Five apps we felt made our Apple devices shine over the past 12 months
We set ourselves two rules for this year’s app awards: every app had to be entirely new, and we were to prioritize the iPhone.
That means there’s no room for great updates to existing apps, but do check out Obscura, Pixel Pals, Longplay, Bear, Sequel and Flighty. All of these received meaningful changes during 2023 that made great apps even better.
As for the iPhone thing, we broke that rule and our top two slots go to iPad apps, because they were the two standouts from 2023 that really pushed at the boundaries of what’s possible on mobile devices. Here’s hoping that in 2024 our winner and runner-up might find themselves on iPhone as well.
Winner: Procreate Dreams ($19.99/£19.99)
For years, Procreate has been the go-to app for digital painters on iPad and iPhone. It marries immediacy and depth – and all at a generous low price. This year, the company behind it attempted to capture the same magic with animation.
One look at the two bundled examples is enough to convince you about this app’s capabilities. And once it clicks, Procreate Dreams reveals itself as a perfect companion for everything from frame-by-frame projects to animations that rely on keyframing.
It’s perfectly tailored to iPad, with an interface that gets out of your way and lets you focus on creativity. A highlight is live performance, where you record motion and effects directly to your movie as it plays.
The only snag is that because animation is more complex than painting, Dreams doesn’t quite nail the immediacy angle that made the original Procreate so compelling. Still, help files exist online. Invest time in learning and you’ll be poised to take on Disney – and, again, all for a ridiculously low one-off price.
Runner-up: Logic Pro for iPad ($49/£49 per year)
Apple has faced longstanding criticism for not bringing its pro apps to iPad. That changed this year with the introduction of video editor Final Cut and music workstation Logic Pro. While the former mixes ambition and flaws, Logic Pro stands out as a stunning reinvention of its desktop counterpart, even surpassing it in certain ways.
If you’ve not used Logic before, picture it as a pro-grade GarageBand. It similarly lets you combine live recording, virtual instruments, samples and drum loops – but there’s far more of everything. But remarkably, the interface never feels cramped on iPad; in fact, the touchscreen makes playing instruments fun – something you’d never say about a Mac keyboard.
There’s the occasional duff note to counter the ambition. Feature parity with the Mac version isn’t total, and only App Store plugins carry over to your projects. The lack of a single-pay option is regrettable. Nevertheless, for anyone wanting a powerful on-the-go music-making tool for everything from sketches to full tracks, it’s hard to imagine anything better.
Three more standouts from 2023. And all these are available for iPhone!
Music Tracker ($10.99/£9.99 per year or $34.99/£34.99 lifetime)
Streaming offers convenience, but many people still prefer physical media. However, managing a growing collection poses challenges. This app makes it a cinch to scan in all your vinyl and CDs, organize your library, monitor loans, and build a wish list to make sure you don’t spend piles of cash on a rarity multiple times. If you’re familiar with Book Tracker, you’ll know what to expect, because this is another high-quality effort from Simone Montalto.
Apollo Weather (free or $9.99/£9.99 per year)
This outdoorsy weather app caters to active individuals. Provide a location and it’ll outline whether you should venture outside for a spot of running or cycling. Pay for a subscription and you can define custom ideal ranges for conditions, should you prefer blazing along in the freezing cold. You can even create your own location groups, to peruse routes and forecasts along the way, for when taking on outdoor events that span significant distances.
Web Roulette (free)
These days, most apps go for serious and mindful. Web Roulette instead recalls the playful spirit of the iPhone’s early days. A shake of your phone loads a random site, which – naturally – appears in an explosion of confetti. But this is no mere gimmick (well, bar the confetti): this app’s genuinely effective for bouncing between saved sites; and if you hanker for more control, you can swipe between favorites until your finger begs for mercy.