From a fantastic web browser to arguably the best radio app ever made, we take stock of the best wares sold through the App Store in the last 12 months.
1 Google Chrome
This year an excellent, established Google app seemingly breathed its last on the iOS platform when Google Maps was replaced by the much-derided Apple Maps as the iPhone's default mapping software. But happily Apple's animus with its rival didn't also see the removal of Google Chrome.
Like its desktop big brother, the mobile version of Chrome offers live results, unlimited tabs and a card-style interface for flipping through these that owes more than a little to the much-lamented webOS operating system.
Chrome for the iPhone also scores for allowing Gmail account holders to sign in to sync open tabs, bookmarks, passwords, and omnibox data from their desktop browser to their iPhone. And you’ve got Incognito mode too for those all-too-furtive searches.
2 BBC iPlayer Radio
As its name implies, this is like iPlayer but allows you to stream Aunty Beeb’s radio output. Quite apart from that, it’s beautifully designed with a dial to flip between stations, plus a deluge of video clips - when we last looked takes in 6Music’s ace, recent run of gigs at Maida Vale and music chat from the John Peel Lectures – and podcasts that you can access on-demand.
Better yet is that the BBC plans to equip future iterations of the app with support for downloads too.
3 The Night Sky
The number-one paid-for app in the reference category at the time of writing, The Night Sky allows you to hold your handset up to the sky and find out what constellations and planets you’re looking at.
Harnessing GPS and the app’s compass to map the cosmos, this is the kind of app that makes your mind boggle a bit. And makes all those no-brow flatulence and pint simulator apps seem even more tawdry than they did already.
As capital-dwellers will know, it’s often surprisingly difficult to find a central London pub showing football on TV. Especially if you’re dead set on avoiding a hellish sports bar.
MatchPint collates info and uses GPS to enable you to see which hostelries in your locality are screening the game you want to see, plus how many screens there are. There’s also the option to share your plans on Facebook so that your mates can nip down and join you and the chance to see photos of the interior of whatever spit and sawdust joint is your preferred venue for the evening.
5 Google Drive
This app lets you view and (after September’s update) edit files stored on your Google Drive cloud storage, so you can get to them at all times. 5GB of storage is provided free of charge. You can also choose files to be viewed offline, in case you need to attend to business in areas where phone reception is patchy. And you can search for files too.
6 BBC iPlayer 2.0
The iPlayer app has been on the iPhone for ages. So technically we’re cheating by including it on this year’s best-of list. However, we think the addition of the option to download and cache Auntie’s trove of shows is such a boon to enjoy sans Wi-Fi or 3G that it more than merits the iPlayer 2012 edition’s presence here.
7 Manga Camera
Manga Camera transmutes iPhone snaps into crisp, clean, monochrome manga-style images. And that’s it. That’s all it does. But it does it so well that pretty much anything you shoot ends up looking ace.
If we were of a mood to moan, we’d say it’s a shame you can’t use the front-facing camera. And it’s annoying that you can’t apply the manga effect to snaps in your existing library.
But that really would be churlish. What we love about this app most of all is that it enables you to put together good-looking but charmingly lo-fi comics with a few good ideas.
Problems with your ‘flow’? Don’t even trip. AutoRap takes everyday speech and turns it into rap. It also corrects bad rapping, so that even the most tweedy and square among us will have a chance in a rhyme-off.
A caveat: the autotuneness of your reheated rhymes, teamed by with backing tracks called things like Turkey Burgers, means you should forget about joining Rakim and Premier in the Hip-Hop hall of heroes. But this is still loads of fun.
This is a neat app that lets you animate parts of old photos to create often oddly beguiling GIF-style images. And because we’re apparently all hipsters/Hoxton Heroes nowadays, you also get to add charmingly old-fashioned Instagram-esque effects too.
10 Nokia Maps Here
There aren’t too many products or services from the House of Cupertino that could reasonably be called failures. But Apple Maps, with its litany of shortcomings, is one of them.
Nokia Maps Here is an ace alternative, offering a host of features that the stillborn Apple equivalent does not, including live traffic gen, plus voice-guided walking navigation and directions for public transport.