At their silliest, apps are nothing more than a distraction for those moments when you are stuck waiting in line for something. At their best, they have the power to change the world. As corny as that may sound, as the mobile app ecosystem gets more and more mature, it has increasingly become one of the most exciting parts of the technology industry to see grow.
If 2013 was any proof, developers aren’t yet running out of ideas of how to make your mobile device the most powerful tool in the world. Here are the 15 best apps from 2013 that will carry you into 2014:
TuneMob is basically an app that broadcasts your music through multiple iDevices by using them as Bluetooth speakers. Instead of bringing a single, blocky speaker to a small house party, you could team up everyone’s iPhones and iPads into a septet of party speakers. Despite that TuneMob doesn’t function on devices older than an iPhone 4s or iPad 3, if you can get the maximum of seven iDevices playing at the same time, you’ll be sure to get some attention at your next party. -Kevin Lee
In terms of design, Nike+ Move is a gorgeous app, despite how limited it is. The app is split between six screens, each of which give you different pieces of data based on the Fuel points you build up throughout the day. One gives you a bar graph of your weekly data versus past weeks while another will show you where on the map you’ve been moving, while still yet another will show you a leaderboard for people in your area who are counting up their Fuel points.
Level Money is a new, free budget-tracking app that’s a lot simpler than your average banking app—and really quite elegant. Instead of focusing on data visualizations for as many stats as possible, it gives people what they really want to know: How much money do I have right now, and would buying this new phone put me in the red?
What Haze does might seem pretty standard, but the thing that really separates Haze from the host of weather apps out there is its beautiful design and intuitive user interface. The themes paint the backgrounds of each screen in gorgeous pastel shades (more of which can be unlocked the more Haze is used). A tug on the screen reveals the five-day forecast (and your current location if you tug a little further), while pulling up will refresh the numbers. The focus on gestures feels intuitive in the same way that apps like Clear or even Mailbox do. Throw in some really great sound effects and you’ve got an app that feels great to just move around in.
Bubbli is an app that lets users capture a full 360 image of their surroundings. While creating these bubbles isn’t as easy as I wish it was, the end product is always astounding. Each bubble transports you to the photographer’s location and lets you explore it from every angle. The tutorial and set up could be a little smoother, but that won’t keep this app from wowing your friends.
The best iOS calendar app available launched early this year as really good and ended the year as seriously beautiful. Sunrise intuitively pulls in the most important information from places like Facebook, Google Calendar, and wherever else you store important dates. With its great iOS 7 refresh later in the year, Sunrise remains the only calendar app that I consistently used in 2013.
OkDoThis is a pretty unique take on the social media photo app. Rather than be content wading in an endless stream of “me-too” programs, it attempts to actually inspire people to better their skills and go out and do stuff. In the process you may find that you’re better at the craft than you once thought, which is pretty magical, in my opinion. -Chris Carter
Although the Yahoo! Weather app isn’t exactly new, it’s beautiful and innovative 2013 update makes it more than worth a mention here. Pulling in pictures from Flickr (an entity that Yahoo! now owns), the Yahoo! Weather app makes flipping through cities and different weather conditions a lot more exciting than I thought a weather app could be.
Not only is Traktor DJ the best DJ app available for the iPad, it’s one of the best music production apps to ever be released in the App Store. Rethinking what kind of a touch-centric UI might best suit a DJ app, the Traktor DJ gives users just enough depth without requiring them to be a professional DJ to have some fun.
Kindle is the iTunes of the book publishing world, but Oyster is its Spotify. This beautiful app has a ways to go before it nails the social, discovery, and accessibility aspects that Spotify does so well, but when it comes to giving you access to a large digital library of books for a monthly subscription fee, there is just nothing out there like Oyster.
Tweetbot is a great looking Twitter client with gesture-based controls and more than a handful of features that make tweeting less of a chore. Even without schedulable tweets, Tweetbot 3 seems like the go-to Twitter app for iOS—especially with the promise of additional features just around the corner. -Kevin Lee
IFTTT has been around for the better part of a year as a web service, but the new app on iPhone (with an Android version coming soon) gives you the power to automate your digital life on the go. It takes a lot of initial setup but once you get going, your mobile life will never be the same. -Kevin Lee
The idea of transferring your life and work to a new mobile mail app might seem like an unnecessary headache. I can understand that. As someone who was anxious for a reason to ditch Apple’s and Google’s solutions, even I was hesitant about clearing out my inbox and letting Mailbox dump years and years worth of my personal and professional email into a folder I wasn’t used to ever opening. However, the successful purging of my inbox was worth it. Mailbox really has changed the way I use email. Perhaps without trying to be, it’s become one of the most effective productivity apps I’ve ever used.
While the app itself isn’t a huge innovation, the service behind it is as empowering as the original Square credit card readers when they launched back in 2010. Square Cash is an extremely simple way to transfer money from one person to another, all based on email and all completely free. No other service does money transfers this seamlessly and splitting the bill at dinner will never be the same.
There is very little room for an extra social media network in people’s lives—so when one makes as big a splash as Vine did this year, you know it’s got something special going. Despite competition from Instagram and Facebook, Vine has provided a platform for short video capturing and sharing that has turned every moment into a .gif-able moment. With over 40 million users, Vine has quickly become the most significant social media network since Snapchat or Instagram.