As mildly terrifying as it may be, we're rapidly heading towards the end of 2023 – and that means Apple is preparing to dish out some App Store Awards for its favorite apps of the year for the iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch, and more.
Apple just announced the 'finalists' stage of its App Store Awards, which means we have shortlists for the potential winners across several categories. While Apple does honor Mac apps, Apple TV apps, and games in its awards, we've focused in this guide on its non-gaming contenders for the iPhone, iPad, and Apple Watch.
So if you're looking for a digest of all of the year's best apps in those categories, with TechRadar's thoughts on each of them, look no further. You can jump through the list using the section links on the left, and at the end, we've also included the non-gaming apps selected for Apple's 'Cultural impact award'.
Apple will no doubt be announcing its final winners from these nominees soon, but you can get a head start on choosing your favorites – and if you need more app inspiration, check out TechRadar's Homescreen Heroes features for a taste of all of the TechRadar team's favorite lesser-known apps.
iPhone apps of the year
Apple has nominated AllTrails for "helping the world find their way outside" after being largely cooped up for the past few years, and we're backing the decision. AllTrails may already be one of the most popular activity-tracking apps around, but that popularity is well-deserved because it's so user-friendly for hikers and runners. If you want to see how it compares to its main rival, check out our in-depth Strava vs AllTrails comparison.
Duolingo is another app that you've probably already heard of, but it's another well-deserved member of Apple's shortlist. It might not top our list of the best language-learning apps (that gong goes to Babbel), but it is the best mobile app for picking up Spanish, French, Chinese, or another language for your next trip. Arguably even more exciting, though, is that Duolingo has now added its new Music and updated Math courses to the app to boost your brain.
This airport companion was already highly praised by Apple earlier this year in its 2023 Apple Design Awards, and now Flighty has made the shortlist for its end-of-year gong, too.
Apple says it's been nominated for "keeping travelers on time and stress-free at the airport". It does this by providing flight maps, airport navigation, and delay forecasts, and it also handily integrates with Apple Maps, Siri Shortcuts, and Live Activities.
iPad apps of the year
If there's ever been an app that's made for your new Apple Pencil, it's this vector-based sketchbook. We haven't reviewed Concepts on TechRadar, but it has an impressive 4.7-star rating on the App Store – and now Apple has shortlisted it for its iPad app of the year.
Rather than a drawing app like Procreate, Concepts is designed to capture your ideas, notes, mindmaps, and even product sketches or designs. Its maker says the app is used by creators at Disney, Playstation, Apple, and more – so if it's good enough for them, it's well worth a spin (if you can stomach its subscription charges).
5. DaVinci Resolve
DaVinci Resolve has long been a popular desktop app for video editors, but this year it finally came to iPad – and that was a major win for mobile YouTubers and content creators.
Our hands-on DaVinci Resolve for iPad review praised its real-time color grading, multi-track audio, and timeline editing tools. Some powerful AI tools also help you edit videos quickly without compromising on accuracy or precision. Definitely a strong contender for the overall award.
We have to confess that Prêt-à-Makeup isn't an iPad app we've tried, but it does look like a very handy tool for makeup artists – with Apple praising it for "bringing makeup designs to life for all beauty enthusiasts".
The app's face charts are used by artists to test, plan, or keep track of the products and combinations used in the various looks they've designed. As it's quite pro-focused, Prêt-à-Makeup is naturally a subscription app, but one that's no doubt worth checking out if you're in the industry.
Apple Watch apps of the year
The Apple Watch already has a generous helping of productivity apps, but Apple has added Planny to its awards shortlist for "intelligently helping users stay on top of tasks".
Planny calls itself a "calendar, to-do list and a productivity tool" all in one app, but its main skill is intelligently scheduling your tasks, rather than placing you in the shadow of a mountainous to-do list. We're big fans of Toggl Track for Android and iOS smartphones, but Planny looks like a good alternative for Watch fans.
Tracking your gym workouts on a smartwatch can be a tricky business. We're big fans of the Custom Workouts function built into the Apple Watch, but Apple has also picked out SmartGym for its app awards shortlist.
It's been nominated for "creating smart and targeted workouts at any skill level" and, while it's been around for a while, this year the app got a big redesign, adding features like a new Monthly Summary plus refreshed routines and exercises. The app's Year in Review feature also acts like a Spotify Wrapped for your workouts.
9. Tide Guide
It might sound a little niche, but Tide Guide has long been considered one of the best iOS apps for checking your local tide times – making it handy for watersports fans and photographers looking to plan their shots.
Now the Apple Watch version of the app has been nominated for Apple's smartwatch app award, and with good reason. The app is nicely designed and has recently been updated for beginners with a new tips and tricks guide.
Cultural impact award
Last year, Apple introduced a 'Cultural Impact Award' for apps that are slightly less mainstream than its other winners, but arguably more influential. This year, it's again nominated several apps for their sterling work in fields that range from personal finance to bedtime stories about heroic women.
The five non-gaming apps in the list are all below. Balance has been nominated for "making menopause support more inclusive and accessible to all", while Copilot (which has an impressive five-star rating on the App Store) has been praised for its ability to help you track and budget your money.
Elsewhere, Proloquo is an AAC (augmentative and alternative communication) app that, as its makers describe, is designed to "meet the diverse needs of nonspeaking people who can use an iPad independently".
Rebel Girls is a fine adaption of the award-winning podcast “Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls”, which gives kids inspirational, confidence-building stories of real women. And lastly, the TechRadar favorite Too Good to Go gets a well-deserved nod for helping us reduce food waste at restaurants, bakeries, and supermarkets.
- Download Balance for iOS
- Download Copilot for iOS
- Download Proloquo for iOS
- Download Rebel Girls for iOS
- Download Too Good To Go for iOS
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Mark is TechRadar's Senior news editor. Having worked in tech journalism for a ludicrous 17 years, Mark is now attempting to break the world record for the number of camera bags hoarded by one person. He was previously Cameras Editor at Trusted Reviews, Acting editor on Stuff.tv, as well as Features editor and Reviews editor on Stuff magazine. As a freelancer, he's contributed to titles including The Sunday Times, FourFourTwo and Arena. And in a former life, he also won The Daily Telegraph's Young Sportswriter of the Year. But that was before he discovered the strange joys of getting up at 4am for a photo shoot in London's Square Mile.