iMore Best of 2014 Awards
They change the way we get things done and the way we have fun. They're what compel us to replace what's in our pocket, on our lap, or on our desk, what's on our Home screen or Dock, what's in our workflows and in our hearts. They're what challenge our perceptions, get us to forget what came before, and make it impossible for us to imagine how we ever lived without them.
They're the devices, the apps, the games, and the accessories that most changed how we worked, played, and lived.
They're our 2014 iMore Editors' Choice Award winners!
iOS device of the year: iPhone 6 Plus
While the iPhone 6 is the linear inheritor of Apple's supremely popular phone line, and the iPad Air 2 takes mobile performance to the next level, the iPhone 6 Plus is something new. There have been bigger than big phones before, but none so polished. There have been phone/tablet hybrids before, but never ones that literally transformed from one to the other with a rotation. The iPhone 6 Plus is certainly not for everyone, but for those who want it, it really is something new — a choice.
iOS feature of the year: Apple Pay
Extensibility greatly increases the functionality of iOS and Continuity, its integration with OS X. Apple Pay, however, goes beyond our devices. By tying into the existing credit and debit card system, and using established NFC technology, Apple Pay lets us buy not just from iTunes and not just from apps, but from any real-world retailer that supports. It's limited still, yes, but it's also one of the biggest steps yet towards the digital wallet.
iOS app of the year: Pixelmator
There have been moments in the past when companies like Apple or Omni have challenged our expectations about just how powerful mobile software could be. When, with the swirl of a finger, an oryx was erased from a photo on the 2014 iPad event stage, Pixelmator joined those ranks.
iOS productivity app of the year: Workflow
DeskConnect's Workflow is incredible. It brings a variant of OS X's Automator to the iPhone and iPad, giving mobile users detailed automation workflows for the first time. And it does so in an uncomplicated, easy-to-learn style, with a clean, smart interface. Once you've built a workflow, you can use extensions and Web Clips on your home screen to launch them, no interaction with the main app needed.
iOS health & fitness app of the year: Pedometer++
Of the million apps on the App Store, it feels like roughly half of the good ones were made by Underscore David Smith. Even then, Pedometer++ stands out. Or more properly, walks out. A motion-coprocessor powered step-counter, it's utility lies in its simplicity. It shows how much — or how little — activity you've engaged in every day, either in the app, in a widget, or consolidated in Apple's Health app. And that's not only all we need, it's all we want.
iOS educational app of the year: Elevate
Elevate consists of a bunch of mini-games centered around various recall activities: Speaking, Writing, Reading, Listening, and Math. The games are short and build brain skills around activities you'll actually use in daily life — name recall, for example, or tipping. Moreover, they're fun. Each game only lasts a few minutes, and it'll hook just as much as a game of Threes! or Monument Valley.
iOS audio app of the year: Capo Touch
Capo Touch brings all the power of the Mac — the ability to "reverse engineer rock and roll" as they put it — into the palm of your hand. Whether you're a working guitarist or strings player on your way to a last minute gig, a songwriter needing to quickly note down a new song or riff, or an aspiring musician who just wants to learn more, faster, Capo touch provides a remarkably powerful toolset for doing all that, and more.
Note: One of the developers of Stringer, Seth Clifford, co-hosts the Iterate podcast with one of iMore's editors, Rene Ritchie. Ritchie did not vote in this category.
iOS photo app of the year: Camera+
Camera+ has always been at the bleeding edge of iPhone photography. This year that includes integrating the new manual camera controls and photo filter extensions. And like always, Camera+ manages to add complexity while maintaining coherence.
iOS video app of the year: Hyperlapse
Hyperlapse, from Instagram, is ostensibly for making time lapse videos. However, it's brain-boggling real-time stabilization technology makes it perfect for shooting just about any video. If you want rock-solid video, you want Hyperlapse.
iOS news app of the year: Overcast
Overcast is part of the renaissance of podcast player apps. What sets it apart is Smart Speed. Rather than just playing back everything at 2x or more, it processes the audio and removes pauses and other dead space. The results sound great but still save you minutes if not hours a month.
iOS social app of the year: Storehouse
Storehouse calls itself visual storytelling. It's selling itself short. Combining delightfully direct interaction and manipulation with a great community, organic and curated, Storehouse not only lets you soak in absolutely gorgeous photo and video essays by anyone and everyone, but also lets you easily create and share your own as well.
iOS utility app of the year: 1Password
AgileBits, the team that makes 1Password, has always been quick to adopt new technologies. With 1Password 5, however, Touch ID and Extensibility came together to make 1Password not only as good as its big Mac sibling, but better. Now you can authenticate with a fingerprint and fill in a password with a share sheet action. Security is always said to be at war with convenience. Now it kinda feels like they're in love.
iOS custom keyboard of the year: SwiftKey
Not only does SwiftKey come complete with a great text prediction engine, SwiftKey Flow lets you quickly and easily swipe your way through words as well. And if you like to use multiple devices, you can use SwiftKey Cloud to sync your custom data not only between iPhone and iPad, but between iOS and Android as well.
iOS Today view widget of the year: PCalc
Today view widgets were supposed to be these brief glances and quick interactions. Tiny bits of apps that needed almost no memory and took almost no time. Then PCalc figured out how to stuff an entire calculator in there and not only make it work, but make it work well.
iOS game of the year: Monument Valley
Monument Valley tells a twisting, slightly eerie tale of a forgetful princess winding her way through her intricately-built and strangely Escher-esque lands, filled with odd black flightless birds. The original set of 10 levels won rave reviews. The recent Forgotten Shores and (RED) expansions have added bizarre new feats of architectural wonder and even stranger interactions. And they've done something more — made the best game of the year even better.
iOS action game of the year: Revolution 60
Revolution 60 is an Epic Unreal Engine-based game that puts you in the middle of a cinematic story and lets you kick the absolute ass out of it while ultimately deciding your own destiny. Crafted by Giant SpaceKat specifically for the multitouch screens of iPhone and iPads, the modeling is gorgeous, the animation delightful, the music engrossing, and the voice acting outstanding.
Note: One of the developers of Revolution 60, Brianna Wu, co-hosts the Isometric podcast with one of iMore's editors, Georgia Dow. Dow did not vote in this category.
iOS family game of the year: Crossy Road
Crossy Road is Frogger for the iOS generation. Yes, there are ads and in-app purchases, but there's also a lot of charm, a lot of characters, and most importantly, a lot of fun to be had. The pixel cube art is gorgeous, the environments are ever-shifting, the sounds are quirky, and the overall effect is strangely delightful.
iOS puzzle game of the year: Threes!
Threes! is a delightful little puzzler that requires little knowledge to begin, but lots of skill to master. The base game asks you to match 1s and 2s together; when you start making higher numbers — each represented by adorable little chibi-faces on the bottom of the tiles — you'll want to mash those together to create even bigger integers. All this takes place on a four-by-four grid, with a long looping tune that will get stuck in your head.
iOS strategy game of the year: Space Age
Several years in the making, Space Age is a pixel-art tour-de-force that plays and sounds as good as it looks. Set in 1976 — which the game kindly reminds you is "THE FUTURE" — Space Age takes you on a journey to alien planet Kepler-16, where a team of U.S. military space explorers has just landed. It trusts you but teases you, compelling you forward with a great narrative all the while confounding you with dastardly challenges and note-perfect nostalgia.
Case of the year: Apple Leather Case
The Apple Leather Case adds both better grip and classic style to the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus. Available in black, (product) red, midnight blue, olive brown, and soft pink you can mix and match to keep your iPhone safe, and also make it look more sophisticated.
Dock of the year: Twelve South HiRise Deluxe
The HiRise Deluxe from Twelve South is elegant, sophisticated-looking and well-engineered: All the hallmarks I've come to expect from Twelve South. It fits beautifully even when the iPhone is in a case, which makes it versatile too. Also works with the iPad mini, full-sized iPad, and iPod touch.
Stylus of the year: Jot Touch Pixelpoint
The Jot Touch Pixelpoint is a new generation of stylus for the iPad. While there's still no digitizer in the multitouch display, the Jot Touch uses Bluetooth LE and their own Pixelpoint technology to provide both pressure sensitivity and incredible accuracy. Add in Creative Cloud support, and it's what you'll want to sketch with.
Mobile Keyboard of the year: ZAGG Folio
The ZAGG Folio features back illumination, a full, dedicated row of iPad-specific function keys, a battery meter, and an elegant and attractive design. Simply slide your iPad Air in and you may never miss the MacBook Air again.
Home automation of the year: Philips Hue
Hue, the connected light-bulbs from Philips, have been on the market for a while now, but that's only given them time to expand and innovate. In addition to the original bulbs, we now have the colorful Blooms, the flexible LightStrips, the brilliant Iris, the artistic Impulse and Entity, the practical Lux, the convenient Tap, and the upcoming Beyond. Now it's not just smart, it's all kinds of smart.
Toy of the year: Anki Drive
Anki Drive mixes iPhone or iPad controls, race cars, and artificial intelligence — what could be better than that? The answer is expansion cars for even more expansive fun.
Fitness band of the year: Garmin Vivofit
The Garmin Vivofit isn't the most stylish fitness tracker you can buy, but it's water resistant, offers great functionality, and you won't have to charge it for a full-year. The Vivofit tracks your steps, calories, sleep, and heart rate (with an add-on monitor), and everything syncs back wirelessly to the Garmin Connect app where you can view your stats, goals, sleep cycles and more.
Mac of the year: Retina 5K iMac
The Retina 5K iMac is a stunning piece of engineering. It's sleek, fast, and has the best-looking display of any Mac in circulation. Maybe any computer. Under the hood, the Retina 5K iMac has the right balance of power and performance for almost anything you can throw at it. Whether it's cutting video in 4K, editing photos of unusual size, working in on documents or the web, or simply playing video games, the Retina 5K iMac is in a league of its own right now.
Runner up: 2014 MacBook Air
Mac feature of the year: Continuity
"Better together" is how Apple chose to describe Continuity, the OS X Yosemite feature that let Macs easily AirDrop or tether, relay calls or SMS/MMS messages, and even handoff activities back and forth with iPhones and iPads. Apple's ecosystem was always strong. With Continuity, it's become integrated as well.
Mac app of the year: Notability
Calling Notability a notes app does it a disservice. It's everything that's important, all in one place, from words to images to sounds to sketches. It's your digital memory. Not a search engine in the cloud, but a collection engine right on your Mac.
Mac productivity app of the year: Calcbot
Calcbot has all the visual and sound design flare you'd expect from Tapbots, including bright colors and deep, vibrant translucency — all the OS X Yosemite bells and whistles. You can make calculations and convert units, there's a tape to help you keep track of what you've done, and favorites to access calculations at any time. There's also scientific calculations, constants, and rounding for currency. And, yes, it's very, very cute.
Runner up: BBedit 11
Mac audio app of the year: Shazam
Shazam on the Mac does what Shazam on iOS has always done: Help you find and enjoy great music. The difference on the Mac is, Shazam doesn't have to be anywhere nearly as conservative. It can work on identifying songs in the background all the time, and have something ready and waiting for you whenever you want it.
Runner up: Capo 3
Mac photo & video app of the year: Cinemagraph Pro
Flixel's Cinemagraph Pro brings your photos to life. Take a short video, import it, mask off the parts you want to keep moving, and Cinemagraph Pro will make a seamless loop out of it. It's the kind of effect you see in fancy online ads, behind feature story headings, and on high-end news reels. Only now it's not only accessible and available to you — it's affordable.
Runners up: Flare 2
Mac communications app of the year: Keypad
Keypad — formerly Continuity Keypad — lets you dial the phone from your Mac and place calls over your iPhone using OS X Yosemite's call relay. Not only that, you can do it from anywhere on your Mac thanks to the convenience of the Notification Center Today view widget.
Runners up: Slack
Mac utility app of the year: Deliveries
Deliveries lets you keep track of all your packages, whether they're from Apple, Amazon, or any or everything on its way via UPS, Fedex, USPS, DHL, and pretty much any other carrier you can think of on the continent. Best of all, it can sync with your iPhone or iPad so you can have the information with you all the time.
Runner up: 1Password 5
Mac game of the year: Civilization: Beyond Earth
Civilization: Beyond Earth is the latest installment in the epic Civilization series, and takes humanity to a new world in an effort to survive. You must must explore the interstellar cosmos. You must find new technologies and build new armies. You must find us a new home. And you must choose what that home will be.
Mac action game of the year: Tomb Raider
Tomb Raider is back and it's... really, really good! You're once again Lara Croft, but now you're shipwrecked on an island with only your brains and skill to see you through. Tomb Raider is not only a return to form, it's a redemption for the franchise.
Runner up: Metal Gear Rising
Mac family game of the year: Lego Marvel Super Heroes
In Lego Marvel Super Heroes you can play as the on of the Avengers or X-Men, as Spider or one of 100 other classic Marvel Comics characters. And you can do it in an open Lego Manhattan world with all the fun and whimsy of a Lego game.
Runner up: Castle of Illusion
Mac puzzle game of the year: Broken Age
Vella is a young woman from the village of Sugar Bunting. She is part of a group of young women selected to be sacrificed to Mog Chathra, a massive, other-worldly entity that must be appeased for Sugar Bunting to remain safe. Shay is a young man, the only passenger on the starship Bossa Nostra. He spends his days in simulations created by the ship's maternal artificial intelligence. Together, their stories intertwine to form the first act of Broken Age.
Runners up: Sparkle 2
Storage product of the year: Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+
It has USB 3. But who cares? It has Thunderbolt too. It's compact and very fast, thanks to SSD internals. In fact, the Elgato Thunderbolt Drive+ is just about the fastest mobile storage available on this planet. With 420 MB/s, if you've got a MacBook, and time is more valuable to you than money, Elgato has your drive.
Desktop keyboard of the year: Matias Mini Tactile Pro
Mechanical keyboards eschew the scissor/membrane arrangement found in so many of today's keyboards for actual key switches. They harken back to the "good old days" of personal computers, where tactile and direct key response let you not only type fast, but type well. The Matias Mini Tactile Pro gives you all that, but in a super-compact new form factor that'll save you space but still feel great.
Mouse of the year: Razer's Taipan
Razer's Taipan is a no-compromises gaming mouse from a company that's been making no-compromises gaming mice for 15 years. It's a comfortable, dextrous and extensively programmable mouse with some of the most sophisticated driver software ever seen in a Mac-compatible mouse. I doesn't promise that it'll improve your gaming, but if you use it to its full potential, it should.
Bag of the year: Field Bag
Pad & Quill's Field Bag brings the same hand-crafted, luxury look and feel of their iPhone and iPad covers to MacBook carrying messengers. They're cowhide leather, twill waxed canvas, and a little bit of legend, all stitched together into something that looks like it'll last for generations.
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