The 2012 app gems awards

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iPhoto for iOS

With the release of iPhoto for iOS, Apple supplied the missing link of Mac apps for its mobile devices. iPhoto for iOS, a Multi-Touch viewing, editing, and sharing utility for the iPad and iPhone, may not match the Mac program feature-for-feature, but its overall functions are so similar that users will instantly recognize its conventions and capabilities. Deep and complete, it has a huge number of creative functions, and is easy to learn and use. Youll find tools and controls for nondestructive cropping and straightening, fixing exposure and color, and applying special effects. An Auto-Enhance buttonjust like the one in the desktop versionis a one-stop-fix. Maintenance tasks such as flag, favorite, and hide photo are also available, and you can summon contextual coaching tips with a single tap. Apart from its impressive degree of photographic detail and sophistication, iPhoto for iOS is drop-dead gorgeous. With a swift, animated interface, its not just another pretty face.Jackie Dove4 out of 5 rating; $5; Apple

Kingdom Rush HD

Kingdom Rush raises the bar for tower defense iOS games, with its mix of challenging gameplay and a charmingly goofy soundtrack. Waves of bad guys try to get from point A to point B, while you try to stop them. I wasted more time with Kingdom Rush than any other game last year.Dan Miller4 out of 5 rating; $1; Armor Games


The App Store offers oodles of asynchronous one-on-one word games, but this year Letterpress, with its innovative gameplay, outshone them all. Theres an element of Words With Friendsin the sense that you want to find the best words you can make with the available tiles. But Letterpress adds a Risk-like strategy. To win, you need to carefully take control of the board: Tiles turn blue when you use them, but your opponent can turn them pink by using them on his or her turn; only tactical tile usage can lock certain tiles to your color. When all tiles are claimed, the player with the most tiles wins. Letterpress is the rare word game where a mastery of vocabulary doesnt guarantee success, because you must master the strategy, too. Letterpress is one of the best games of the year.Lex Friedman4.5 out of 5 rating; free; Atebits

National Parks by National Geographic

National Parks combines a great travel guide with incredible photos that show off the beauty of the U.S. national parks. It provides the basic info you need to know about visiting a park: fees, the best time to visit, hiking conditions, and more. This app is available for the iPhone and the iPad, but it really excels when viewed on an iPad with a Retina display. All thats missing is more parks: At this writing, the app includes details for just 20.Leah Yamshon4 out of 5 rating; free; National Geographic Society

Netbot is an upstart Twitter rival, and Netbot is an client. The app is a joy to use, and is exceedingly customizable. Tap and hold on a username, link, or hashtag to reveal contextual options (mute, follow, post about, and so on). You can configure triple-taps on posts to star, reply to, or repost them. With push notifications built in, Netbot is the single most powerful client availableand the single best way to use the microblogging service.Lex Friedman4.5 out of 5 rating; $5; Tapbots


Paper, FiftyThrees iPad journaling app, lets you create sketches, notes, diagrams, storyboards, and much more. Its strength is the simplicity of its tools, which make you feel like youre truly sketching a pencil line or mixing together a blue-green watercolor sky. It also supports pressure sensitivity through its integration with Pogo Connect (see page 38).Serenity Caldwell3.5 out of 5 rating; free (with in-app purchases); FiftyThree


Plenty of iOS apps for reading PDFs are out there, but if you need to edit a PDF, PDFpen is the way to go. Pull a PDF into the appfrom email, Dropbox, Evernote, iCloud, Google Docs, WebDAV, FTP, or iTunes syncand edit and annotate it. Options include basic highlights, underlines, and strikethroughs, as well as a slew of lines, shapes, text boxes and bubbles, and proofing marks. For all these items, you can choose the color, size, fills, opacity, and more; and PDFpen offers a place to save frequently used items for quicker access. You can also add your own images and scanned signatures, rearrange and delete pages, and even edit a documents original contents. If you need to create a PDF, the app also lets you make new documents from scratch. Perhaps best of all, for those of us whove long been fans of PDFpen for Mac, is that iCloud and Dropbox syncing ensure all your documentsand editsstay in sync between your iPad, iPhone, and Mac. If you need to work with PDF documents on the go, PDFpen is indispensable.Dan Frakes4 out of 5 rating; $5 (iPhone), $15 (iPad); SmileOnMyMac

Pear Note

Pear Note, a note-taking app for iOS devices, lets you take rich-text notes. Even better, it records the audio of the presentation youre documenting and synchronizes your notes with the audio. As you play back the audio, the app highlights the text that you were typing at each point in the recording; conversely, you can tap anywhere in your notes to jump to that spot in the audio. A Mac version ( is also available, so you can sync notes and audio between Macs and iOS devices via Dropbox.Dan Frakes4 out of 5 rating; $5; Useful Fruit Software

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