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Apple’s Top Apps of 2019

Every year, Apple awards the best apps with a mention in the App Store. This year’s winners mark a change in app culture, with a rise in social media related “storytelling” apps.

By Chand Bellur

December 3, 2019 at 1:43 p.m. PDT

How Are Top Apps Determined?

Apple is notoriously silent about most things, including how the top apps of the year are selected. They’re not the best selling apps. Customers didn’t vote on this. By all accounts, some Apple employees just pick their favorite apps. They call it “curation”.

The important point is that many of these apps are arbitrarily awarded the top app distinction. “Editors’ Choice” is a similarly arbitrary distinction placed on some of the worst apps.

Don’t take too much stock in Apple’s favorite apps. Some of them have a “gee whiz” factor, but no real substance. It’s important to keep an open mind and browse the App Store for similar or better apps. Nonetheless, some of these highly regarded apps are amazing and worth a closer look.

Best iPhone App of 2019: Spectre Camera

Cameras are the most important features of smartphones for many people. Apple and their competitors have gradually increased camera capabilities with each new smartphone revision. Tech companies realize that people will spend money in search of the perfect selfie for their social media or dating profile.

Spectre Camera is a bit different. It’s a camera app designed for the best long-exposure photographs. Even the best fake Yogi can’t hold the lotus position long enough for Spectre Camera.

This app is all about taking gorgeous outdoor photographs, without one’s mug getting in the way. It’s not ideal for narcissists, but the casual photographer looking for better long-exposure photos will likely enjoy this app.

Best iPad App of 2019: Flow

Apple tries to position the iPad as a professional device. They even created a professional line of iPad tablets, with the goal of selling both the iPad Pro and the Mac. Although the iPad is a more capable device today, it’s still not suitable for professional work. Even working on a WordPress site is clunky and frustrating on an iPad.

Nonetheless, if you want to draw on a tablet, the iPad is probably the best device. Flow is an illustration app that meticulously models the look and feel of pencils and markers. The app is easy to use and may appeal to professionals and amateurs alike.

Best Mac App of 2019: Affinity Publisher

For those who still create printed works, such as magazines, books or other physical published formats, Affinity Publisher simplifies most routine tasks. The app makes it easy to create complicated layouts for printed materials.

It may surprise some that a book publishing app is considered the best Mac App of 2019. If you own a Mac, you probably know that some of the best apps are not sold in the App Store. Amazing apps like Ableton Live 10 aren’t eligible for the award, as major software developers avoid the App Store. After all, Apple takes one-third of gross receipts just to handle an app download and billing.

When given the choice, larger developers choose to handle distribution on their own. It’s not difficult, especially for software developers.

For now, macOS allows users to side load apps from the web, as you would do with any computer. iOS devices cannot do this, unless you jailbreak them. The top Mac app of 2019 is based on a limited selection from smaller developers. The best Mac apps are not sold in the App Store.

Other Top Apps and Trends for 2019

The Explorers earned the 2019 top tvOS app award. This Apple TV app allows users to browse a visual inventory of our planet.

The overall trend in 2019 is for apps that allow users to tell their stories with photos and other media. It’s similar to the Your Story feature in Instagram, and a testament to today’s narcissism. Going beyond the selfie, people can now construct detailed stories of their hiking trip, capturing every yoga position and morsel of artisan food consumed along the way.

Overall, Apple’s app awards are puny compared to the Academy Awards, Grammys or any other ceremony. It’s a rather low key affair, for a company that dwells in hype and reality distortion. At best, it’s a shopping list for the Christmas season.


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