps you can download onto a mobile. As of October 2013, there were 1,000,000 apps available for both Android and iPhone users. We haven’t reviewed all of them, but these are some of the standouts that we noted from 2013.
1. Duolingo (iOS and Android)
Rated by Apple as the App of the Year in 2013, and recommended by both Mashable and TechCrunch, Duolingo embodies many of the ideals you’re looking for when designing a new app. It’s free, social, educational, and contributes to global understanding. Duolingo have gamified language learning. As users play, they simultaneously translate the content on other websites. It’s crowdsourcing at its best.
2. Cover (Android)
Steve Jobs once said, “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them”. If you have trouble sorting through all your apps on your iPhone, then that quote is going to sting you now. The Android app Cover sorts out your apps according to when you use them. If you use email and LinkedIn at work, those apps will appear on your lock screen during working hours. Do you play a game on the way home? There it is, game on. It’s bliss for Android users, but until it comes out on iOS, just knowing about Cover is going to make searching through those apps even more painful.
3. Cycloramic (iOS)
Now this is clever. Place your iPhone 5s in the middle of the room and watch as Cycloramic uses the vibrations motor to propel the phone on a smooth surface. It doesn’t work every time, but when it does you end up with a 360° photo of the room. It has room for improvement, but it’s the kind of software that inspires a panoramic approach to app development.
4. Agent (Android)
Agent is like a personal assistant. When your battery is running low it dims the screen and turns off bluetooth to save power. With Agent you can put your phone to sleep and the app will screen your calls, only allowing emergency calls to come through. It will even tell callers that you can’t take a call because you’re driving. An app that encourages safer driving has to be a game-changer, but Agent also gets bonus points for remembering where you parked the car.
5. Paper Keyboard (iOS)
Paper Keyboard is an innovative app which uses the phone’s camera to detect the movement of your fingers as you type on a paper keyboard. Available on iPhone 4 and later models, this app provides the benefits of a laptop sized keyboard with mobile portability. Aside from the convenience it allows for first world problems, this kind of innovation could be a real game-changer in developing countries where mobiles are more accessible than larger computing devices.
6. Word Lens (Google Glass)
Possibly the first third party app developed for Google Glass, Word Lens allows the user to translate small sections of text into their own native language. From reading restaurant menus and airport signs to aiding communication at international conferences, this app is bound to be a game-changer. For Douglas Adams fans, it’s a vast improvement from sticking a babel fish in your ear.
7. ThirdLove (iOS)
Buyers want to know that what they buy online will fit them. The ThirdLove app analyses iPhone photos to determine the correct bra size for a customer. ThirdLove is an inspiring response to a real-life problem.
8. Firechat (iOS and Android)
This peer to peer messaging app allows you to chat with people around you without Internet or mobile coverage. Handy for travel, blackspots and for saving on mobile charges, but a real game-changer in politically unstable parts of the world.
Instagram was new to Windows in 2013, but it has been around since 2010. The game-change for Instagram in 2013 was its 23% growth compared to a mere 3% growth in its mother company Facebook. You could argue that Facebook might be reaching saturation point, but as a mobile-only social networking app, the Instagram statistics mark a shift away from traditional computer devices to mobile screens.
10. Pocket Light Meter (iOS)
We love it when our 21st century digital pocketknife grows another gadget. This free app tests light intensity and exposure, so you can leave your light meter at home on your next photographic expedition.