It’s that time of year again where developers all over the world cross their fingers and hold their hands at a chance to win the incredible coveted, sleek aluminum cube that Apple hands out to the winners of the annual Apple Design Awards.
The tech giant rates the apps by a series of items including functionality, design and delight to recognize the best and most innovative Macintosh and iOS software and hardware produced by independent developers. But while “independent” is a term of some debate (Evernote, Blizzard, Yahoo and NASA are among the previous winners), being awarded can mean an enormous amount of attention for an indie developer. For ADA title holders, the honor is not simply a nod of congratulations, but one that translates into direct revenue with increased downloads.
This year, Apple’s Design Awards seem to have been awarded mostly to apps that tick-off boxes in their marketing department’s PR priority list. Apps are given awards for “using metal on iOS” (Apple’s graphic programming API), for offering barebones Apple Watch app support, for supporting their new Force Touch trackpads, and for making innovative use of in-app purchases.
Still, there are a few gems in there, especially if you are a gamer. After giving the list a once-over, here are the apps we think are worth looking at:
The popular investment app we’ve covered many times on TechCrunch also won an ADA. The hook of Robinhood is that it allows you to buy and sell stocks quickly, and for free. Robinhood Markets was awarded the ADA for the app’s clean, content-centric design and balancing app branding with iOS design conventions. The clever way that Robinhood allows you to perform a simulated trade before signup was hailed.
Does Not Commute
This driving game by Mediocre, a 2-person team, is a strategy-based vehicular challenger. In racing games, a common gameplay mechanism is the idea of time trial. If you’ve ever played Mario Kart, you’ll know what we mean: as you race you see little ghosts of you best time racing along the track with you. Does not commute turns the game into a brilliant little narrative device. You can download it for iOS here.
Workflow by DeskConect, Inc.
There’s actually a bunch of apps that piece together other apps and services to create a dashboard of shortcuts for you, from IFTTT to Launcher. Workflow’s does the same thing, but with some nice little tweaks, like the ability to pin your shortcuts as icons on the iOS home screen. But Apple gave this app an award for paying attention to accessibility, and that’s the real reason we want to give it a shoutout here: it’s easy to design apps for people like you, but another thing entirely is to design a good app while having empathy for the color blind, the blind, and the handicapped, all of which Workflow does in various ways.
Shadowmatic by Trida Style.
With a visual aesthetic that looks like a Pixar film brought to life, Triada uses Apples’s advanced Metal API to create a game that is built around the concept of a shadowbox. To win you need to solve puzzles by exercising your sense of spatial awareness, twisting three-dimensional shapes until their shadows are the proper shape.
Fantastical 2 by Flexibits. The popular calendar app by Flexibits was hailed for its slick Mac app design and deep use of localization features. While Fantastical isn’t exactly a new app, the update to reskin it for Yosemite was awarded with an ADA. If you have a lot of meetings and appointments to handle there is nothing better. Fantastical’s killer feature is the ability for it to process your natural language to create calendar entries: type in “Doctor’s appointment every Thursday at 9am every three weeks starting June 1st” and Fantastical will do the rest.
These are HarborDev Talks personal favorites, you can check the rest of the winners out here.