When it comes to making the most out of your smartphone or tablet, it’s all about having the right apps. Whether you like to use your phone for business, studying, or for winding down after a long day, there are tons of apps being developed each and every year that are designed to be bigger, better and more exciting than anything that’s come before.
Just when you thought you’d seen it all, app developers saw 2017 as an opportunity to break boundaries, and change the game. We saw a whole new take on apps - from productivity aids and personal assistants becoming more and more useful, to a new range of addictive games that we just couldn't put down. Here, we’ve rounded up just a handful of the best apps from the past year.
Best Digital Assistant App Award
Although some felt that the Google Assistant app had a slightly rocky start in life, no one can deny its success now. If you don’t have a Google phone, don’t worry - you no longer have to miss out of the wonders of the Google Assistant. On top of the standard search queries you may ask a voice assistant on your mobile, or type into Google yourself, the Google Assistant app can also answer more detailed questions like what’s in your calendar for that day, can control your music and other apps, and even send messages for you. And it does it well. With the move towards more and more digital assistants and virtual voice aids, Google are in a good position.
Best Education App Award
Socratic saw huge success in 2017, with it being named as Google’s number one app of the year. Based around learning and education, Socratic allows you to take a photo of your homework or project, before it uses AI to recognise the problem and explain how you can solve it. It specialises in a huge array of subjects, including history, English, economics, biology, chemistry and maths, and offers solutions in a step-by-step format, rather than simply telling you the answer - so that you learn from the experience. Google have said that Socratic “blew us away this year — cleverly conceived, beautifully designed, and wonderfully useful.” Not only is it the best app of the year, but it’s free - so there really is no reason not to give it a go.
Best Game App Award
In their round up of the year, Google revealed that Nintendo’s Super Mario Run was the most downloaded new game of 2017, which may not come as much of a surprise to people. The app infamously helped Apple get its single biggest day of App Store sales at the beginning of 2017, and helped to cement Nintendo’s success in the mobile gaming sphere - hot on the heels of Pokémon Go. Staying nostalgically true to the style and motion of this legendary game, Super Mario Run offers everything mobile users need in a game, with simple one-handed operations paired with fun levels and interesting interactions. It’s easy to see why it proved so successful.
The Growth Award
Instagram - iOS and Android
Instagram is undoubtedly one of the most successful social media platforms out there, with 2017 seeing more and more individuals and brands finding innovative new ways to use the platform in a way that suits, and even benefits them. This was in part due to a run of new features, including the ability to share more than one image in each post, updates to the way people interact with the messaging inbox, and a whole new range of filters and masks which have given Snapchat a run for their money. These investments and updates have been generally well received, with the company reportedly growing at an unprecedented rate - they hit 700 million monthly users in April 2017, up from 600 million just four months before.
The Wildcard Award
You may remember the influx of strange-looking selfies that appeared all over the internet as users downloaded and interacted with FaceApp. At its core, the app uses AI to change the way that you look - with the option to do things like add a smile, make yourself older or younger, or change your gender, as well as adding filters, like many of the other photo apps out there. You may also remember how FaceApp found itself in hot water earlier in 2017, when it featured a “hot” filter designed to make you look more attractive, which was found to be lightening peoples’ skin tones. There were also other issues around filters that could modify you to look like different races. There is some undeniably successful dev work in the making of the app, yet the founders appear to have been blighted by some of the controversy other filter-based editing tools have found themselves in in the past.