A new year always sparks pundits to look back on what has been. While I’m no pundit, I’m not immune from the urge to evaluate all the tech and apps that I’ve had the privilege to use/evaluate. Unlike those pundits, I don’t want to rehash the tired “Best of the year” category- best is far too subjective; what’s best for me more than likely won’t be best for you, and I lack the clout or resources to be able to sample more than a fraction of what Apple and its ecosystem of app and accessory developers have to offer. Instead, I’d like to share with you the things that have made a lasting impact; the games that I just can’t put down, the apps that have proven far more useful than I had originally thought they could be, the accessories that I couldn’t live without.
Games: While I haven’t had them long, the games that I gravitate towards epitomize what I love about iOS gaming: a unique concept, innovative controls and gameplay, and an eye-catchingly well made display.
First, there’s Groove Coaster. I love the spartan Tempest-like vector graphics, the simple yet engaging interface, and the use of music as an integral part of the gameplay. It’s been consistently enjoyable.
Second, another relative newcomer- Into the Dead. It does a better job of creating a tense, gripping environment than just about any game I’ve played. This latecomer to the booming zombie game genre may not be as well known as other apps but it holds its own against the best of the category.
Accessories: The Brydge iPad keyboard. There are plenty of Bluetooth iPad keyboards out there, and most are less expensive than the Brydge, but none offer the combination of durability and functionality that the Brydge does. It’s aluminum chassis pairs perfectly with the iPad (although I’d love to see a future model with softer, rounded edges like the iPad has), and it’s patented hinge allows it to be forward compatible with future iPad models.
iOS feature: iMessage. The ability to use the same messaging platform across all my devices has been very welcome. While the app isn’t perfected yet, it’s been far more useful than I had thought it would be when I installed the initial OSX beta app. I’d love to see Apple make the iOS app as functional as the OSX version, specifically compatibility with other chat platforms.
Honorable mention: Airplay. The Apple TV is a great device in its own right (more on that later) and Airplay provides a great way to expand its usefulness.
Device: The Apple TV. I’ve been able to move beyond a media center PC and TiVo thanks to Apple’s diminutive streaming device. It almost instantly became the integral part of my living room’s media center; it does a better job with streaming content than any other device I’ve used, syncs perfectly with my iMac‘s iTunes library, and offers a decent selection of integrated apps. I’m hoping that Apple fulfills the rumor of opening it to the App Store; it is just another iOS device after all.
News/Reading- Mr Reader. I still rely on RSS feeds for my daily news and entertainment, and Mr Reader has been the best RSS client for iOS that I’ve found so far. Some prefer the eye candy of Flipboard, but I get a great deal more out of Mr Reader’s classic interface and sharing features.
Audio- Stitcher. I’m a huge fan of podcasts, but the recently introduced iOS Podcast app isn’t quite ready for prime time. Stitcher does a great job of bringing me the content I want, without the need for iTunes syncing.
Honorable mention- Pandora. Spotify may be the rage lately, but Pandora is still my go-to source for personalized internet radio. I purchased a subscription over a year ago and have gotten more than my $36 worth out of it.
That’s my list of additions from the past year I can’t do without. Feel free to share yours with me in the comments section!