Instead of the traditional award show on Monday night, which was great in the moment but often got buried beneath all the keynote news, Apple handed out the Design Awards (ADA) in a small, private ceremony where the developers got to meet with Craig Federighi and other executives.
Now, with the keynote safely behind them, Apple is launching the ADAs to the public with a brand new website and a proper moment for each and every one of the winners — and their apps — to shine.
I had the opportunity to meet with the winners, talk to them about their apps, and hear many of their stories. What struck me about each and every one was how above and beyond they went to make great experiences for as many customers as possible.
They all thought deeply not just about the app or game's primary function, but about using Apple frameworks in new and novel ways. Localization was also high on every list, with translations for half a dozen or more geographies — even 32 in one case!
Likewise accessibility. Making great apps means making them great for everyone, and more and more developers are doing just that.
Apple uses the ADAs not just to recognize the great apps of the past year but to point the way for next year as well. It's a powerful, influential podium. And, certainly, Apple favors those who build expressly for — even only for — iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. But I don't think it's a coincidence that the the developers who care most about their work want to use the technologies that provide the best, most native experience.
Apple's not saying if future ADAs will remain like this, revert to the award show format, and be entirely different again next year.
I for one liked the change, even if I missed seeing the heads of evangelism and developer relations up on stage hosting, and the winners racing up to claim their glowing cubes.
The spotlight on stage is instant gratification, though. Here's hoping this and other media spotlights today provide longer and more global exposure.
Check out Apple's new Design Award Page for details on all the winners, or just tap the list below to start downloading and enjoying!
- Blackbox (USA): A forth-wall busting, mind-enveloping puzzle game of iPhone.
- Splitter Critters (Canada): Arcade style action that's so engrossing you'll be tearing through it for hours. Literally.
- Mushroom 11 (USA): It's a platformer. No, it's a puzzler. No, it's action. No, strategy. No… it's all that and more.
- Old Man's Journey (Austria): Landscape-shifting, puzzle-solving, emotionally touching, Old Man yelling… for you to start playing.
- Severed (Canada): What's a few chopped off creature parts as power-ups between friends, right? Right?
- Lake (Slovenia): Coloring isn't just for kids any more. Not since adults figured out how soothing and relaxing it could be.
- Bear (Italy): Sometimes Apple Sherlocks apps by building them into the OS. Other times developers Moriatry apps by making versions so good they replace the built-ins.
- Kitchen Stories (Germany): Because everyone should be able to cook a delicious meal.
- Things 3 (Germany): Take a task manager and polish it to perfect. Then iterate it thrice.
- Elk (Singapore): If you travel between countries and need to know currency conversions, you need this.
- Enlight (Israel): Photo editing that's as powerful as it is elegant. Try the 3D. Trust me.
- AirMail 3 (Italy): Because email doesn't have to be stuck in the 1990s.
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Rene Ritchie is one of the most respected Apple analysts in the business, reaching a combined audience of over 40 million readers a month. His YouTube channel, Vector, has over 90 thousand subscribers and 14 million views and his podcasts, including Debug, have been downloaded over 20 million times. He also regularly co-hosts MacBreak Weekly for the TWiT network and co-hosted CES Live! and Talk Mobile. Based in Montreal, Rene is a former director of product marketing, web developer, and graphic designer. He's authored several books and appeared on numerous television and radio segments to discuss Apple and the technology industry. When not working, he likes to cook, grapple, and spend time with his friends and family.