Every year, with more powerful hardware and better tools come better and more powerful apps. With the dawn of Ice Cream Sandwich and its massive adoption in 2012, these apps also got a helluva lot easier on the eyes, many starting to look absolutely gorgeous. 2012 brought along some fantastic apps, many innovative ones and many inspired or even brought to us by Google itself. Here is a list of my top 5 apps of 2012.
There has been no shortage of photo editing apps on Android. And despite the many good apps, they’ve either been badly designed, weak on manual editing, or expensive. I mean, we had some damn good apps like Pixlr-o-matic, but there was never enough manual control. Then came Snapseed.
Originating as an award winning iPad app, Google purchased it and eventually made it free on iOS. They also released it on Android completely free. If you have an Android device with Ice Cream Sandwich or higher, you can download the app and start editing photos.
The beauty of this app isn’t in the built in filters. It isn’t even in the deep, manual control over every aspect of the photo (though that’s a big part of it). It’s the intuitive UI. The editing is based on gestures, up and down selecting the aspect you want to edit and left and right actually changing that aspect.
You also have editing of specific spots instead of the entire photo. And you can change any aspect to make your photo look how you want it. it’s both advanced and so intuitive you never get lost. And considering it’s free, I really do think this is one of the best apps of 2012.
Play Store: Snapseed (Free)
4. Apex/Nova Launcher
What’s the first thing you see when you unlock your phone? The launcher of course. And with Ice Cream Sandwich bringing a new UI to Android, it also brought a beautiful new launcher. However, as every stock launcher in the history of launchers, it had its limits and many people wanted more. Thus both Apex and Nova launcher were created.
Both launchers are based on Ice Cream Sandwich/Jelly Bean code, and are only for devices with Android 4.0 and up. They look stock but have a ton of customization options, such as icon pack support, theme support, and basically anything you can possibly think of. They do this while remaining smooth and beautiful, very similar to the stock launcher. They make any device more enjoyable to use, especially devices with overlays, like Sense or TouchWiz.
The reason I mention both is that they are very similar. I have both installed, and it’s very difficult to choose. Aside from taking slightly different approaches to some features, they look, function, and even get updated similarly. Give both a try before buying a paid license for one or both of them!
3. Granny Smith
I like mobile games, but I tend to play them a bit then drop them. I don’t think I’ve ever fully finished a mobile game, no matter how “console-like” or casual. They could never draw me in enough to play for a long time, and they were never memorable enough for me to remember I still have them. Eventually I found my exception.
Granny Smith, unlike any other game, has perfected the art of addiction. When people raved about Temple Run, I played it a few times and dropped it. During the massive obsession with Angry Birds, I never got past the third world. With Granny Smith, on the other hand, I made it my life goal to finish. And finish it I did, after playing it everywhere I could. At my desk, in a plane, in a whole different state, it didn’t matter. I just wanted to play it.
The gameplay is overwhelmingly simple. You play as a granny on roller skates trying to get her apples before a little thief of a kid does. You have two buttons. One jumps (and when held makes you spin), and one extends your cane. Your cane is used to slide down pipes and power lines. It sounds easy, and it’s incredibly easy at first, but it gets really difficult towards the end. The graphics and art style are beautiful and charming, it runs great on even older devices, and it’s nothing short of fantastic. Do yourself a favor and buy this game.
2. Falcon Pro
If you’re an avid Twitter user like me, finding the perfect Twitter client is an endless quest. I’ve gone through countless Twitter apps, keeping some, uninstalling many others. The closest I ever came to the perfect Twitter app was Plume, but even then I wasn’t 100% happy. But Falcon Pro has finally replaced Plume, making it my favorite Twitter client.
I take my Twitter very seriously. You can follow me, but I don’t take my tweets very seriously. Just my Twitter experience. Falcon Pro is probably the closest to perfect any Android Twitter client has ever reached. It’s gorgeous, fast, smooth, and functional. It even has some really nice animations that don’t hurt functionality.
This app has no free version, but a dollar won’t kill you. It’s a fantastic app with a great and fairly innovative user interface. Give it a try sometime!
Play Store: Falcon Pro ($0.99)
1. SwiftKey 3
My number one choice, by a longshot, is SwiftKey 3 Keyboard. Though SwiftKey itself was released before 2012, it was updated to “3″ this year, and that’s when I finally fell in love with it. Call me late, but 3 was the first version that really worked for me. And it works great. With a lot of options, an incredible prediction engine that learns over time, and some sharp accuracy, it’s been my keyboard choice for a long time now.
The longer you use it, the more it learns. It will start finishing your sentences without you having to hit a single key. It’s scary accurate at times and it’ll really make typing faster. The only time I ever left SwiftKey was when I was busy and needed to text fast with one hand. I’d switch to Swype for that. However, that is no longer an issue.
SwiftKey announced a new feature called SwiftKey Flow. It allows continuous input, a lot like Swype. Using the beta, I couldn’t be much happier. Be warned: the beta has bugs and is occasionally really stupid, but works great 95% of the time. However, the final product should be just as refined and amazing as the current SwiftKey 3.
They also have a tablet version of the keyboard, and while I don’t quite like to use it, you should definitely give it a go. They have free versions of both of the keyboards, and the paid versions are currently 50% off for the holidays!
Just a year ago, Android apps were mostly ugly and styled like Gingerbread (or even worse, Froyo). Now look at the most popular apps. With redesigned UIs embracing the beauty and versatility of Holo, the Android app world is changing fast. Throw in much better tablet support, and the Android ecosystem is almost nothing like it was last year. The only similarity is that it continues to be open. 2012 was a year of many great new apps, and may many more be released in the future.