Top of 2013: My Favorite Apps from the Past Year

2013 was a massive year for the iPad, both in terms of new hardware and in terms of software. iOS 7 basically wiped the app slate clean, creating a void that thousands of developers all tried to fill. New hardware opened up new options for most developers to exploit with the latest apps. Without further ado, here are my twenty-five favorite apps for the past year.

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After leaving Instapaper in 2012 for its closest — and free — competitor, I’m back on the app and service. Why? The app improved, and the bugs that I encountered vanished on the iPad. Betaworks is now in charge, and they seem to pushing forward with development of the app and its backend service. In fact, Instapaper’s parsing backend is easily superior to Pocket, and that is a major part of why I am back.

Pocket Casts

I’ve recently fallen for Castro, another podcast client, on the iPhone, but Pocket Casts reigns supreme on the iPad. Their interface is excellent, and the powerful features seem well-suited to a larger display.

Pocket Casts is both powerful and tasteful on the iPad.

Pocket Casts is both powerful and tasteful on the iPad.

I actually listen to podcasts on my iPad regularly, so Pocket Casts is a fantastic choice for anyone who would like to find a client that works well on a larger iOS device.



I like calculators. I especially enjoy calculators that take the time to implement a new, interesting idea. Tydlig does both, and it is actually a concept that ultimately saves me time when I’m using it. It isn’t perfect for everything (forget doing incredibly complex calculations) but it is fast for simple arithmetic.


Unit conversions are a must for anyone that travels between countries, and Amount is the easiest way to go about this. The interface is simple yet powerful, making it easy to switch between any number of units.


Clear has been my to-do app of choice since it was released, so I jumped at the chance to get a version for the iPad when it was released alongside iOS 7 this past September.

Clear+ includes support for the iPad, and it is my go-to todo app.

Clear+ includes support for the iPad, and it is my go-to todo app.

The iPad version works well, particularly when used with iCloud to sync tasks between your iPhone and Mac, and that’s all I can really ask for. I would prefer some more advanced controls (due dates, please!), but I’m sure that those features are in the pipeline.



Twitter clients on the iPad were just ramping up and beginning to be very competitive, and then iOS 7 came along and wiped the slate clean. The only high-profile app to survive this was Twitterrific, and so it remains my default Twitter client on the iPad. Tweetbot will surely offer some heavy competition as it is updated sometime in 2014, but for now, you can’t go wrong with Twitterrific.


Have notes? Want them synced to every device you own? Want to be able to access those notes from any computer or mobile device with a web browser? Simplenote is your solution. The latest update to the app makes the service significantly more stable, and it is nearly ubiquitous. Also, it’s free.


Reeder 2

The original version of Reeder was a crowd favorite for RSS readers, though it fell out of favor as it seemed the developer had abandoned it. Reeder 2 launched in a significantly different market: Google Reader shut down this year, and many have questioned RSS’ place in a world where Twitter is so popular. Still, Reeder 2 is my favorite app for finding and reading news.

Safari on iOS 7

Safari. It’s on every iPad ever shipped. Before iOS 7, I was a major fan of Chrome on the iPad. I felt that it offered better features and a nice design, while still being fast. Safari on iOS 7 leap frogs Chrome on any mobile platform, both in performance and design.


Do you ever need to solve a complicated equation? Calca is the solution. It is easily the most powerful “calculator” on the iPad. You can assign variables, use logic, and it even supports Markdown for formatting and publishing purposes. The downside? It really needs an external keyboard to be used to its full potential.

iA Writer

This is a controversial choice. iA Writer, the first version of the software, is relatively excellent: it provides few features, but offers an excellent writing experience for those who just want the UI to disappear. It’s what I’ve been using to write since I purchased an iPad.

iA Writer is a nice app, and is my favorite word processor on the iPad despite its lack of features.

iA Writer is a nice app, and is my favorite word processor on the iPad despite its lack of features.

iA Writer wasn’t updated for iOS 7, nor will it ever be. Writer Pro is the replacement, and it costs $20. That’s expensive, but the developers of Writer Pro have made a much larger mistake: they tried to patent “syntax control,” admittedly a cool feature in Writer Pro. However, Apple actually includes the APIs that make this possible, and has already demonstrated the feature on stage. The technology community lashed out at iA, and they have dismissed their patent claim. Writer Pro is still something that I use, but I would wait for it to get a few more updates. In the meantime, iA Writer is still excellent.


Flipboard has been around for a few years now, but 2013 saw it come into its own. The app was updated to version 2.0, which brought new sharing features, as well as interesting ways to curate articles. As it currently stands, Flipboard is a perfectly acceptable way to consume all of your news. Plug in your Facebook and Twitter accounts, and it can also be an interesting client for those services.


Foresee is a clever app that lets you plan your activities based around weather predictions. You can select any number of activities that you want to do (biking, running, sailing, swimming, and dozens more), and Foresee will recommend when you should do it.



An even simpler calculator, Soulver is the best example of a more traditional calculator on the iPad. The app is easy to use, and is actually a powerful program when you start to push its capabilities.


Ember on the Mac is a fantastic way to collect and organize photos, and I’ve been waiting for the iOS release of the app since Ember was announced. It finally arrived, and it’s a great addition to my iPad. Ember syncs via iCloud, so everything is up-to-date. Ember on the iPad is a simple app, but future updates are sure to make it more powerful.


My favorite mobile games tend to be puzzle games. Interlocked is like extreme Jenga, in that the goal is to pull out all of the blocks. The blocks are weaved together in an interlocked pattern, and are therefore difficult to remove. You have to find the perfect sequence to do so. It’s a fun mental exercise, and I have to completely beat every level in the game.

Pocket Weather Australia

I was lucky enough to do some traveling in Australia this year. The continent is beautiful, featuring some of the most stunning natural scenery anywhere in the world. This natural setting is also infamously difficult to predict weather for, and most “one size fits all” apps don’t do the job well. I purchased Pocket Weather Australia, and it is incredibly accurate at all times. It has also been redesigned and updated for iOS 7.


Calendars 5

I do not like iOS 7’s calendar app. I find that Calendars 5 is superior in every way: design, account support, everything. Most importantly to me is that it keeps up-to-date with my Google Calendar account thanks to its robust syncing.

Asphalt 8: Airborne

It is free-to-play (meaning that the game will try its absolute hardest to nickel and dime you every chance it gets). It is a massive download. But the game itself is fun, and it’s one of the few racing games that I actually enjoy on a mobile device. That alone is enough to put it on the list. Yes, you have to get around the app’s constant attempt to get you to spend money, but the gameplay is fun enough that you ultimately don’t mind.

djay 2

I pretend to be a DJ in my free time, and djay 2 makes it easy to do so. The app is fast, and the interface is simple enough to pick up and use immediately. It is a powerful program, but the app is designed so that the power is revealed after you’ve become comfortable with the more simple features.


Write for iPad

Write is another way to take notes or store documents. However, unlike Simplenote, it can be configured to sync using Dropbox, which makes it more powerful for some uses. Dropbox is also available on the web, so you can access your notes at any time through this solution as well.


Boxer is a fantastic mail client for everyone. It has every feature you could want, and supports every major email provider. Its design is decent, and the app itself is incredibly stable. I have, however, moved on to Mailbox (more on that in a moment), but Boxer is still a fantastic app for those that need more features.


Security online is an incredibly important subject. For example, if a hacker gains access to your email account, he/she can use that knowledge to exploit almost every other account you have — in some cases, that includes your banking account. 1Password helps you to have significantly stronger passwords, thus making it more difficult for hackers to break into accounts. 1Password generates these passwords, and then saves them in the app so that you can browse to your favorite sites and just tap a button to log in. The app has various other features, and it excellent on the iPad.



Padgram lets you log into your Instagram account, and then view your friends’ photos. The larger screen works well for this, as the square photos have more screen space. You can also like or comment on photos, and explore categories and other tags.


Mailbox launched for the iPhone in 2012, but it only came to the iPad in 2013. It’s fantastic — it doesn’t cover every feature checkbox, but it is fast and fluid, and I do feel as if I am in better control of my email because of it.

Mailbox is a fantastic email client for those wishing to achieve "inbox zero."

Mailbox is a fantastic email client for those wishing to achieve “inbox zero.”

The notifications, in particular, are instantaneous. It’s a free app, and you do have to be alright with a third-party having access to your email, but the trade-offs are — in my opinion — well worth the app.


Temple Run 2

And, finally, another game. Temple Run was a simple game with a simple premise, and Temple Run 2 is just as addicting but with slightly more substance to the gameplay. It’s an excellent game to waste a few minutes on, and it therefore is always ready to go on my iPad.