Last week, Apple announced that its App Store is approaching 50 billion app downloads. In celebration of the milestone, Apple is giving away a $10,000 App Store gift card to the lucky person who initiates the 50 billionth download.
As part of the celebration, Apple listed the top 25 apps -- both free and paid -- for iPhone and iPad. None of the apps listed is particularly surprising (especially to someone who studies the most-popular list every day), but one thing that did strike me is that a lot of the all-time best sellers still sit near the top of the current most-popular lists. In other words, once an app gains a certain degree of popularity, it seems to have a way of keeping its momentum and staying at the top. But with more than a million apps available, it seems to me that a lot of people are missing out on great apps that didn't get the publicity, perhaps didn't come from well-known developers, or simply slid under people's radar.
So instead of trotting out the apps we all know such as Instagram, Angry Birds, YouTube, and Skype, I thought I would make a list of apps that you should try if you are looking for something new and different.
YouTube is great, but check out Jasmine
The YouTube app lets you access the megapopular video site and see the latest and top trending videos, and is the obvious choice because it's the official app for the site. But Jasmine, from a much smaller developer, lets you access YouTube in many of the same ways, while adding an elegant interface layout and more useful features than you get with the official offering. Read more about Jasmine.
If you use Camera+, you'll love KitCam
There are a million photo-editing apps to choose from, and Camera+ is a solid option that's always high on the most-popular list. But for a better overall experience, I like KitCam. KitCam has slide-out panels where you can select different types of lenses, films, and frames that you can mix and match for some really unique effects. But the best thing about KitCam is that all the tools work with video as well. Read more about KitCam.
Weather Channel or Yahoo Weather?
The Weather Channel's app deserves its place on the all-time most popular list with the most comprehensive set of weather data. But for something a bit more elegant that has most of the weather info you need on a daily basis, try Yahoo Weather. With local photos from Flickr as a backdrop, Yahoo Weather serves up the temperature, hourly and weekly forecasts, wind speed, barometric pressure, and other data. Once you try this app, you'll see how much of a joy it is to use. Read more about Yahoo Weather.
Pandora fans should try Slacker Radio
There's no question that Pandora does a great job creating radio stations around the music you like. But with Slacker Radio, you can get custom stations along with live radio stations from around the world. If you're willing to a pay a subscription, you can cache music for offline listening, listen to any song on demand, and more. Read more about Slacker Radio.
Need a break from Instagram? Try EyeEm
Instagram is where all the users are, so it's tough to replace for the user base. But if you want a break from Instagram or want to join a smaller but lively photo-sharing community, try EyeEm. EyeEm has a somewhat similar layout to Instagram but uses big, colorful tags to categorize images based on location, mood, and nearly any criteria that people come up with. What results is a fun place to browse through photos that share a common theme. Just like Instagram, you'll be able to choose from a number of effects, like and comment on photos, and follow people whose photos you admire. Read more about EyeEm.
Like Temple Run? Try One Epic Knight
Endless-running games have been a big hit on touch screens because the genre plays perfectly with easy swipe controls. Temple Run was one of the first 3D runners, and Temple Run 2 continues to do well. But if you like 3D endless-running games, check out One Epic Knight. In this game you run, jump, and slide through dungeons, avoiding traps and battling monsters, all while picking up treasure chests full of loot. The Knight has some pretty epic one-liners to make you chuckle while you play, too. Read more about One Epic Knight.
Fruit Ninja fans will like Skylanders Cloud Patrol
Fruit Ninja might be the perfect touch-screen game, letting you swipe to slice fruit with a satisfying splash of color. But Skylanders Cloud Patrol brings the same swiping action against level after level of evil little trolls. You'll have to be quick to get the best combos, and you always have to watch out for mines and other obstacles. Read more about Skylanders Cloud Patrol.
Subscribe to Netflix or watch Crackle for free
One of the most popular uses for the iPad is watching movies on the go, and if you have a subscription to Netflix, you can watch all of the Watch Instantly titles. But with Crackle, you don't need a subscription to watch both movies and TV shows. It doesn't have the library of Netflix, but it has enough content to keep you busy for plenty of time, and it's hard to beat the price. Read more about Crackle.
CNN is good, but Flipboard is more touch-screen-friendly
Any of the big broadcast news apps is a no-brainer when you're looking for a good news source, but there are better options designed specifically for the touch screen. With Flipboard, you pick the news sources you want and the app displays them in a magazine-like layout for easy browsing. What's more, you can connect it to your Facebook and Twitter accounts to get headlines along with photos and messages from social networks as well. Read more about Flipboard.
Solitaire is a classic, but Fairway Solitaire is a lot more fun
It's no surprise that people pass the time playing solitaire on an iPad, but for something a little different, you should check out Fairway Solitaire. Though it doesn't have all the variations you find in a standard Solitaire app, Fairway Solitaire mixes classic cards with a game of golf for a unique gaming experience. This award-winning game is very well designed with smooth graphics, great sounds, and addictive gameplay that challenges you to lower your score (don't forget, we're also playing golf). Read more about Fairway Solitaire here.