As the explosive trajectory of smartphones adoption approaches an asymptote, mobile apps are riding high. Once an unassuming term for a curious, smallish sort of phone program, the app is now king. It’s almost impossible to now imagine otherwise.
In this mobile-first era, apps make headlines, precipitate stock slumps and altogether define an industry that didn’t see them coming a mere six years ago when Apple released the App Store. Here is our list of the most important apps of 2013. These are not necessarily the fan favorites, but they were the headline drivers, movers and shakers that helped define the app economy in 2013 and beyond.
Comparing Google’s predictive data brain to Siri is to sell it short. Google Now had its humble beginnings on Android back in 2012 (the Google search team was working on it in 2011 as well), but in 2013 the service sneaked onto the iPhone through the Google Search app. With progressive updates, Google Now just gets better and better, serving up flight updates, package tracking info and local suggestions before you even know you need them. Google thinks that Now is going to be the future of search, delivering you information before you realize that you need it. Adding that capability to just about every smartphone could be pretty big.
The tide of wearable devices is nowhere near its crest, but apps aren’t waiting around for hardware to catch up. Many mobile fitness mavens have already put the iPhone 5S’s M7 motion coprocessor to good use. For more casual use, Nike+ Move provides an excellent snapshot of your daily habits. The app counts “NikeFuel,” Nike’s own sort of fitness currency, rather than calories or steps, which makes it the perfect gateway app into fitness tech. More serious athletes should check out Strava Run, Nike+ Running, Argus, MyTracks by Google and RunKeeper to take it to the next level, no buggy wearable accessory required.
Arguably the killer app for Google Glass, Word Lens translates foreign text into your native language right before your eyes—literally. For anyone brave enough to wear Glass on trips abroad, this app could revolutionize travel. (The rest of us can stick to Word Lens for our smartphones.)
The buzz around Twitter’s micro-video app didn’t last very long into the year, but Vine’s ultra-shareable 6-second micro-videos shook up the social app landscape nonetheless. It even prompted Instagram to branch into video, though we still think 15 seconds is 11 seconds too long.
Uber’s been around, but it really only exploded into proper verb territory this year. (“Are you going to Uber home later?”) Uber allows user to summon a private car directly to their location. Uber translates digital ease into three dimensions in a way that only truly disruptive technology can. As controversial as it is useful, Uber has battled city governments and unions across the United States ... and won. Uber is helping to change the definition of urban transportation. Its surge pricing is borderline scandalous and ReadWrite never got the kitten it was promised, but there’s no denying that Uber made major waves in 2013.