Five years in: The ten most influential iPhone and iPad apps yet

As the App Store turns five, Stuff reveals the iOS apps that changed everything

Given the ubiquity of mobile apps, it’s a jolt to realise that Apple's App Store is only five years old.

In 2008, just 500 titles were available at launch, but developers soon got on board, fashioning careers out of making and selling apps and games to iPhone and iPad users. Within a few months, 100 million apps had been downloaded. In under two years, over a billion dollars had been paid out to developers. Today, the app tally sits close to a million.

Apple has been celebrating by making some classic apps and games free for a short time, including the excellent Traktor DJ and Badland. But at Stuff, we wanted to look back at the products that made the App Store what it is today — seven apps and three games that changed the nature of mobile software and all that followed.

GarageBand (2011)

GarageBand for iPad

A digital audio workstation (DAW), for composing music on the go.

Apple’s DAW wasn’t the first on the App Store — NanoStudio preceded it by a year, and Harmonicdog’s MultiTrack DAW was released way back in September 2009. However, Apple ambitiously rethought its popular desktop software for touch, and in doing so raised the bar for every other developer.

GarageBand’s legacy was a boost in interface richness, usability and scope, notably among audio apps; and for users, there was genuine bafflement that a capable DAW could be purchased for just three pounds.

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Brushes (2008)


An art app that enables you to paint directly on to the screen.

Despite the App Store’s early success, detractors still argued the iPhone was a fancy toy, purely for consumption and unsuitable for ‘real work’. Then Jorge Colombo drew a cover for The New Yorker in Brushes, on his iPhone, while standing for an hour outside Madame Tussaud’s in Times Square. Through companion app Brushes Viewer, we even got to see how he did it.

Of course, this didn’t quieten the haters, but it did galvanise those working on creative iOS apps and those choosing to create with them – artists who've used the app include David Kassan and David Hockney. (The original Brushes has since been retired and superseded by Brushes 3.)

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Angry Birds (2009)

Angry Birds

The first iOS gaming mega-hit — intuitive and addictive bird-catapulting.

These days, it’s impossible to swing a cat in the vague direction of a piece of computer hardware without cracking its head on a half-dozen Angry Birds games. In fact, Stuff is surprised Rovio hasn’t yet mastered time-travel, to bring its insanely popular series (1.7 billion downloads to date!) to the VIC-20 and ZX81.

Still, love them or hate them, those aggravated avians became synonymous with iOS gaming, ushering in countless intuitive touch-based titles, designed to be played in short bursts but mastered over many hours.

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Twitterrific (2008)


One of the first Twitter clients, marrying elegance and beauty.

Originally available in two flavours, ‘free’ and ‘premium’, Twitterrific might today seem like just another in a long line of Twitter clients. However, the team behind Twitterrific defined aspects of Twitter, such as the word ‘tweet’ and the use of a bird to represent the service.

The iOS app was beautiful, simple and usable, and it showcased how native iPhone apps could offer a far superior user experience to web apps. Many companies subsequently took note, not least when Twitterrific won an Apple Design Award.

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Instapaper (2008)


A read-it-later service, like a PVR for web pages.

The original Instapaper (since replaced by the paid ‘pro’ version) was one of the first apps on the App Store. Although the web service had existed for half a year by that point, it was the iOS app that really captured the imagination. In stripping content from bloated websites, iPhone users could stash and later read countless articles, all of which were accessible in seconds — even on slow connections.

Instapaper’s influence is today seen in a slew of copycats, including Apple’s own Safari, which separates similar functionality into Reading List (article stashing) and Reader mode (content-only view).

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