With over 1.5 million different apps available across the differing mobile and tablet platform ecosystems out there today, everyone - and I do mean everyone - has their list of best apps, must-have apps, and great new apps you can’t live without.
Today, however, I’m going to take a look at 10 iPhone apps for their form, not their function: apps with gorgeous designs, attention to detail, and the oft-forgotten ease of use that we all crave.
Evernote is a simple, effective tool for managing everything from basic notes to yourself to multi-user documents across a number of platforms and services. Its interface is polished and without bloat, and the app is responsive and uncomplicated when navigating on mobile or tablet variants.
Ridiculous Fishing - A fun, frenetic, and fluid game experience
This megahit game is gorgeous, hilarious, and a phenomenal example of how an organic, intuitive layout and great style can make something as basic as an accelerometer game feel fluid and impressive. Winner of a 2013 Apple Design Award, Ridiculous Fishing put its emphasis on color, style, and simplicity.
National Parks by National Geographic - Well curated photography and guides
National Geographic put this beautiful iOS app out with all of their travel guides and phenomenal photos of 25 national parks in the United States. The interactive maps with points of interest, curated photos (including rare vintage National Geographic shots), and tips for activities and photo opportunities of your own are all high quality, with subtle transitions and other touches of finish that users will appreciate.
Golfscape - Strong application of augmented reality
Sometimes, doing something clever with an otherwise uninteresting or underwhelming feature is noteworthy. Golfscape applies this logic to over 35,000 golf courses worldwide, using a combination of heads-up augmented reality (AR) and GPS data to help you look at what’s around the bend on your favorite par 5. The app has one of the smoother AR implementations out there, and is a strong example of how to apply it without being ostentatious or unnecessary.
Letterpress - Animations and smooth feedback in a hard to put down word game!
Simplicity drives the smooth, enjoyable animations of this inspired, hard to put down iOS game. The rules of the Letterpress become intuitive and apparent through interface alone, and the functionality of the game coincides beautifully with the timing of its various effects. Load times may feel somewhat exaggerated by the animations, but the quickly resolving details of the individual games and navigation quickly make that lone blemish go unnoticed.
Overcast - Less buttons to push, better behind the scenes features
Not all things interface are how they appear. The strength of Overcast is not just in its customizable smart playlists, sleep timers, or other features, but in how the app brings you ease of use with features like Smart Speed and Voice Boost to normalize your audio equalization, without you as a user having to muck around with it yourself. Rather than burden the user with this task, Overcast takes care of it behind the scenes - a brilliant interface design decision.
YouTube - The world’s best video service, with excellent use of gesture controls
Hard not to include one of the big fish in the sea on a list like this. The mobile YouTube experience, regardless of platform, is robust, easy to use, and a pleasure in terms of interaction. Dragging to minimize (but allow to keep running!) or swiping to close are just a few of the ways that the design team at Google have made sure that YouTube is eminently usable on touchscreen devices. The personal features - playlists, subscriptions, etc. - are all available easily at any time, as is an immensely responsive search utility. The incredible experience is obviously enhanced by Google’s lightning-fast servers and a strong connection to appreciate them over, but the app’s design only further enhances the whole package.
Flipboard - Custom news curation with the cathartic feel of flipping pages
I would be remiss to discuss ease of use and simple UI without a hat tip to Flipboard, the de facto go-to in personal news and social media story aggregation. With nearly five years of work behind them, the once-iPad only app is now a multi-platform behemoth in modern design, allowing users to quickly find the content they’re interested in and enjoy smooth, seamless ‘flips’ through pages and portals tailored to their personal taste. It was Apple’s iPad App of the Year in 2010, and continues to impress alongside contemporary competitors.
Enlight - A brilliant new marriage of multiple photo editing functionalities all in one
Enlight is the new hotness in photo editing and manipulation, and combines a wide range of features you’ve probably come to enjoy across half a dozen other photography applications into one really slick setup. Feature-rich, Enlight retains the simplicity of some of its predecessors in its ease of use and layout, while simultaneously giving power users a bit more control when or where they want it. A lack of layering and some other minor preference points dock it somewhat in the truly devoted photo editors’ books, but on the whole, it’s a can’t-miss addition to the iOS photo editing suite.
It feels like this one almost goes without saying. For those who don’t remember the fiasco that was the iOS 6 launch where Apple replaced Google’s partnered mapping services with their own, the ensuing three or so month window until Google Maps was re-allowed as a standalone app was harrowing at best, and basically awful at worst. Google Maps is king in part due to its phenomenal data and beastly servers, but a simple interface and easy-to-access range of controls for varying types of directions and turn-by-turn navigation make this app the world over’s preference for maps.
There are dozens of other beautiful apps across the varying platforms and operating systems out there, with great features and functionality, but these 10 are great examples of how design can shape an app’s success or failure as much as how well it runs.
Did we miss an interface fave of yours? Let us know in the Comments!