Best app 2012: 9th Pocket-lint awards contenders

The Best App 2012 category at the Pocket-lint Gadget Awards this year is as competitive as ever. While in seasons gone by an app would grab us if it was fun, addictive and new, the area of mobile third-party software has matured somewhat. Many of the ideas have been done, the land grabbed, and now the real success stories are those which are the slickest, the most indispensable and that have made their way on to the front page of our homescreens for good.

Get your nominations in for any you believe should be considered as the Best App 2012. Take a look at our nominations page for how to do so and don’t forget to vote once the shortlist has been announced. In the meantime, here are a few of the apps from the last year which we believe might be some of the contenders for the coveted award.

Games

As ever, one of the hottest app categories out there is games. They might stay on your device only for a short time but their addictive appeal is second to none.

Rovio and its Angry Birds saga spouted forth another impressive iteration in the shape of Angry Birds Space but also managed to move things on with the much-awaited spin-off of the adventure from the point of view of the enemy of all birds - the pigs. And thus Bad Piggies was born.

Another app game series brought into the world - this time by Disney - was that of Agent P and his quest to puzzle the hell out of you with the Where’s My Water sequel, Where’s My Perry - both well worthy of some time on your screen. Just as fiendishly time-sucking was the less cognitive and more quick thinking that was required for the forever run and survive archaeological adventure that is Temple Run.

Football on the phone - or tablet - has been as popular as ever with the ludicrously compelling spreadsheet player that is Football Manager Handheld 2012. Prepare for partners not to speak to you for months if you embark upon that one. A little lighter, and probably more fun, from the other end of the equation was the brand new franchise that is New Star Soccer. Its fad came and went in the blink of an eye and slick, it certainly wasn’t, but NSS was very much a Jilly Cooper of fun on the subject of football over some worthy Austen tomb.

Horn became this year’s Infinity Blade - despite this year actually having an Infinity Blade of its own. The RPG, slash and swipe meant more control and a little more fun as you dungeon crawl your way through virtual space. For a more tongue-in-cheek take on the fantasy genre though, we rather enjoyed Zombie smasher Earn To Die - well worth a look and maybe your nomination.

Draw Something was another super-sized app sensation which seems to have gone up in a puff of smoke, but don’t let that put you off tipping your hat to this online version of Pictionary which kicked up such a storm.

For pure beauty on a tablet screen though, it’s hard to ignore the likes of Eufloria HD and The Room; one, the prettiest real-time strategy we’ve ever seen, the other a tour de force of iPad graphics as much as it is a cracker of a brain teaser. Finally, at the opposite end of the spectrum was a quirky match three of a kind title that will keep you occupied to and from work for weeks. All those who know, say BraveSmart.

Sports & Fitness

The biggest growth sector and undoubtedly the fastest-maturing area of the app world has been in fitness. Was it the Olympics, was it Nike or are we all just terrified of getting fat? Hard to tell. Either way, there are some superb contenders for Best App 2012 in this bunch.

Starting with the armchair approach to sport, Sky Sports has opened its coverage of the Formula One with the Sky Sports iPad F1 app. Strictly speaking, it’s a section of the Sky Sports News app but it’s a cracker nonetheless with its choice of live feeds, camera positions, race positions, splits and everything else that you petrol heads need.

When it comes to doing the work yourself, Runkeeper has cemented itself as the go-to app for joggers and marathon enthusiasts. There’s very little it can’t do alongside telling all your mates how much better than them you are. The alternative app, which also works for cyclists, is Strava Fitness. You’re perfectly welcome to use either. Just don’t brag to us about it, please.

Finally, on the same tip, is Cycle Tracker Pro. It turns your mobile into a rich featured, dedicated GPS with all the maps, stats and workout ideas you could need, as well as a section of motivational music that maybe you don’t.

Photography

Photography has always been a hot area of mobile apps, given the power of the little snappers inside our smartphone darlings. As it goes, that space is more or less sewn up by 2012, so it had to take some pretty special ideas to open our hearts for the Pocket-lint Gadget Awards.

One which grabbed us straight away was Snapseed. It’s a post-production editing app from Nik Software which has always been of great renown in this field. On the mobile phone, the company’s vision has become one of finger swiping for effects and results have been stunning.

The only other photography app to grab us has been an old favourite of a sort. Instagram made it to Android smartphones in 2012, was bought by Facebook and has simply exploded. It may implode once again when everyone gets bored with it but it’s been impossible to ignore on social networks this year.

Tools

Okay, so it’s not the most enthralling category but app tools are not only the software we use most often - if actually any good - but are also the apps that tend to stay on our mobile devices longer than any others. So what did 2012 have to add to our collection?

There were two more browsers to consider. Firefox and Chrome made for more decision to go alongside the likes of Opera, Dolphin and both Safari and the standard Android Webkit; and few people can agree on which is the objective best.

Another area which hasn’t really been sorted out is DLNA and the art of streaming one’s content about the home. We all tend to have different boxes and machines claiming to take control of a number of different activities when in fact none of them manages to quite do the job on its own. So, in stepped Plex in 2012. This paid-for application will allow you to stream anything to your phone - anything you’ve got. Give it a whirl.

The indispensible tool for 2012 for many though will be WhatsApp. Finally someone seems to have got cross-platform messaging about right. Not too heavy a footprint, not too much battery or data usage and just about every mobile OS covered; enough to take the crown, then?

Media

When we say Media, we’re talking about the rich kind, - ie, what humans like to call music, films, TV and all that entertainment stuff. So, who’s been entertaining us on the go in 2012?

For one, Netflix’s arrival has been nothing short of a very long time in the making. While the service might not offer much of a sensation in new release and summer blockbuster titles, its mobile app is nonetheless perfectly competent when it comes to streaming all of that back catalogue library. Mad props, as some would say.

Another newcomer/latecomer from the US shores is the Amazon MP3 app and Cloud Player. While its functionality to stream music can be in little doubt, is it slick enough to have picked up this prize in the face of such smooth opposition? Or will it be Now TV as backed by Sky with pay-as-you-go access to mobile movies? Oh, it’s all just too close to call. You tell us. Get nominating. Get voting.