Apple just unveiled its picks of the best iPad and iPhone apps of the year - here they are

iPhone 11 Pro Max
iPhone 11 Pro Max (Image credit: Future)

If you're looking for advice on the best apps for your iPhone or iPad, then there's nowhere better to turn to on the matter (apart from TechRadar) than Apple itself, and the company has just announced its picks of the eight best designed apps of the year.

That's thanks to the Apple Design Awards 2020, part of the company's annual developer conference WWDC 2020 which also brought us the unveiling of iOS 14, iPadOS 14, watchOS 7 and more. Now, we know which apps Apple thinks were the best designed of the year.

There are four productivity or creative apps, and four games included as part of the list. It's worth pointing out that not all of the apps are new, so presumably the design awards can be given to recognize new updates which improve an app, but the games were all released less than a year ago, with two of them being part of Apple Arcade.

We'll list the apps that won the Apple Design Awards below, so you can see if any are ones you might benefit from.

Apple Design Awards: best apps


Looom (Image credit: Eran Hilleli)

The first app mentioned, Shapr 3D, is a computer-assisted drawing app for iPads, which lets you create 3D drawings for designers and artists without needing an actual computer to do so. You can check out Shapr 3D on the App Store here.

Another iPad-only app, Looom, is for creating hand-drawn animation and, in particular, looping animations. You can use an Apple Pencil or just your finger to easily sketch and animate. Looom is on the App Store here.

While Sibelius is the go-to computer program for writing music, it seems StaffPad could be that for tablets - it lets you hand-write notation, and it then adds that into the stave so you can edit it further. Like the two apps mentioned before, it's only available on iPad, but it seems great for people looking to write their own compositions. Check out StaffPad on the App Store here.

The final creativity app to be awarded actually is available on iPhones as well as iPads - Darkroom is a photo editing app which has been popular for a while. It's not as complicated as Photoshop but that's its charm, as anyone can easily turn their phone camera snaps into great-looking works of art by quickly tweaking some of the details. See if Darkroom could help you on the App Store by clicking here.

Apple Design Awards: best games

Sayonara Wild Hearts

Sayonara Wild Hearts (Image credit: Simogo)

Sayonara Wild Hearts was one of the flagship Apple Arcade games, featuring prominently in the games service's marketing and promotion, and it's the first game winner of the Apple Design Awards 2020. The game is an arcade action game with a very distinct aesthetic style, and a strong musical element too. You can see it on the App Store here.

One non-Apple Arcade game to win was Song of Bloom, and it's harder to explain than the others on this list. It's a puzzle game which requires you to think outside the box to complete its wildly varying puzzles - maybe we'd best let its App Store page do the explaining.

Where Cards Fall is quite your typical Apple Arcade game, combining a cartoonish art style, oblique narrative focus, and relatively little gameplay, and clearly it has captured some hearts because of this. It's about reliving memories of the American high school experience, so it may not resonate with everyone, but if you think it's for you, you can check out its App Store entry here.

If you liked the game Journey on the PS3 then you'll like the final award-winner Sky: Children of the Light, because it's by the same developer and has a lot in common with its predecessor. In it you can explore a big cartoon world, and there's a strong multiplayer focus so you can bump into, and join in with, other people exploring the same places as you. Click here to go to its App Store page.

Tom Bedford

Tom Bedford was deputy phones editor on TechRadar until late 2022, having worked his way up from staff writer. Though he specialized in phones and tablets, he also took on other tech like electric scooters, smartwatches, fitness, mobile gaming and more. He is based in London, UK and now works for the entertainment site What To Watch.

He graduated in American Literature and Creative Writing from the University of East Anglia. Prior to working on TechRadar, he freelanced in tech, gaming and entertainment, and also spent many years working as a mixologist. He also currently works in film as a screenwriter, director and producer.