As Apple’s iPhone continued its popularity this year, and the iPad launched in April, many iOS app developers had an amazing year.These include some great games, some neat social tools, some big money-makers, some cool hardware add-ons, and some who pushed the limits on what Apple’s portable gadgets could do.
And we’re equally surprised by the cool stuff coming out of big companies and small startups alike.
Instagram founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger have basically built what Apple should copy for its built-in camera app.
Instagram lets you take pictures, add cool filters to your photos, and share them with a bunch of places, including Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and Tumblr. And it includes a very simple, built-in social network, which lets you share photos with friends, 'like' them, and comment on them.
It's beautiful software, and it's no wonder that it has become so popular so quickly.
Ngmoco and Tapulous showed that the iPhone gaming market is super valuable, by each getting acquired for millions of dollars
Ngmoco and Tapulous have each made some of the hottest iPhone games, each was an early driver of social gaming for the iPhone, and each has been driving revenue via in-app purchases and virtual goods.
In July, Disney acquired Tapulous, and its CEO Bart Decrem is now running three mobile app studios for Disney.
In October, Japanese gaming giant DeNA acquired Ngmoco for a reported ~$400 million. (That's CEO Neil Young on the left.)
Led by founders Mike McCue and Evan Doll, Flipboard made the first news reading app for the iPad that feels like it was designed for an iPad.
You effortlessly flip through news stories and photos, either curated by your friends -- via your Twitter or Facebook feeds -- or by Flipboard itself.
Is it going to save the media business? No, probably not. But it's definitely a sign of what's to come -- from both small startups and media giants alike.
Instapaper has long been one of our favourite apps and websites; it lets you read articles later that you don't have time to read right now.
Arment is a perfectionist and it shows in his work, with smart and user-friendly touches that other app makers wouldn't even dream of. In the past, this included the first (and best) example we had seen of tilt-based scrolling, which scrolled pages up and down based on the angle you were holding your iPhone.
More recently, he made a feature that lets you automatically scroll back down a page if you accidentally scroll to the top by inadvertently tapping on the iPhone's time/status bar. And he introduced a very smart feature that uses your location and sunrise/sunset tables to automatically toggle between 'day' and 'night' mode in his app.
There are zillions of musical apps for the iPhone and iPad, but none are as whimsical and engaging as Smule's, which include built-in social features.
The brains behind Smule include Dr. Ge Wang, who is an Assistant Professor at Stanford University and is the founding director of the Stanford Laptop Orchestra and of the Stanford Mobile Phone Orchestra, and Jeff Smith, who's pursuing a PhD in Computer Music at Stanford and is an email security genius.
Loren Brichter's Tweetie 2 was the best Twitter app for the iPhone, and Twitter was smart to acquire it (and him) earlier this year. (Earlier, Brichter famously invented the 'pull to refresh' feature that many iPhone apps have since ripped off.)
This year's most interesting iOS work from Twitter is its iPad app, which uses a novel but attractive user interface (that, for some, takes some getting used to).
It sure helps to have an exclusive licence for high-end content like MLB Advanced Media does!
The company also continued its streak of pushing the envelope on iOS apps with the new At Bat for iPad, which became our preferred way of watching Chicago Cubs games this season. (At least until the Cubs were out of it... in June.)
MLBAM's tech leadership includes CEO Bob Bowman, CTO Joe Choti, and SVP Joe Inzerillo.
iPhone game 'Angry Birds' became HUGE this year -- it sat atop the bestselling apps list for much of the year, becoming, as John Gruber called it, the sort-of new Pac-Man for the iPhone. We see people playing it EVERYWHERE, and people even dressed up as Angry Birds for Halloween.
It's going to be a while before mobile payments are figured out and universally accepted, but Starbucks is forging ahead.
This year, it expanded its program that lets you use the Starbucks Card app to pay for your in-store purchases. The app generates a barcode, which the Starbucks cashier can scan as a payment method.
The main problem is that it takes longer to type in your password to load the app than it takes to whip out your Starbucks card from your wallet.
We weren't expecting this kind of innovation from a giant bank like Chase.
But as Chase customers, we're blown away by the convenience of being able to deposit a check from anywhere, just by shooting photos of the front and back of checks on our iPhone, and uploading them via the Chase app.
The only problem is that it's sometimes a little too sensitive -- it doesn't seem to like darker checks, or photos taken in lower light conditions. Still, nice to save a trip to the ATM whenever possible.
The party mode feature of EA's Scrabble for the iPad is the coolest part. This lets you use iPhones and iPod touches as each player's letter tile racks.
Players can 'flick' the tiles from their phones onto the main iPad screen (all using wireless connections) and place them where they want them on the Scrabble board.
As Engadget wrote, 'Scrabble for the iPad: stir in some iPhones and it's the best $1,000 you ever spent on a board game.'
Shopkick rolled out a shopping app with real-money rewards, with HUGE partners including Best Buy, American Eagle, and Target
Foursquare obviously had a big year in 2010, but this year's coolest new geo/social/deals entrant was Shopkick, which uses a little radio beacon in stores to make sure that you're actually in the store before you can collect deals or earn points toward real-world rewards.
Under CEO Cyriac Roeding, CTO Aaron Emigh, and CPO Jeff Sellinger, Shopkick launched with huge partners including Best Buy, American Eagle, and Macy's, and signed up Target and Crate and Barrel later in the year.
Run a taco truck or a flea market stand, or just want to sell someone a couch on Craigslist and take credit cards? Or just want to expedite how quickly your broke friends can pay you back?
It's a really ambitious idea, and may never catch on with enough people to become a viable business, but it's sure neat.
When the iPad came out this past spring, Rana Sobhany quickly figured out it could be used as DJ equipment.
Since then, she's been travelling around the world, playing events at venues as wide-ranging as Webster Hall in New York City to the House of Blues in LA to an Apple Store.
In the meantime, she's also had time to write a book about marketing and selling iPhone apps, Mobilize, based on her early experience in the iPhone app industry at Medialets, an iPhone analytics and ad tech firm.
In just a few months, the team behind the Glif invented an iPhone tripod gadget, got it funded, and made it
The Glif does two things: It props up your iPhone 4 so you can watch video in a more relaxed position, and it hooks your iPhone 4 up to a tripod for still- or video camera shooting.
The Glif team, Tom Gerhardt and Dan Provost, came up with the idea, raised almost $140,000 to build it (using the website Kickstarter), and shipped the first orders in time for the holidays. Very cool!
This is the first 'augmented reality' app that isn't stupid.
'Word Lens,' which just launched in December, lets you hold your iPhone camera up to the real world, and it will recognise words and translate them in real-time.
It's not perfect, but it's very cool.
This lets you beam audio or video from an iPhone, iPod touch, or iPad to an AirPlay-supported device, like the new Apple TV set-top box. In this case, you can start watching a movie on your iPad, and finish it on your big TV, via Apple TV and AirPlay.
In the future, who knows what else it could mean.
Apple also made a bunch of other cool stuff, like the iMovie editor for the iPhone 4, the cool iAd advertising platform, and of course, iOS itself.
- Facebook, which was an early leader on the iPhone, didn't do anything that interesting for the iPhone this year. It added some new features like Places, and it's still a must-have app, but there was no innovation. And there's still no Facebook iPad app, which has created a cottage industry of wannabes.
- Big media companies, which have invested a bunch of money in the iPhone and iPad, but mostly make mediocre apps that all look and work the same. They're fine, but nothing special.
- Microsoft, the biggest software company in the world, hasn't done anything interesting for the iPhone or iPad yet. We don't exactly blame them -- they're still betting the most on Windows, Windows Phone 7, and the Xbox -- but right now, they're missing out on a fast-growing platform. Where's Office 2011 for the iPad, when Apple's iWork Office clone represented the 3 top-grossing iPad apps this year?
- Google finally got its Google Voice and Latitude apps approved for the iPhone, but it seems to be doing its best work for Android. Understandable.
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