There are a lot more to mobile apps than just Angry Birds. The best apps of 2014 are rethinking the way we consume news, socialize, create and consume art, call for help, comprehend scientific principles, and of course, approach our daily work. With the benefit of always being right there in our pockets, these streamlined digital experiences push the boundaries of software through experimentation.
Browse through our favorites in the slide show above, then, if you haven’t already, go download them!
Have you ever wanted to track the minutae of your life? You know, how many cups of coffee you’ve drank in a year, or which of your friends you’ve seen the most? Reporter, by personal quantification guru Nicholas Felton, can send you custom quizzes six times a day to find out, then graph the results. iOS.
You can call 911 from a smartphone’s lock screen, but Amnesty International has built something better for reporters in dangerous areas. (Or anyone with an Android phone, really.) It’s a panic button that you can activate just by clicking the power button on your phone several times. It will text contacts of your choice and keep them apprised to your whereabouts until your phone is deactivated. Android.
You want to tell a story with a rich combination of words, pictures, and video. To date, that’s been tough to accomplish on a mobile device. But Storehouse, spearheaded by Apple’s ex app czar Mark Kawano, handles the task with grace. iOS.
In 2014, we’ve seen Facebook "unbundle" its popular mobile app as a series of apps. But Facebook’s Paper was a whole new way to experience the social network, with the most beautiful UI the company has ever created. Paper failed to catch on, but it’s still a great app that demonstrates how completely different a service can feel with a new skin. iOS.
FiftyThree developed an app called Paper (not to be confused with Facebook’s!) that made drawing on the iPad into a complete joy. Now it has added a new feature to the app called Mix, enabling the the option to collaborate with others remotely, riffing on one another’s sketches in a richly constructed, annotated system that makes sure everyone gets proper credit. But we really dug Mix because it feels like an evolved Internet that you can reach out and draw on.
The laws of physics may dictate our universe, but the equations can still feel esoteric. Local Projects has spent years developing an app that turns real schoolyard play into annotated physics lessons. It’s wild, and while not available yet, is worth reading about.
Organic. Gluten free. Non-GMO. And those pesky, long ingredient lists. It’s so hard to eat right these days. But FoodScores, by Environmental Working Group, cross references their database of 80,000 products you know with scientific research to rate them on a simple 1-10 scale. iOS and web only.
Have you ever wanted to explore the universe as a subatomic particle? Of course you have. Laura Perrenoud’s Matter makes it possible. We just hope it makes its way to the App Store soon.
Secrets have a lurid appeal. Secret messages, even more so. Knit, by London-based artist Jon Nash, allows you to drop secret messages anywhere you’re at via your phone. Then, when friends pass by the same spot, they’ll be alerted that a message is waiting. iOS.
Roy G Biv
Jealous that you can’t hear color like someone with synaesthesia might? Roy G Biv is an app that induces the effect by transforming color values into sounds. iOS.
Google’s calendar app has received a Material Design makeover, but the best part is the new functionality. It automatically sucks in upcoming flights, concerts, or reservations from your email into your schedule. It’s on Android now, and iOS soon.
20 Day Stranger
For 20 days, you learn the most intimate details about someone across the world—seeing when they wake and knowing when they go to work—but you never get to talk them, save for a single message you send at the end of the experience. iOS in beta.
We called it the world’s cutest iPad app, and we’ll defend that claim to the grave. By Lucas Zanotto, it’s an interactive flipbook of cartoon animals that will make you forget, for just a few moments, that the world is a cruel, dark, and generally horrible place. iOS.
New York Times Cooking
The New York Times has created an incredible website called NYT Cooking, and now it lives in a gorgeous iPad app full of recipes and pictures, all wrapped in a zippy, tactile interface. iOS.
Only an elite few will ever get to choreograph dancers at the level of the New York City Ballet. But with Passe-Partout, a new app designed by Pentagram partner Abbott Miller, anyone can remix eight one-minute dances with a few simple swipes. iOS.
When the EYE Film Museum in Amsterdam wanted to get kids more involved in exhibits, they enlisted Godmother Films to create a more enticing museum tour. Kids held a tablet in the air, and they’d see the exact same museum scene their eyes could see, except this time, Darth Vader, Nosferatu, and The Shining twins could be lurking within the frame, beckoning the child to follow. The app worked on-site only.