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Once a year, Apple marks out a handful of apps as Apple Design Award winners at a ceremony during WWDC. These tend to be the cream of the crop; high-quality apps that showcase the best and most interesting things an iPhone or iPad can do. Next week we’ll find out which apps and games will snag the 2021 prizes from a shortlist of 36 finalists, but in the meantime, let’s take a trip down memory lane to revisit some of the best and brightest of years past.
We’ve picked out one of our favorites from the past five years of Apple Design Awards – near-perfect apps which have stood the test of time and deserve a spot on your Home screen. If any of these passed you by at launch, give them a shot now. After each pick, you can tap through to see that year’s full selection if you want even more inspiration.
2020 – Looom
Looom, developed by iorama.studio, is an animation playground that takes inspiration from music creation tools. Looping hand-drawn stop-motion animation in this playfully creative interface is designed for pros and consumers alike. The app’s deep functionality and intuitive interface are complemented by novel custom controls. Made for iPadOS, Looom uses Apple technologies including Apple Pencil and Dark Mode to their fullest.
2019 – Pixelmator Photo
Pixelmator Photo manages to deliver impressive editing power in a beautiful, uncluttered interface. For beginners, Pixelmator is surprisingly approachable (your edits are conveniently nondestructive). For experts who wish to maximize every last pixel of their iPad screen, it offers a robust toolset and support for RAW images. Most helpful of all, it offers machine-learning-powered editing tools that have been trained using more than 20 million photos.
2018 – Agenda
This is a beautiful take on notetaking with a clever timeline system for tracking your notes. It makes seamless use of Handoff between devices, which may have contributed to its win. First and foremost it provides a simple way to record brief snippets of information, yet it also adds a helpful sense of order and structure to those notes. As well as enabling you to organize your notes by projects, Agenda adds in a calendar function that serves to place your notes within a timeline.
2017 – Blackbox
One of our favorite puzzlers to ever grace the App Store, this is a superb abstract puzzle game that really justifies the phrase “think outside the box.” To crack its many riddles you’ll have to tilt, shout, and even climb literal mountains. The main conceit is that none of the solutions involve touching the screen! It’s full to bursting will challenges that will make you feel smart when you finally solve them, and it takes advantage of a ton of hidden iOS features.
2016 – Lara Croft GO
It’s not often we see a game that takes a truly iconic character and applies their personality so successfully to the iOS platform. Amongst obvious game ploys and old ports (which Tomb Raider is no stranger to), it often feels like games developers are denying the opportunities that mobile gaming can offer. Lara Croft GO is a fantastic puzzle adventure that spawned the GO series of games and still holds up well today.