There’s almost always an app for that, but with over a million apps on the Apple App Store, it can sometimes be hard to find the best of the best. Apple does the work for us every year with their App Store Awards, which showcase the best apps and games of the year.
As an app and game reviewer for more than a decade, I always look forward to checking out the awards list in search of titles I may have missed. This year, I found six that are particularly interesting and innovative, including two in the Cultural Impact category. Winners in this category are picked for their ability to drive positive change in the world. Following are my six picks from Apple’s App Store Awards 2023.
iPhone App of the Year: AllTrails
From hiking to mountain biking, AllTrails takes you places the standard Map app can’t, with a library of over 400,000 trails around the world, searchable by location, difficulty, and interest. It has some of the features you’ll find in running apps, such as tracking your activities and syncing with Apple Health, but stands out for its focus on getting off the beaten path. The app is free (with ads), but if you enjoy it, you’ll probably want to shell out for the AllTrails+ subscription, which lets you download or print trail maps so you can unplug and enjoy nature, as well as an emergency Lifeline feature to contact your loved ones in case of trouble.
Cost: Free with ads; subscribe to AllTrails+ for $35.99/year
Download AllTrails from Apple App Store
iPad App of the Year: Prêt-à-Makeup
Turn your iPad into a virtual glam squad with Prêt-à-Makeup, which lets you experiment with over 700 different beauty products to find the perfect style. Pick out a face template, break out your Apple Pencil (or use your finger or a stylus), and unleash your inner makeup artist. It’s a practical way to test out new colors and looks before hitting the beauty aisle, but frankly, it’s just fun to play with this many makeup options (without having to spend hundreds). This is another technically free app, but if you enjoy it, you’ll want to shell out for a subscription to enjoy all the options.
Cost: Free for basic features; subscribe for $8.99/month or $63.99/year to unlock full features
Download Prêt-à-Makeup from the Apple App Store
Mac App of the Year: Photomator
Photomator manages to stand out in a crowded field of photo editing apps because of the AI-powered tools that make it easy to reimagine your photos. You can make complicated edits with natural-looking results in just a few clicks, without any image editing skills. You can automatically select parts of your photo and easily change the lighting, remove unwanted objects, match the color between photos, and make a lot of other alterations that really make your photos pop. And while Apple named Photomator its Mac App of the Year, one of its standout features is that it also runs on iPhone and iPad for easy editing wherever you happen to be.
Cost: $99.99 one-time purchase or subscribe for $4.99/month or $29.99/year
Download Photomater from the Apple App Store
iPhone Game of the Year: Honkai: Star Rail
Honkai: Star Rail is the latest game from the popular Genshin Impact developer HoYoverse, and it shares a lot of the same features as its predecessor. The game boasts an engaging storyline with a myriad of heroes to recruit and fight alongside. Unlike Genshin, Star Rail is set in a science-fiction universe with a more satisfying tactical, turn-based combat system that highlights the depth of its characters and narrative. However, it's worth noting that this is a typical gacha game, which means it's free to play but offers many opportunities to enhance your progress and collect additional characters by spending real money. Nevertheless, you can still enjoy the game's storyline without spending a single penny.
Cost: Free to play with microtransactions
Download Honkai: Star Rail from the Apple App Store
Cultural Impact: Proloquo
This easy-to-use accessibility app allows nonspeaking people to easily communicate using augmentative and alternative communication (AAC). The interface features large, color-coded icons with graphics and text, arranged so it’s easy to form sentences and express ideas, which the app speaks aloud. With an extensive language library, Proloquo is adaptable for people of any age, from early childhood to adulthood, so it’s a lifelong communication tool. A companion app, Proloquo Coach, is also available to help parents learn about AAC, giving the whole family the skills they need to support their loved ones. It’s a real leap forward for AAC tools.
Cost: Subscribe for $9.99/month or $99.99/year
Download Proloquo from the Apple App Store
Cultural Impact: Unpacking
This game may seem like an odd title to get a cultural impact award, but Unpacking isn’t a traditional game. There is nothing to fight, no timers to beat, and no high score to achieve; instead, it’s a sort of meditative experience where you unpack boxes and arrange items in a new home. As you move from one space to the next, you follow the story of an individual throughout their life, starting with a childhood bedroom and going from there. It’s a unique narrative experience with no dialog, only soothing music, and puzzle-like gameplay as you put items where they belong.
Download Unpacking from the Apple App Store
Want even more top-tier apps? Check out the full list of this year’s App Store Awards.
[Image credit: Apple]