Apps of the year – the best apps of 2012

It’s been a vintage year for apps and we’ve seen some of the best software become available on tablets and smartphones, but which have impressed us enough to get on our list of the best apps of 2012?

Google Maps for iPhone

iPhone users can once again use Google Maps

Google Maps for iPhone – best mapping app

Free from the Apple App Store

2012 ended on a high for iPhone users with the release of Google Maps for iPhone. This not only restored much missed features like Street View to the iPhone but also added features that had been missing before Apple removed it with iOS 6. In fact, it’s now arguably better than the Maps on Google’s own operating system Android.

Read our Google Maps for iPhone review to find out more.

Onavo Count – best data tracking app

Free to download from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store

Keeping track of how much data you are using is difficult and finding out exactly which app is using what is almost impossible, but thankfully there’s Onavo Count. This app gives you all this information, as well as warning you about well known data hogging apps and letting you set data limits on your phone. We’re also very happy to see that since our review, the app is now also available for iPhone users so they too can keep an eye on their data use.

For more information read our Onavo Count review.

Swiftkey 3

Swiftkey makes typing on a touchscreen less of a pain

Swiftkey 3 – best keyboard app

£2.99 from the Google Play Store

Typing on touchscreens still isn’t the ideal way of writing out long messages and anything that can speed this up and make the process less painful is bound to be a winner. Swiftkey 3 is by far the best alternative keyboard we have seen providing good corrections and almost spooky predictions of what it thinks you are going to say. Plus, the more you use it the more it learns about the way you write and improves its predictions.

We reviewed the previous version, Swiftkey X, but the latest version Swiftkey 3 is just as good and adds some new features.

Explore Shakespeare – best learning app

£9.99 on the iPad from the Apple App Store

It might be a little bit more expensive than your usual app but the Explore Shakespeare offers a huge amount of content. As well as including a full text of a Shakespeare play (at the moment either Romeo and Juliet or Macbeth) you also get academic notes to go with the play, photos of previous productions, interactive tools and exercises and an audio performance of the play from big name actors. It’s a brilliant tool for reluctant and enthusiastic Shakespeare students alike and a glance at what education may be like in the future.

Read our Explore Shakespeare on the iPad review for more information.

BBC iPlayer with downloads – best TV app

Free from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store (downloads to be available on the Android version soon)

It’s been a long time coming but iPhone and iPad users can now download BBC shows in the iPlayer app for watching later. This is great news and means you can download shows while you have a wi-fi signal and then watch them out and about without endangering your 3G allowance or being frustrated by a lack of signal. The BBC claims that this feature will soon be available for Android as well, but we’re still waiting for the moment.

Find out more about it in our BBC iPlayer allows downloads post.

Brushes 3

Brushes can be used to make real works of art

Brushes 3 – best art app

Free from the Apple App Store

There’s lots of apps for saving time, or just simply wasting time, but this one can be used to create something new. A painting app for the iPad, Brushes gives the user a huge amount of control over the type of brush stroke you use and the colour palate so you can create real texture in your digital painting. Used by famous artist David Hockney no less, it’s a wonderfully rich app, especially considering its free.

Find out what David Hockney thinks of Brushes in our tech podcast, or read our Brushes 3 review for more information.

Honourable mentions

But we’ve also seen some other great apps throughout the year so here are some of our other picks from 2012.

  • Barclays Pingit – Transfer your money using your mobile phone
  • HotUKDeals – Find great deals online
  • TripIt – A great travel companion to keep your info safe and to hand
  • BBC Olympics – Not much use anymore, but an essential during the Games

More on this…

4 replies

  1. I agree with you about Swiftkey 3 keyboards. I use both the tablet version (on Nexus 7) and mobile version (on Samsung S2). It really does make predictive texting look positively prehistoric and makes serious enhancements to the use of the devices.

    I wish they make a similar device for desktop typing for standard keyboards (just the predictive inputting bar rather than a complete on screen keyboard).

  2. These are some great apps! I started using TripIt after a DISH coworker of mine recommended it, and I can’t imagine booking a trip without it. Another favorite app of mine for use during travel right now is the DISH Remote Access app. It lets me watch live AND recorded shows off my home receiver, using just my iPad, no matter where in the world I am. As long as I get a 3G or wifi connection, I’m good to go! It’s perfect for killing time while I wait to board my plane.

  3. What an utter bollocks collection of apps, this is one of the places which is going wrong, they simply don’t have the expertise/resources to properly investigate and recoomend, they would serve their members far better if they either invited better qualified individuals to recommend, there is certainly plenty of free android advice out there, or signposted readers to independent expert sites.

    We are not being well served by this crap.

  4. Agree about Swiftkey (and it makes a compelling reason for using Android rather than iOS with its 20th century keyboard) but I also love the swipe keyboard in Android 4.2 (it came with 4.2 on Nexus, presumably the same is true of other Android devices).

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