2013 was an amazing year for applications. We saw some truly amazing Android apps come out along with new standards in design, video games, and quality. So which ones were the best, the worst, and the most controversial? You can check the video above if you’d rather watch or keep going if you’d rather read it!
First up is the best designed app of the year, which we gave to Osmos HD. The game itself is a puzzle game where you must absorb motes that are smaller than you so you can grow and absorb larger motes. It’s $1.99 in the Google Play Store right now.
Why did we choose it? Because it’s simply beautiful. The motes are colorful and vibrant, the game play is challenging and intense, but slow and relaxing at the same time. Add in the atmospheric music and it’s the nerd-gamer equivalent to taking a bubble bath with candles. The runner up in this category was BADLAND.
Our best designed app choice this year is Cal Calendar. It’s a calendar app so you pretty much know what it can do. It’s free in the Google Play Store and we gave it a pretty favorable review just a few weeks ago. At the end of the video, we’ll provide a link to the review.
Cal Calendar won this category because its design actually affects its functionality in a positive manner. The calendar itself looks wonderful. It’s colorful, easy to read, and modern. When adding things to the calendar, everything is modular and easy to find and select. It has a lot of functionality and it’s enjoyable to look at and to use. The runner up in this category was the official app for theScore.
Google Talk was a pretty decent service, but when Hangouts came out after Google I/O, things just got so much better. It’s free and it’s a Google app. What it does is send SMS and MMS messages, and is the chat service of Google+.
What can we say? SMS, MMS, improved video chatting, improved group chatting, set moods, hundreds of emoticons, and a brand new design were among the most important features added. Before the revamp, Google Talk was a respectable chat client. Since the revamp, Hangouts has become a must have application for pretty much everyone with a Google account. Our runner up here was Feedly.
Google Keep has been in four or five of our app lists in 2013 and, thus, has earned its spot as our most useful app released this year. It’s a note taking app that quickly and easily syncs to your Google Drive account. It’s free in the Google Play Store and it’s quite unique.
When we first got a hold of Google Keep, we knew it would be on our best of 2013 somewhere. It is fun to use, syncs automatically to Google Drive where it is easily accessed by going to drive.google.com/keep, and the various colors and note types allows you to easily organize your thoughts in a simple interface that’s easy to manage. Our runner up in this category was Android Device Manager.
Clash of Clans started out on iOS and, unlike many games, made a seamless and successful transition to Android this year. It’s a massively multiplayer online real time strategy game where players build their village up, defend it against raiders, complete a campaign, and fight other players.
Simply put, this game is all multiplayer. The campaign is just there to give you something to do when you’re bored. The real and constant objective is to raid other people to take their resources and earn trophies so you can make yourself stronger and higher ranked. It has a healthy base of players from both Android and iOS all competing against one another constantly. It’s difficult and it requires thinking and strategy to excel. Our runner up in this category was Eternity Warriors 2.
Lulu is an app unlike any other. The premise is women sign into it using their Facebook accounts and rate men. They can say good things or bad things about them but the defining characteristic is that men can’t join, so what women are saying is completely hidden so they can’t see it.
This app has encouraged negative and brutal commentary from both men and women and you know a woman-only app is offensive and terrible when even other women are angry about it. Men can’t opt out of it unless they delete their Facebook accounts, and we’re so sure that angry, jealous ex girlfriends are rating men objectively. Men don’t like and women don’t like it but it’s still popular somehow. It’s like the Jersey Shore of Android apps. Our runner up in this category was the CyanogenMod Installer App.
[Price: Doesn’t matter, game is terrible]
Worst game was truly a difficult category to decide upon. We in the media do not usually talk about terrible games because, well, you really don’t want to hear about them. So for this we decided to go with the worst possible game we could find whether it was popular or not and thus, the Miley Cyrus Game Puzzle.
Let’s take a look at all the things this app does wrong. The game play is derivative and boring even for children. The celebrity cameo is a blatant attempt to cash in on keyword searches. It doesn’t help that the pictures of Miley Cyrus are wildly outdated. The interface is gross, and uninteresting. In short, this game fails on literally every conceivable level. This game is so bad that it’s also our runner up for this category. I had to play it to get footage and I regret every moment of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it installed malware also because it’s the only other thing it could possibly do wrong. In a market where game devs swing for the fences, this game is like bunting a foul ball with 2 strikes. Don’t download it.
The worst app category was much easier because there are few apps that bombed as bad as Facebook Home. For those who may not know, Facebook Home is a launcher replacement app with such breakneck features as folders and Facebook integration.
I could sit down for an hour and discuss all the things this app does wrong. It doesn’t compete with other third party launchers on any valuable level in terms of features or functionality. The app sucked so bad that it killed a smartphone and made HTC’s future look even bleaker somehow. When your product makes someone else’s company look bad, that’s about as low as you can go. For shame, Facebook.
Even though it’s been out for only a few weeks, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas is the epitome of what people have been asking for in a game. In this game, you play an ex-gang banger named Carl who returns to his old neighborhood to seek revenge on the people who killed his mother. It’s available in the Play Store for $6.99.
It has nearly everything we could’ve asked for. It has dozens of hours of game play, side quests, a big, open world for gamers to explore, an actual story line, and more. It’s not some puzzle game or gag game like Angry Birds or Temple Run. It’s a full blown, console level video game that provides a full gaming experience. Here’s hoping we see more games of this caliber and depth in the year 2014. Our runner up in this category was Dead Trigger 2.
At first, we did everything in our power to figure out if there was another app that could go here because we didn’t want to mimic the Google Play Store’s list in any way. However, we simply couldn’t avoid the facts. Duolingo is an educational game that teachers people new languages by using a combination of voice and text lessons.
What we wanted to find was the application that pushed the envelope further on Android. Sure there were apps like Timely and Cal Calendar but those apps didn’t bring anything new to the table. They simple took what was there and made it look better. Duolingo changed things.
Never before had an education app garnered as much attention and it showed that you can have useful, successful education apps with mass appeal. If any genre needed proof of this, it was education. It’s totally free to use and everyone should speak multiple languages anyway. It’s good for the brain. This app should be on every smartphone, period. Our runner up this year was Helium.
Tell us your favorite Android apps of 2013!
What constitutes greatness varies from person to person. We tried our best to cover all the bases, but we’re not perfect and let’s face it, lists like this are more fun when it’s a team sport. So if there is an application you think should’ve made the list of best Android apps of 2013, feel more than welcome to share your favorite app (or even your own app list) with us in the comments below. We’d love to see which ones you think are the best.