The App Store has turned 10. Hurrah! Stuff was going to bake a cake and everything, but figured you’d all be better off with some lovely app recommendations instead.
So to celebrate the App Store’s first decade, here are ten top-notch apps that highlight the sheer quality at the top of the iOS app heap – and that you can’t get on Android.
Then – for a bit of balance, just like the BBC – we’ve listed five bafflingly awful duds you’ll be glad you were able to avoid. Unless you didn’t, in which case sorry for dredging up bad memories.
There’s an embarrassment of riches on iOS regarding high-quality music-making apps. Arguably, Apple’s GarageBand was the catalyst. Doing the impossible back in 2011, it shoehorned a digital audio workstation into an iPhone. Since then, it’s grown to become hugely capable.
If you’re barely beyond smashing a rock against another rock when it comes to making sounds, you’ve still a fighting chance of crafting a top-ten smash here, what with all the smart instruments. But if you already trouble the charts with your grooves and perfectly tuned everythings, GarageBand is a free mobile studio in your pocket. You’ll want to time-travel to 1980 with it, just to point and laugh at people battling with four-track cassette recorders.
In 2009, artist Jorge Colombo painted a New Yorker cover using iPhone app Brushes. It showed the iPhone wasn’t just for consumption. Procreate reasoned there was space for a pro-level Brushes equivalent, with the kind of tools proponents of desktop-quality software enjoyed.
Moreover, though, Procreate is an app that embraces the joy of painting. Instead of giving you a panel-heavy interface, it (and iPhone cousin Procreate Pocket) has always been minimal, getting out of your way when you’re adding dabs of colour to your masterpiece. And whether you’re splattering ink or paint about, you’ve the added benefit of not treading any into the carpet.
In the early days, the iPhone camera was rubbish, but it became hugely popular, simply because iPhone owners had it on them at all times. Apps attempted to hide the camera’s lowish quality by slathering photos in effects they claimed were cool and trendy. Hipstamatic went much further, transforming your iPhone into an analogue camera.
It took this in a distinctly literal direction: you switched virtual lenses and films, and got a tiny viewfinder to peer through, wondering what you’d end up with when the ‘film’ was developed. Some years later, the app presumably got a visit from an angry Jony Ive and went all minimal – but a sneaky button still gets you back to that old-school cool.
Affinity Photo for iPad
On the desktop, Serif performed an audacious land-grab with its wallet-friendly, high-quality Photoshop rival. On mobile, though, Adobe was conspicuously absent when it came to a full-fat photo-editing experience. So Serif took advantage by porting its entire app across.
Even with modern iPads in 2017, this was seriously ambitious stuff, and yet it worked. Here was desktop-grade photo-editing on a tablet, freeing people from cables, PCs and sitting in boring offices for days on end. On iOS, there’s nothing else like it; on Android, there’s of course just nothing like it.
To-do lists can be a great way to organise, but also the bane of your existence when you stare at a lists of 47 things that must be achieved by lunchtime. Streaks has no truck with that, instead doubling down on simplicity in a way nothing else really does on mobile.
It strips back to-dos to six recurring items, the aim being to infuse them into your routine and form good habits. And the system works – when you’ve six massive buttons to prod, goals aren’t hidden away; but when you fancy seeing how you’re doing, all manner of wiggly graphs exist to feast your eyes on.