There were over 2.87 million Android apps and almost 1.96 Apple iOS apps as of the third quarter of 2020, not to mention countless other computer applications and software solutions. These numbers show no signs of slowing down any time soon. Some of these are gems, but the majority – well, leave much to be desired.
Today, there’s an app for virtually any mundane or significant task you can think of, which would explain why adults spend 88% of their mobile time within an app. To capitalize, businesses are throwing their hats into the ring to create apps for the 3.8 billion smartphone users globally.
In this article, we highlight fifteen of the most successful apps that have distinguished themselves among the others this year. We’ve chosen to specifically highlight apps that excel in:
- Design (UI/UX)
- Functionality (usefulness for the purpose)
In short, these are beautiful apps that people love.
Our list is diverse, covering gaming, healthcare, data sharing, food service, and even graphic design and art. It is by no means exhaustive, but regardless of your industry, there’s a lot to learn from each of these successful apps.
1. Video Conferencing – Zoom
What is Zoom?
Zoom is now the leading video conferencing app and has become the communication standard. It hosts about 300 million meeting participants per day. Businesses, schools, governments, families, and even churches all adopted the easy to use video conferencing app because of its intuitive UX and seamless connectivity.
Top Features: Freemium model, user interface made simple
What rocketed Zoom to the top of the video conferencing preferences was its freemium model. Zoom’s free version has all the same functionality as the paid version. The only difference is that Zoom's free version limits a meeting to 40 minutes.
The other huge feature is its easy-to-use interface. Zoom has a quick path to help first-time users enter a meeting so that their experience is positive. Users can also sign up with just an email and quickly set up their first meeting with very little complexity. When kindergartners and the elderly can easily join a meeting, you have a winning interface.
2. Messaging - Telegram
What is Telegram?
In 2021, Telegram is the most downloaded non-gaming app globally. A cloud-based messaging app, Telegram already has over 500 million active users. What makes Telegram better than all the other messaging apps out there? Speed and security. And it allows you to sync to all your devices seamlessly.
Telegram mashes all your favorite apps like WhatsApp, Giphy, YouTube, TikTok, and Twitter into a single app and does it faster, better, and more securely.
Top Features: Speed, security, and ease of use
Telegram makes it easy to send files, videos, photos, and messages effortlessly. Telegram also lets you create groups of up to 200,000 people or channels that can broadcast to an unlimited number of viewers.
Using the MTProto protocol for encryption, Telegram provides end-to-end, high-speed encryption for all communication, including video and voice. And the file-sharing feature makes it easy for businesses to utilize and share files securely.
3. Data Sharing – Pocket
What is Pocket?
Pocket is an essential app for capturing great content and curating a personalized space of topics that interest you. You can save the latest news, articles, stories, videos, and sports across your devices, apps, or publishers.
Its reading and listening experience is designed to be comfortable for focusing, with a clean layout and customizable display. The minimalist interface removes any visual clutter, allowing you to rest your eyes and your mind to focus on what you’re reading. Even the typography is designed to enable comfortable reading for more extended periods.
There are sepia themes to reduce blue light stimulation before sleeping. Some users will appreciate the ability to listen to news articles and stories saved. If your eyes are tired or you’re on the road, your learning experience need not be interrupted. Pocket’s success shows that modern apps can win by prioritizing accessibility.
Finally, you can share your content and comments with other Pocket users, and the app recommends further reading over time based on your topics of interest. Pocket is a must-have productivity app since it helps you to track the content you’re consuming from everywhere. Moreover, it’s free and available for both Android and iOS.
4. Messaging – Signal
What is Signal?
Signal is another messaging app that focuses on privacy. Using proprietary, end-to-end encryption protocol, Signal promises it can’t read messages or listen to your calls. Promising total privacy every time you use their app, Signal has grown in popularity in 2021.
Signal is an independent nonprofit that relies on user donations and grants to fund the ad-free, affiliate marketing free, tracker free messaging app. Signal is a free app designed to help users get out from under Big Tech and their data harvesting.
Top Features: total privacy and an easy to use user interface
Signal provides all the standard functionality of a messaging app where you get text, voice, photo, video, and file sharing for free. And it uses the phone’s data connection to avoid SMS or MMS fees. But where it shines is in its privacy guarantee that no one will listen, analyze, or harvest your conversations and content.
5. Messaging – WhatsApp
What is WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is one of the top messaging apps on the market today. The app is completely free for iOS, Windows, and Android users. You can even use WhatsApp on your computer and get your messages straight to your laptop or desktop.
Top Features: Versatility, eliminates the need for cellular network
What makes this app loved by its users is that it supports international communication, regardless of the users’ phone network. All you need is WiFi and you can talk with anyone around the world for no additional fees.
They provide many features, such as audio recording, video calling, phone calls, texting, emojis, status updates, and more. The app has over 300 million daily users.
6. Food Service – Seamless
What is Seamless?
Seamless is the most popular food ordering app, enabling you to order food online through your app. As a part of GrubHub’s food ordering companies, it allows users to order from 35,000 restaurants in over 900 cities worldwide.
Top features: Vendor variety, intuitive interface
Seamless’ most noteworthy selling point is the variety of restaurants (both in price range and type of food) available for customers. Its developers also chose a simple order process, and it is available for free. The interface is also easy to follow and understand for streamlined user interaction.
Seamless has separated itself from the pack with a ridiculously easy UI and operational interface – demonstrating, again, that it’s possible to make good design a USP.
Related: How to Budget For a Mobile App
7. Couponing – Ibotta
What is Ibotta?
Once your budget is set, you probably want to improve your saving discipline. Ibotta is an essential budgeting app that allows you to save money in the places you typically go shopping.
Top features: Great deals, premium retailers
If you can’t remember to clip coupons and walk around with them, download the free Ibotta app for free.
There’s a $3.99 monthly inactivity fee, however – a penalty for not using the app consistently. The amount is credited against the money saved in your wallet, so you won’t be charged if your wallet has no money. From an app developer’s standpoint, this is a novel approach to increase user loyalty and engagement.
Ibotta makes deals with top retailers countrywide, so you should check for Ibotta deals in the store you’re going to. Just like conventional couponing, try to only use coupons for the things you intended to buy. Otherwise, you fall into the quicksand of spending money just to “save” it.
To use Ibotta, simply select the deals you want to use and go shopping as normal. When you do, you’ll upload your receipt into the app and get cashback in your wallet for the deals you applied – it’s that simple. You can then withdraw it by getting a gift card to a store of your choice from the list in the app.
Related: Progressive Web Apps
8. Booking – Airbnb
What is Airbnb?
Airbnb is a popular booking app/website that started in 2012. You can book hotels, apartments, condos, or even an entire house on Airbnb. Recently, you’re also able to book experiences and restaurants as well.
Top features: Profitability, international use
Because people rent out their own homes, they can choose how much to charge guests, making it a much more affordable option than hotels. If you’re traveling, chances are your expenses will be pricey for the duration of your trip, so being able to save on accommodation is what has made Airbnb such a success.
It also allows people to make extra income from their property if they aren’t home often and choose to rent it out.
The homes listed on the app are much more appealing than a typical hotel room. In April of 2019, a story was released that guests can even stay in a potato if they want. Well, it’s not a real potato of course, but it sure does look like one!
The app can be downloaded if you have an iOS or Android phone.
Health and Fitness
9. Healthcare for Doctors – Epocrates
What is Epocrates RX?
Epocrates RX is a clinical decision support tool (CDST) that integrates a host of features into an accessible healthcare application for mobile use. The tool is full of useful features that doctors can access on a subscription basis. They can use it on smartphones, tablets, or desktop since the login details make up the subscription.
Top features: Offline capabilities, regular app updates
Epocrates’ developers focus on regularly updating the app to reflect the latest research, discoveries, and medical innovations. It is available for offline use, so users don’t need an internet connection when accessing the mobile app. It also allows for connection with other doctors through the app, powered by Athena Text, a texting service.
Key features include:
- Clinical Guidelines
- Symptom Checker
- Medication Database
- Drug References
- Medicine Specific Calculator
- Disease Database
These features are available in the free app version. Premium subscription unlocks advanced features like Alternate Meds, Lab References and ICD-910, among others.
Epocrates is improving the provision of health services on a global scale, and over 1 million healthcare professionals use this CDST daily.
10. Self-Care – Strides Habit Tracker
Source: Strides Habit Tracker
What is Strides Habit Tracker?
Strides Habit Tracker is an essential app for the phone addict, compatible with all Apple devices, including Apple Watch. Basically, it can be used to track all kinds of goals and daily habits – you have to add each habit separately before the tracking, but it’s simple to do. You set your goals depending on your definition of becoming your best self.
Top features: Engaging UX
Once you input your individual goals and better habits, you’ll see a daily checklist to help keep you on course. Enabling notifications means you can receive reminders of your goals in your status bar throughout the day.
You can see daily and long term progress through in-app charts. And you can see if you need to make changes to achieve your goals.
Strides is still free on all iOS devices. However, you can get Strides Plus, which features unlimited trackers, data protection, and web syncing, among other cool features. The user interface is simple, insightful, and well-designed. The setup is easy, and your goal can be anything from brushing teeth daily to running a marathon.
Games and Entertainment
What is TikTok?
TikTok is one of the most popular short-form video entertainment apps. It grew by 5x in 2020 mainly because of the COVID-19 lockdowns. By 2021, TikTok is the second most installed non-gaming app, with 62 million installs in January 2021.
TikTok started as a lip-syncing app that transformed into a social media phenomenon. TikTok simplified video creation and created a platform where users can easily share and view other users’ content. And by making the content short format, it makes TikTok content bite size.
Top Features: Localized content, personalized recommendations
One of the key features of TikTok is its focus on localized content. It runs contests and challenges based on local trends, which spurs thousands of videos and viral content for the app.
Another top feature is its personalized recommendations that it generates for its users based on their preferences. By serving them content that matches their preferences, it gives the users the latest trending videos so that the users have more ideas for content creation.
12. Social Deduction Game – Among Us
What is Among Us?
Among Us is a social deduction game with an outer space theme. Ten players (crew members) must work together to determine who the imposter is before the imposter kills all the crewmembers on the spaceship. During peak player counts, Among Us claims to have over 1.5 million players.
The crewmember and secret imposter hold discussions and vote out a crewmember they think is the imposter after a dead body is found. The game ends when the crew has successfully identified the imposter and voted the imposter off the ship, or the imposter wins if they kill all the crewmembers.
Top Features: asymmetrical multiplayer game and a simple premise
Among Us has risen in popularity because of its unique asymmetrical multiplayer functionality. Each crewmate has a set of tasks to accomplish to save the ship and identify the imposter. You can play public games or invite friends to join a private game using a unique code.
Among Us has a simple premise: identify the imposter before you get killed. Crewmates must use persuasion and manipulation to get the group to come to a consensus and vote off the actual imposter. Of course, the imposter must pose as an innocent crewmate and hope the group doesn’t call them “sus.”
13. Adventure Gaming – Oceanhorn
What is Oceanhorn?
The Legend of Zelda was only the first among a host of action/adventure inspired games, and Oceanhorn was not left behind. So successful was this game among users that Oceanhorn 2 immediately hit the development offices without an ounce of delay.
Oceanhorn was created by the indie developers at Cornfox Bros., filling the gap left by Nintendo, who favors Apple over Android these days.
The Oceanhorn interface follows the already-familiar Legend of Zelda interface, which includes basic sword and shield fights, top-down visuals, worlds filled with puzzles, gadget upgrades and enemies that expand after each dungeon.
Specifically, this game closely resembles the Wind Walker of the Zelda series, which is its popular GameCube entry. Like WW, it is distinctly cartoony-y but dripping with visual style. The game world is played on a series of far-flung islands that you reach by voyaging across the sea.
Since its debut in 2018, Oceanhorn has received almost universal acclaim. There are PC and Android versions, and the first chapter is free after which you pay $5.49 to fully unlock the game (cheaper than Steam, and other similar games). You can expect Oceanhorn 2 to retain its catchy music – its sound designer Tapio Liukkonen is still overseeing the audio experience.
14. Racing Games – Asphalt 9: Legends
What is Asphalt 9: Legends?
Asphalt 9: Legends by Gameloft app development company is the most recent among the popular racing apps available on both Android and iOS app stores. Skipping every pretense of realism, Asphalt 9 renders an over-the-top, high-adrenaline, console-quality experience with related fixings.
Players have the option of working or paying their way through the career mode to unlock or upgrade to new rides.
Top features: detailed design, reactive controls
There are eight fast and wild car races that allow you to choose online opponents. Controls default to “TouchDrive”, which will enable players to switch lanes and makes specific jumps or routes. You can drift or use nitro as the game handles steering and acceleration.
There are also control options which include tilt steering and on-screen controls, but TouchDrive is the best place to start until you know your way around. You’ll enjoy highly polished graphics and a brilliant soundtrack.
Asphalt 9 is guaranteed to provide an adrenaline rush you haven’t had playing racing games before. Its cars are rich in detail, with models featuring over 90,000 polygons. Its rendering techniques are far ahead of the curve – clearly, its developers were not kidding around when creating the visuals.
15. Design – Draw Pad Pro
Source: Draw Pad Pro | App Store
What is Draw Pad Pro?
Draw Pad Pro is a useful way of managing all your sketches, scribbles, notes, and more for iOS users. The app leverages the new iOS 6 technology to give a better experience than many other drawing or note-taking apps.
Top Features: Adaptability, all ages will enjoy
Its app creators designed it with adaptability in mind – you can change anything from the color and pages of notebooks to the appearance and background of the app. There are over 20 papers and notebook colors and five themes to get your desired look and feel.
You can even mix and match paper styles for different pages of your notebook.
Pens have twenty color choices and six different sizes. You can zoom by pinching your fingers to achieve greater details with your sketches. Rotate, resize, and add photos on the canvas depending on what you need.
You can also copy and trace images using the app’s tracing tool. Draw Pad Pro’s gentle exterior tells little of the powerful productivity of which it’s capable. This is a must-get app for designers in 2021.
Many businesses shy away from using mobile apps, under the pretext that the landscape is already full. Nothing could be further from the truth, however – the market is always open to a useful product.
Custom app development is on the rise among enterprises, and with good reason. Internet access through mobile devices has far surpassed desktop internet use. Forecasts predict that mobile apps will generate $935 billion in revenue by 2023.
If you haven’t thought of it, now’s the time to get into the mobile app market. Yours can quickly enter into the league of the most successful applications online – hopefully, this laundry list of fast-firing apps gives you enough inspiration for your next project.
Related: Retail 2018 Three New Technologies.
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