KUALA LUMPUR, Dec 1 — At the heart of it, what has kept Apple's mobile ecosystem great are the apps and the developers behind those apps.
It is fitting then that Apple celebrates what keeps the platform going with its annual App Store Awards.
They are also a great way to highlight some of the best apps to an even wider userbase.
In the past I paid scant attention to the awards as being an app collector, most of the winners were already on my phone but this year has a few that weren't on my radar.
Here are my thoughts on this year's list and what made it on my own phone.
A state of play
Apex Legends isn't a new game ― it first launched on Windows, PS4 and Xbox in 2019, making it to Switch in 2021 (I have it on my own Switch) but made its debut on Android and iOS in May this year.
It's very suited for mobile ― a fast paced, easy to pick up shooter for those who like the battle royale format and it's not hard to see why the mobile version won iPhone Game of the Year.
Moncage was crowned best iPad game, the Mac crown went to Devolver's Inscryption with HandyGames' El Hijo deemed best Apple TV Game.
Wild West themes have been popular in gaming of late but El Hijo stands out for a well-written family friendly story with a stealth game format.
Apps to take note of
The iPhone app that got a lot of buzz for its refreshing take on photosharing with your friends, BeReal, won best iPhone app of the year.
Touted as the “anti-Instagram” it prompts users to post just once a day, at random times, giving users no chance for elaborate setups or fancy filters ― it's about authentic, unvarnished looks at your day.
The only weakness is perhaps that it relies on having a group of other BeReal users that you would want to share your “this is what I actually look like after a hangover” face.
As for the Mac app of the year, it's MacFamilyTree 10 that allows genealogy enthusiasts to better capture the branches of their family tree.
It's incredibly comprehensive, with easy to create databases of family members as well as charts and diagrams, that can be shareable and also includes collaboration features.
I was most intrigued by two other apps on the list however ― the iPad app of the year GoodNotes5 and the Apple Watch app of the year, Gentler Streak.
For the past few years, my choice of apps for reading PDFs or notetaking during interviews was Penultimate.
GoodNotes 5 was always seen as its main competitor and is really popular, even in Malaysia where you can find people selling custom GoodNotes 5 templates on Shopee.
I found its lack of a recording feature a reason to eschew it for now but in a reason session with the media, GoodNotes founder Steven Chan and VP of operations Minh Tran confirmed that GoodNotes would be getting a recording feature soon, as well as improved support for typing.
They also said that thanks to the Apple Pencil, the app's popularity exploded and GoodNotes 5 owes a lot of its popularity to its excellent support for handwritten notes.
Going gentle, telling stories
As for the Apple Watch app of the year, Gentler Streak is the alternative to the Apple Watch constant push to “close your rings” instead, prioritising your wellbeing.
It does what Apple's own Fitness app should be doing ― allowing users to state when they're not feeling well or injured so as to accommodate and adjust fitness activities or focus on proper rest.
There have been days when I am just not up to it, physically or mentally, to hit Apple Watch fitness goals and even resort to just not wearing the watch because the constant nagging notifications stressed me out.
Speaking of stress, Apple also announced five Cultural Impact winners and one was How We Feel, a free app created by the How We Feel Project Inc.
It prompts users to check in daily to log their emotional states, then suggests strategies to address them if needed.
Users shared stories that by having a record of their ups and downs, it allowed them to have a better picture of their emotional wellbeing and learn coping strategies.
The other four winners are:
Dot’s Home from the Rise-Home Stories Project: An app that narrates the impact of systemic housing injustices in the US.
Locket Widget from Locket Labs, Inc.: A nifty app that allows “live” photos to be sent to family and friends' Home Screens.
Waterllama from Vitalii Mogylevets: A fun take on water reminders, with challenges, reminders, and yes, llamas.
Inua - A Story in Ice and Time from ARTE Experience: This visual adventure provides a storytelling experience in teaching people about Inuit stories, folklore and traditions.
Here's to more apps to celebrate next year.