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12 Best iPhone, iPad Apps Of 2012

Dec 10, 2012 (06:12 AM EST)

Read the Original Article at http://www.informationweek.com/news/showArticle.jhtml?articleID=240144053


Is it really possible to pick the top dozen apps from more than 700,000 candidates? Let's just say it's a challenge, particularly when you're not focusing on a particular genre -- like, say, 3-D holographic coupon apps. Then again, there's nothing like a "best of" list to spur a spirited debate, complete with name calling, wild accusations and possibly even a virtual fistfight.

To choose this year's best iOS apps, we focused mostly business/enterprise tools, particularly those with relatively widespread appeal. Most of the apps we chose are work-oriented, but they're also useful when you're off-duty as well -- good news for the consumerization of IT beneficiaries who bring their iPhones and iPads to work. Another key criterion: The winning chosen apps didn't necessarily need to debut in 2012; rather, they had to fulfill a need common to a sizable percentage of the mobile computing crowd.

For example, one of the Top 12 apps provides a compelling alternative for motorists who've bailed on Apple's iOS 6 Maps app, which was a tad buggy when it debuted in September. Another winner provides a solid cloud storage solution for small and large businesses. And a third member of the Top 12 is particularly handy when you're traveling in a foreign country but can't speak the local language.

Our picks include a mix of free and paid apps. Users, of course, prefer free apps by a wide margin. A recent Gartner study shows that free apps will account for nearly 90% of total mobile app store downloads in 2012. Interestingly, user preference for free apps is expected to grow in the coming years. In fact, Gartner predicts that 93% of mobile app downloads will be free by 2016.

Now that Android has more or less caught up with iOS in the app numbers race -- each platform has more than 700,000 apps and counting -- the marketing emphasis will no doubt refocus on app quality rather than quantity. Apple arguably still has the edge in this area, particularly when it comes to tablet-specific apps and aesthetic appeal. For an iPad user, one of the joys of browsing the App Store is the ability to find a tablet-optimized version of the app you want. That's not always the case, of course, but it's far more common than on the Android side of things.

Click through the slideshow below to see the top 12 iOS apps of 2012. And feel free to name your own top picks below.




Task management apps are common fare, and iOS's Reminders app does a decent job of managing your day-to-day affairs. But Any.DO is a step up from your average to-do list. Gesture controls let you strike through (i.e., cross off) items with a simple swipe of the finger, and you can shake your device to remove all completed tasks. Voice input makes it easy to add tasks without fiddling with a screen keyboard. Interestingly, Any.DO's clean, intuitive interface has much more in common with Microsoft's Modern UI (formerly "Metro") than with iOS's much-maligned skeuomorphic design. And that's a good thing.

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If you're the social media maven for a small business, HootSuite is a convenient way to manage all your social profiles in one place. The free basic version supports a variety of social media services, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Foursquare. You can post updates immediately or schedule them for later, translate messages to/from more than 50 languages, track message click statistics by date and country and comment on Facebook posts, among other things. HootSuite Pro users ($10/month) get unlimited social profiles and additional analytics tools; the Enterprise version (price varies) adds advanced security and analytics, geo-targeting, and other professional services.

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Your flight is delayed and you're stuck in the terminal for who knows how long. So grab a Cinnabon, break out the iPad and do a little mind-mapping with CMS's iThoughtsHD, an $11 app for organizing ideas, information and random thoughts. Dozens of icons, clipart images and background patterns help you organize your thoughts visually; you can drag and drop associations between topics. The Doodle feature is great for freeform drawing too. The iPad's Retina display (3rd- and 4th-generation) is particularly well-suited to iThoughtsHD's visually-oriented brainstorming.

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Soon after Apple foisted its lousy iOS 6 Maps app on the public, CEO Tim Cook publicly apologized for the debacle and suggested that Apple users try several mapping alternatives instead. One of those apps was Waze, a navigation tool that uses crowdsourced traffic information to deliver the latest updates on accidents, congestion, speed traps, red light cameras and gas prices in your area. Waze also provides spoken turn-by-turn driving directions, and can reroute you to less busy thoroughfares. On the downside, it lacks other information you may expect from a mapping app, such as walking directions and public transportation schedules. And given its crowdsourcing ways, Waze probably isn't the best choice for sparsely populated rural areas.

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Hey, what's a game doing here if this is slideshow is all about serious work apps? Well, you've got to take a break every now and then, and Gameday's Doors&Rooms is a great time-waster. This claustrophobic brain-twister has managed to be both hugely popular -- check out its stellar ratings on both iTunes and Google Play -- while flying under the radar, at least in terms of media coverage.

Doors&Rooms is simple yet strangely compelling. You're a prisoner in a locked, windowless room -- possibly awaiting some form of grisly interrogation -- and you must find a way to escape. A tap here or there reveals objects or clues that may help you open the door; once you escape, the next stage has you back in the same room, but with a different set of challenges.

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Which cloud storage app is best? Dropbox, with its great sharing tools and support for multiple computing platforms, is arguably the best choice for consumers. But Box for iPhone and iPad is a better choice for business and enterprise users, particularly if you need powerful collaboration and security features. Box's $15 a month plan provides a cavernous 1,000 GB of storage as well as full text search, download statistics and tracking and many other business-friendly features; the enterprise version adds a slew of administrative tools, including Salesforce.com integration and mobile device management. The Box app also lets you secure information with file-level encryption, a 4-digit passcode and automatic logout when the app is closed.

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Does Wikipedia really need its own app? After all, it's easy enough to launch Safari (or your browser of choice) and go to the Wikipedia site. But for frequent users of the world's favorite crowdsourced encyclopedia, the free Wikipanion app has its advantages. For starters, its well-organized interface is easier to browse than the Wikipedia site. And the app's iPad version displays a table of contents in landscape mode, which makes it easy jump to subsections within an article. Created by developer Robert Chin, Wikipanion also has $5 paid version with additional features, including a queue mode to manage the pages you want to read next, and the ability to save pages (with images) for later reading offline.

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The universal translator remains in the realm of science fiction, but Google Translate is a decent (if relatively rudimentary) alternative for international travelers seeking basic information in foreign lands. This free app translates text between 64 languages. With 17 of those languages, you can speak a word or phrase instead of typing it. And in 24 languages, you can listen to your translations spoken aloud. Google Translate may not replace UN translators anytime soon, but it's a handy way to ask for directions to the nearest railway station.

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Signing electronic documents can be a hassle, particularly if the tedious process involves faxing, printing, scanning or other artifacts of 20th-century technology. The good news is that numerous iOS apps allow you to sign a variety of documents, including PDF, MS Word and HTML files, with either a finger or stylus. SignNow (pictured) and SignEasy are two such examples, and each comes in free and paid versions. These apps are particularly handy when you're on the road (with your iPhone and iPad) and need to sign financial contracts, sales agreements, marriage or divorce papers or other legal docs.

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CloudOn (pictured) brings Microsoft Office programs, including Word, Excel and PowerPoint, to your iPad. It plays well with cloud storage providers such as Box, Dropbox and Google Drive, allowing you to open, rename and delete files stored on those services. It also includes Adobe Reader and a file viewer for opening popular file formats, including PDF, JPG, PNG and GIF. CloudOn has its competitors, of course, including Onlive Desktop, a virtual Windows desktop for the iPad, which also includes Windows 7-based versions of MS Office's big three apps.

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