BEST OF 2017
Trends of the year
Welcome to the App Store Best of 2017, our editors' celebration of the most interesting and important apps, games and trends in app culture – and of the developers behind them.
This year, we identified four breakout trends that we're excited to share with you.
This year, millions of iPhone and iPad users around the world got access to the groundbreaking technology known as AR (augmented reality).
AR has the potential to fundamentally change how we interact with the world around us by blending digitally rendered objects with our environment. The screen of your iOS device becomes a window into the AR world, where you interact with virtual objects in ways never before possible. Best of all, the tech doesn't require special glasses or accessories.
Developers have already created hundreds of apps and games, ranging from the practical to the fantastic.
On the more functional side, there's IKEA Place, which lets you see how the company's furniture will look and fit in your home before you buy. The medical-education app Insight Heart provides doctors, students and patients with an uncannily realistic model of the human heart.
The fun hologram app Holo plays a more whimsical role. Use it to insert zany characters and animals into the videos you've taken. My Very Hungry Caterpillar AR brings the classic children’s book to life, wherever you are. Watch as he hatches from an egg and crawls around, exploring your world.
And with the introduction of AR, gaming will never be the same. Mammoth Golf AR has you putt-putting your way through caveman-themed stages, while Zombie Gunship Revenant AR uses the technology to create a visceral, thermal-vision view from a helicopter cockpit as you fend off waves of zombies.
Zombie Gunship Revenant AR
Augmented Reality Zombie War
Holograms in Augmented Reality
The human heart expedition
Mammoth Mini Golf AR
Stone Age fun in AR
My Very Hungry Caterpillar AR
Explore the world together
Guide to the Sky Above
Player Piano 3D
Discover, Learn and Create
2. Real-time competition
Nothing beats the thrill of head-to-head competition, and this year the App Store became home to some of the most-played multiplayer games in the world.
Starting with the updates – and reigning champions of competitive play – Clash Royale mixed things up with an incredibly popular 2v2 team battle, and events like Touchdown mode. And with Hearthstone's Knights of the Frozen Throne expansion, Blizzard continues to set the pace for card battle games everywhere.
But it was the sheer amount of new experiences that made this our definitive 2017 trend.
The Elder Scrolls: Legends presented a beautifully-crafted ode to Bethesda's age-old franchise. Wave based battle game Red Tides and Star Wars: Force Arena both brought a fresh take on the strategy genre, blending impressive visuals with quick-fix multiplayer bouts.
For shooter fans, two games paved the way: Guns of Boom mixed 3D Touch and ultra-simple controls to create an intuitive way to battle with friends, even adding in an AR mode to watch the action from any angle. And if you love shooting and driving, Crash of Cars ticks both boxes – destroy or be destroyed as you race to be the first to collect the most crowns.
Whether you're a seasoned player or new to gaming, 2017 has been full of great games to help you get competitive.
Meditation and mindfulness have been particularly front of mind for us this year. There's been a spotlight on the benefits of regularly taking time out to check in with ourselves, to help attain balance and bring a calmer perspective to our lives.
Never before have we seen such a surge in apps focused specifically on meditation, mindfulness and stress reduction.
The popular guided meditation app Headspace introduced major updates this year, including new SOS sessions for feelings of overwhelm and anger, complementing their raft of guided mediations for kids, sport, sleep and so much more.
The creators of the app Lake: Artists' Coloring Books tackled de-stressing, offering an ever-changing selection of drawings that you can colour in – which is perhaps the most accessible meditation of all.
The Australian developed Smiling Mind app helps make guided mediation widely accessible, with programs for children, teens and adults. Topics range from general calmness to productivity, mindful eating to emotions, as well as programs for schools, sports enthusiasts and the workplace.
4. Watch on-the-go
Browse it, choose it, want it, buy it. Stream it, watch it, pause, rewind it.
2017 has seen us accessing a world of video content at our finger tips, and not just from the comfort of our living rooms. Through an ever-growing suite of streaming and subscription video on demand (SVOD) apps, you can now watch what you want, when you want, or stream live from wherever you are.
There was a time, not long ago, when not having cable TV meant missing out on the majority of shows available. But now, thanks to great TV apps like the ones listed below, it's: "No cable? – No worries!"
This year, award winning shows like The Crown on Netflix have increased awareness of the great quality and breadth of content readily available outside of terrestrial TV and cable.
Some apps also let you download shows to watch later, when you might not have connectivity; expanding the content available to you and making long flights and other times away from Wi-Fi that bit more enjoyable.
In New Zealand, these 'video on demand' apps are leading the charge with excellent content offerings. So go ahead, download whichever take your fancy and watch your viewing options explode. Just don't blame your next unstoppable TV binge session on us!